at 58 Nicolson
Blind Asylum, 58 Nicolson Street - 1820
permission to reproduce, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org
The engraving above of The Blind Asylum (formerly the house of Dr
Joseph Black) was published in Grant's 'Old & New Edinburgh' in
1890. The engraving shows a view of 58 Nicolson Street in 1820,
Grant's 'Old & New Edinburgh',
commenting on Nicolson Street, wrote:
"The most interesting building in the street
is undoubtedly the Royal Blind Asylum and School, instituted in 1793. ..."
"... the asylum was founded in 1793, in one of
the dingy old houses in Shakespeare Square, into which nine blind persons
Society for the Industrious Blind acquired premises in Nicolson Street in
1806. The article in Grant's 'Old & New Edinburgh',
... the public patronage having greatly increased, in 1806, the present
building, No 58, was purchased, and in 1822, another house, No 38 was
bought for the use of the female blind.
The latter are employed in sewing the covers
for mattresses and feather beds, knitting stockings &c.
The males are employed in making mattresses,
mats, brushes, baskets of every kind, in weaving sacking, matting and
"rag-carpets". No less than eighteen looms are employed in this
Nicolson Street is a continuation of South
Bridge, to the south.
Improvements appear to have been made to No 58
Nicolson Street, some time between 1820 and 1890. Several
features of the building described in the 1890 article in 'Old & New
Edinburgh' don't appear on the engraving above:
new and elegant facade, surmounted by stone-faced dormer windows, a
handsome cornice, and balustrade, with a large central doorway, in a niche
above which is a bust of David Johnstone, the founder, from the studio of
the late Handyside Ritchie."
The workshops at Nicolson Street were extended in
1897, and continued to be used until 1923. [RNIB
Grant's 'Old & New Edinburgh, Vol 2:
pp 335-6, 340
Royal Blind Asylum
Nicolson Street AND
In 1875, the Asylum for the Industrious Blind,
following its amalgamation with the Home for the Female Blind, became
(with Queen Victoria's permission) the Royal Blind Asylum.
In 1876, the Royal Blind Asylum took over the
Blind School and opened a new institution, The Royal Blind Asylum and
School, at Craigmillar Park, West Craigmillar.
The Royal Blind Asylum and
School is still at this address today, 2007. Craigmillar Park is a
section of the road leading out of Edinburgh travelling south from the
Bridges. It is about a mile south of the of Nicolson Street. ,
beside the old suburban railway line where Newington Station once stood.
The gatehouse to the RNIB
premises at Craigmillar Park is on the extreme left of the
photo below, which looks to the north down Mayfield Gardens towards
the centre of Edinburgh from Craigmillar Park.
This district where the asylum
is situated, in Craigmillar Park, would probably now be described as
Newington, rather than West Craigmillar.
Margaret Ferguson Burns
Thank you to Margaret
Ferguson Burns, who taught at the Royal Blind School for 31 years until
2011, for contacting me after reading the notes above.
Margaret told me:
The Royal Blind Asylum and School
It was the
Royal Blind Asylum and School that was still at Craigmillar
Park when I wrote the paragraph headed '1876'.
I mistakenly referred
to the organisation as RNIB, but that's the English society
for the blind. I've corrected that now.
Blind Asylum and School has recently been renamed 'Royal
Craigmillar Park Campus is currently for sale, and the site
will close at the end of the current academic session, at the
end of June, 2014.
pupils and staff who remain there, will then be moved to the
Canaan Lane Campus in Morningside, Edinburgh.
Margaret Ferguson Burns: September 11, 2013 (2