Blind Asylum

at 58 Nicolson Street

then at Craigmillar Park

Blind Asylum, 58 Nicolson Street  -  1820

Engraving published in 'Old & New Edinburgh' 1890  -  The Blind Asylum, Nicolson Street

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 Blind Asylum

From 1793

Shakespeare Square  THEN  Nicolson Street


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, after Storer.


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 were received."


The Society for the Industrious Blind acquired premises in Nicolson Street in 1806.  The  article in Grant's 'Old & New Edinburgh', continued:

" ... 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 work."

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:

"a 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 web site]

Grant's 'Old & New Edinburgh, Vol 2:  pp 335-6, 340


 Royal Blind Asylum

From 1875

Nicolson Street AND Craigmillar Park


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.

Mayfield Gardens  -  Newington Station  -  Tram

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.


The Royal Blind Asylum and School has recently been renamed 'Royal Blind'.


The 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.

The few 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 emails)



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