The Vennel


Brown's Place




Don Johnston

St Mary's New South Wales, Australia

Thank you to Don Johnston who wrote:



W R & S  -  Photograph from the early-1900s  -  The Vennel ©

"I was browsing through your website and came upon the vennel photographs."

Brown's Place

"I lived in Brown's Place from 1944 til 1952.   It was approx half way down the Vennel, opposite the portal gate.  The area was referred to as the Jewsy.

I believe there were 13 flats in Brown's Place, including three  derelict flats,

-  We and the Gillies family were in the two flats at No.3.

-  Below us were the Mckenzie and the Cartey families

-  I also remember  the McDermott, Hughes and Craig families."


"Below the McKenzie's  was a flat that has now been renovated and given a window and entry into the Vennel.

Access used to be via a pend in the Grassmarket which led to a dingy laneway up the side of a tinsmiths to the rear of the Brown's Place buildings.

The rear wall of Brown's Place was open to the elements.  I was told that the buildings were to be extended but someone had run out of money.  However  I believe that the wall has now been renovated."


"Brown's Place was a terrific place to grow up:

-   There were the back yards with two old Anderson shelters.  We kept rabbits in one and had the other to play in, in bad weather.

-  Out the front, beside the steps, we had the drying green where we played rounders."


"The Vennel was a safe place to play, although once a couple of teens stole a truck wheel and sent it down the vennel where the old women from the Salvation Army hostel used to sit smoking their old clay pipes on the dark steps at the bottom.

The Vennel  -  Photographed 12 April 2003 ©

The wheel bounced way over their heads, cleared a van heading up the West Port, carried over to the west end of King's Stables Road and bounced almost up to Granny's Green (the grassy slope from Johnston Terrace to King's Stables Road near the NW corner of the Grassmarket.

I believe the culprits were caught and went to Borstal.  I was at the Jewsy Gates and witnessed it.  Basher Thompson, the local cop questioned us.  We all gave a good description."

Basher Thompson

"Basher was so called because he was the Police Heavyweight Boxing Champion.  He once caught us playing football in the Grassmarket.  He yelled at us to go to the Police Box at the east end of the West Port.

Like dopes, we did.  Our names were written in the book and we got a 'kick up the arse'.  It was a push with the sole of his boot.  Of course, we all carried on holding our backsides.

God help any one who harmed any of the kids on his beat.  He knew us all and unfortunately our parents too.  Those were great days.  We always felt safe."

Granny Gillies

"Granny Gillies used to tell us stories of the area:

- She claimed the derelict flat up the laneway by the tinsmiths was once used by Hare of 'Burke & Hare' .

-  She told us that the area half way down the steps, on the west side, near the portal gateway, was called Jewsy because there had been a Jewish temple there.  There had also once been a slaughterhouse there.

-  She told us that they (who?) gave money to the King to fight his wars.  Maybe this was just another 'old wives tale', but I liked the old tales and was an avid listener when granny looked after us."

Keir Street Lasses

"The lassies from Keir Street used to play Henners on the railings outside the Kindy** at the top of the Vennel steps.  That was a case of 'shock horror' for us.  I can tell you, who wanted them playing in our domain?  That was a boys' area.

Well, I ended up marrying one of them, so I'm not complaining now."

**  children's nursery (kindergarten)

Fond Memories

"I have very fond memories of the Vennel and Brown's Place.  It was always a wonderful place for kids, so long as you didn't mind climbing steps."

Don Johnston, St Mary's, New South Wales, Australia:  February 22, 2011




Cathie Luppino (née Cormack)


Cathie Luppino (née Cormack) asks:


Looking up the Vennel

"Does anyone know of any old pictures looking UP the Vennel steps?  In the 1930's my Mum and Dad lived in a wee house at the top of the Vennel, just beyond the nursery school, before turning into Keir Street. It is not there now.

Are there any photos of that spot?  My sister was born in that wee house and would love to find a photo."

Cathie Luppino (née Cormack), Edinburgh:
Message posted in EdinPhoto guestbook, August 15, 2012

Send a Reply to Cathie?

Please email me if you can help Cathie to find a suitable old photo, looking up the Vennel.

The Scran web site and other sites have photos of the Vennel, but almost all  look down the Vennel and across the Grassmarket to Edinburgh Castle, rather than up the Vennel.

Peter Stubbs, Edinburgh:  August 15, 2012



Johnny on the Run

Thank you to Tommy Aris for providing this reference to a film clip that may be of interest to Cathy




Sandra Thurgood


Here is a message that Sandra Thurgood posted in the EdinPhoto Guestbook.

Sandra wrote:


Looking up the Vennel

"I have discovered my husband's grandmother, Jean or Jane Campbell, lived at 5 The Vennel in Edinburgh in 1950s. 

Do you remembers her, or did you live there?"

Sandra Thurgood, Australia:
Message and email address posted in EdinPhoto guestbook, September 23, 2012

Reply to Sandra?

If you'd like to send a reply to Sandra, please email me to let me know, then I'll pass on her email address to you.

Peter Stubbs, Edinburgh:  October 9, 2012




Cathie Luppino (née Cormack)


Thank you to Cathie Luppino (née Cormack) for responding to Tommy Aris' mention at the end of Recollections 2 above of a clip from the film, 'Johnny on the Run' that can now be viewed on Youtube.

Some of the scenes in this film were filmed at the top of the Vennel.

Cathy wrote:

Looking up the Vennel

"Thanks to Tommy Aris for his comments about the Vennel. I remember when they were making the film 'Johnny on the Run'.

I grew up near the bottom of the Vennel steps.  My Granny lived in Brown's Place (half-way up the Vennel steps).

Thanks for jolting my memory about the film.  I haven't thought about that in many years."

Cathie Luppino (née Cormack), Edinburgh:
Message posted in EdinPhoto guestbook, October 17, 2012




Cathie Luppino (née Cormack)


Thank you to Cathie Luppino who added:

'Johnny on the Run'

"I grew up in the Grassmarket, 50 feet away from the Vennel steps.  My Granny lived half-way up the Vennel in Brown's Place at that time.

Would you believe that we were outside playing when the film 'Johnny on the Run' was being made?  Thanks to Tommy Aris for his message!

  I wonder if Tommy knows Margaret Barrett from Buccleuch Street.  We were classmates at St. Ignatius and St. Thomas' schools."

Cathie Luppino (née Cormack), Edinburgh: October 16, 2012




Cathie Luppino (née Cormack)


Thank you to Cathie Luppino for posting the following message in the EdinPhoto guestbook, after sending me Recollections 5 above:


"I believe that No.5 Vennel was a Salvation Army Hostel for women. There was an entrance from the Vennel and another entrance from the West Port.

As children we knew some of the ladies as everybody got their messages at the local greengrocer's ot butcher's etc.  When we were just walking or playing outside, they would talk to us on the passing."

Cathie Luppino (née Cormack), USA: October 16, 2012




David Broatch

New Zealand

Thank you to David Broatch who wrote:



"In 1971-72, I reconstructed and restored the north side of Brown's Place and created 1 Vennel, the lower flat, together with Civil Engineer Phil Summerfield who is also a keen photographer.  Liz Summerfield owned and occupied 1 Vennel.

I was an architecture student at Edinburgh University at this time, and occupied the upper flat and had the roof space as my studio, accessed by a new teak staircase.  Actor Libba Davies occupied the upper north bedroom."

The Arch

"As a matter of interest, the arch on the opposite side of the Vennel led to a Synagogue where David Daitch's father was the Rabbi.  This  is mentioned in his book on Edinburgh."

David Broatch, New Zealand (since 1977):  June 26, 2014






John Burnett

New Zealand

Thank you to John Burnett who wrote:

Archway opposite Brown's Place

"The archway entrance opposite Brown’s Place was not entrance to synagogue. It did pass by the rear of the synagogue (it was originally Greyfriars free Church) but I think it let to cattle market.

I lived in Graham Street renamed Keir Street and remember playing in 'Jewsy'."


Hopefully this link to a map ** on the National Library of Scotland Map Libra web site will explain."

John Burnett, Burntisland, Fife, Scotland:  23 February 2015

Viewing the Map

To move around this map, please hold down 'SPACE' and move the cursor with the mouse.

To zoom in and out on the map, please use the SCROLL WHEEL on the mouse.

Peter Stubbs, Edinburgh:  28 June 2017




David Broatch

New Zealand

Here, below, are photos of buildings on the west side of The Vennel.  (Please click on them to enlarge them and read about them.)

I originally described the first of these photos as 'Entrance to Jewish Temple on west side of The Vennel'.

However, David Broatch, who is very familiar with this area, having been involved in reconstructing and restoring the north side of Brown's Place, and creating No.1 Vennel in 1971-72 has replied.

David wrote:

Entrance in The Vennel

" I don't believe that this is the entrance to the Jewish Temple. 

I don't know what this building used to be, but when I was working in the area in 1971-72, it was part of the Salvation Army facility, and was bricked up, as in this photo:



"The synagogue was up in the internal corner of Kier and Graham Streets  I believe that the higher arch in this photo, with the bar gates, may have been a shortcut into the Synagogue grounds:


David Broatch, New Zealand (since 1977):  July 1, 2014




Terry Cox

Fairmilehead, Edinburgh

Terry Cox wrote

Buildings on the West Side of The Vennel

"You'll probably get a lot of notes about this building:


Having consulted 'The Buildings of Scotland (Edinburgh)' there is the following note:

Portsburgh Church

"On the W side of the Vennel behind (The Salvation Army Hostel) is the old Portsburgh Church by Archibald Scott, 1828, a piend-roofed box box with an arcaded porch at the front, and tall round arched windows to the rear."

The Buildings of Scotland - Edinburgh  (John Gifford et al)'

This seems to fit the bill for the building we're talking about.

I doubt that this building would have anything to do with the Graham Street Synagogue, as this was originally the Greyfriars Free Church, and only operated as a synagogue from 1898 till 1932, when it moved to Salisbury Road, according to the book: 'By the Three Great Roads' (edited by Drew Easton).

The Gateway

"The gateway, however, may well have been some kind of access to the back of the church / synagogue.


Terry Cox, Fairmilehead, Edinburgh:  July 3, 2014




Cathie Luppino (née Cormack)


Thank you to Cathie Luppino for writing again, and reminding me about the film 'Johnny on the Run' -  a film about a boy from Poland, filmed in and around The Vennel in 1953.

Cathie wrote:

The Vennel

Brown's Place

"I was browsing tonight and came across the photo of Brown's Place, The Vennel in the 1900's which interested me. I have a few photos taken from the same spot that I have collected over the years, each one just a little bit different.

My Granny lived in the bottom flat at Brown's Place in the 1950's.  I spent a lot of time there as a young girl and I always go to the Grassmarket and climb the Vennel steps at least once during my visits to Edinburgh.

Johnny on the Run

I remember a film being made there in the 1950's called "Johnny on the Run". You'll find a snip-it on line."

Cathie Luppino (née Cormack), USA: December 23, 2014

Film Clip

Here is a link to the snip of the film clip that Carol refers to above:

Johnny on the Run

Peter Stubbs, Edinburgh:  December 23, 2014




Terry Cox

Fairmilehead, Edinburgh

Thank you to Terry Cox for his message below.

Terry watched this clip from Johnny on the Run, then wrote:

The Pram

Chalmers Street

"I was very interested to see this bit of film, as the boys are playing football against a house at the top of Chalmers Street.

If I remember rightly, the house was owned by a Mrs Fox, who had assorted rabbits and other small animals in her garden, and was quite happy for the local scruffs (us!) to climb up on the wall and look over the fence at them.

There is virtually nothing left of Chalmers Street now;  all the stone built terraced houses have been swept away."

Chalmers Street to The Vennel

"In the film, the pram starts rolling down Chalmers Street, does a detour to Blair Street, and ends up coming down the Vennel! Ah, some lovely editing.

Does anyone know where the shop was that the woman comes out of?

Terry Cox, Fairmilehead, Edinburgh: December 23, 2014

The Shop

If you know the shop that the woman comes out of in Johnny on the Run and would like to tell Terry Cox about it, please email me to let me know, then I'll pass on Terry's email address to you.    Thank you.

Peter Stubbs, Edinburgh:  December 23, 2014




Patrick Smith

St Charles, Illinois, USA

Patrick Smith wrote:

No.1. The Vennel

"Thank you for posting this WR&S photograph, from around the early-1900s, of No. 1 The Vennel, Edinburgh. "

W R & S  -  Photograph from the early-1900s  -  The Vennel ©

"According to the censuses:

-  My Great-Great Grandparents lived at No.3 The Vennel in 1871

-  They lived at 1st flat, No.1 The Vennel in 1`881.

-  They were still living there in 1891.

My Great-Grandfather lived at No.1 The Vennel until he married in 1892.  He emigrated to the US shortly after his marriage."

Patrick Smith, St Charles, Illinois:  31 October 2016




Thomas Harrison

Buckstone, Edinburgh

Thank you to Thomas Harrison who wrote:

The Vennel

"I've been searching for a photograph of my birthplace.  I was born on 18 February 1936 at at 19 The Vennel, around the corner of Keir Street.  it was a main door house directly opposite the Flodden Wall.   I wonder if any of your contributors from this area have any memories or photos."

Stories and Families

"I recall many of the stories that I've read on this Keir Place page.  My family relations all lived in the area, in The Vennel, Grassmarket and Portsburgh Square.  I remember the Hughes family, Harrison family, Cormack family and Smith family.  Thanks for memories."

Thomas Harrison, Buckstone, Edinburgh:  21 November, 2016

Reply to Thomas?

If you'd like to send a reply to Thomas Harrison, please email me to me to let me know, then I'll pass on his email address to you.

Peter Stubbs, Edinburgh:  26 December 2016




Steve Rendall

Buckstone, Edinburgh

Thank you to Steve Rendall who wrote:

Return Visit to Edinburgh

"I was recently visiting my son in Edinburgh as he’s with Hearts for this season.

I love walking around this beautiful city and it holds special significance to us.  I worked and stayed in Edinburgh during the 1980s and 1990s and the city has become my wife’s favourite UK city.  (She originates from Istanbul)."

Return Visit to Edinburgh

"I came across The Vennel and Brown's Place one Sunday morning and when researching,  came across your EdinPhoto web site."

'Basher Thompson'

"My love of the city and the tale that I read above of of 'Basher Thompson' led me to create this oil painting depicting Basher confiscating a football from a young boy.  At 1mx1m, it’s quite a Statement Work."


PC Basher Thompson
Confiscating a Football

Oil Painting

©  Steve Rendall, Liverpool, England

Steve Rendall:  8 January 2018 (3 3mails), Liverpool, England


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