Leith Local History Society

Records of Leith

Did you play the game, Chinese Whispers, when you were young? A phrase was whispered along the line and the last person shouted our what he or she had heard. Invariably it bore no relation to what had been whispered in the first place. This is the trouble with many books and sites on the internet. Few give sources so you cannot verify the information. If you are interested in finding out more about your family or local history, then the best place to go is the National Archives of Scotland at the east end of Princes Street. It holds a treasure trove of records among which are wills and inventories, property records, valuation rolls, burgh records, criminal and civil court records, church records and papers of landowners.

The earliest record to do with Leith is a papal bull in which Pope Honorius granted half the Port of Leith to the abbot of Holyrood in 1217 (CH7/4). As to be expected, there are many records to do with the port itself, including registers of ships and fishing boats, as well as societies and associations. Among the Gift Deposits, there is a copy of the remission granted to Archibald Dundas and 72 others, for plundering the ship of Thomas Macentire in the port in the 1450s (GD75/3389)

Records from Leith Sheriff Court exist from 1811 to 1920. There is even a record of the cost of running the court which includes cleaning and stationery! Leith Burgh Records (B47) only consist of deeds and protests (1747-1809). Property records and wills and inventories were recorded along with those of Edinburgh. Valuation Rolls run from 1855 to 1906. There are records of Leith Police for 1877 to 1912 (HH55/161) along with a register of criminals (1842-47) (HH21/10/2). Not all records are written ones though. For example there are 17 colour slides of the ceiling of the Leith Burgh Council Chamber (GD1/656/1) and bound plans of Leith Burgh Tramways.

For details see www.nas.gov.uk (the National Archives of Scotland website).