Leith Local History Society

Leith burgh boundary at Pilrig

Old coloured postcard of Leith Walk showing the burgh boundary at Pilrig
The burgh boundary at Pilrig

Date: 1899/1904?

From 1833 to 1920 Leith was an independent burgh and, on Leith Walk, its boundary with Edinburgh lay at Pilrig. From 1871 to 1899 there was a horse tram service which ran up the entire length of Leith Walk. In October 1899 Edinburgh installed a cable tram system down as far as the boundary at Pilrig but Leith Town Council refused to allow it to be extended to the Foot of the Walk. This meant that anyone who wanted to travel past Pilrig had to change trams there. This became known as the ‘Pilrig Muddle’.

The illustration shows the Pilrig area complete with an Edinburgh cable tram. In the centre is what was then Pilrig Free Church - now Pilrig St Paul's Church of Scotland. It shows Leith Walk almost empty of traffic - a situation that would not apply nowadays!

Initally the change that passengers made was from Leith horse trams to Edinburgh cable trams (or vice versa) but in 1905 Leith installed a much more modern and reliable system of electric trams. Since there is no sign of the overhead cables for the Leith electric trams, this picture must date from between 1899 and 1904.