Uncovering Edinburgh’s forgotten lives, one stair at a time.
December 20, 2022 7:13 AM   Subscribe

"Tenement Town takes a look behind the doors I pass every day, and offers glimpses of the lives that were lived over the centuries in the places Edinburgh’s citizens still call home." - Diarmid Mogg on his new website. Each entry starts with a specific Edinburgh front door and takes us step by step through 200 years or so of the individuals who've lived there. Today's investigation covers 10 Hill Place, the latest of the 15 addresses he's tackled so far.

In Scotland a "stair" is the stairwell giving access to all the individual apartments within a single tenement building.

Diarmid's also given us Small Town Noir, another very well researched site focusing on (so-called) ordinary lives.
posted by Paul Slade (24 comments total) 60 users marked this as a favorite
I love this sort of stuff, thank you so much for posting.
posted by Wretch729 at 7:30 AM on December 20, 2022

Wow, that was a lot more exciting than I thought it would be!
posted by HotToddy at 7:41 AM on December 20, 2022

Mrs Phanx will love this.
posted by Phanx at 7:57 AM on December 20, 2022

If you ever lived in Edinburgh:

"You're turn to clean the stair"
posted by bifurcated at 7:59 AM on December 20, 2022 [2 favorites]

Oh but this is wonderful. As much as I love an architectural history, the human one inside of that is always even more interesting. Thanks, Paul Slade.

(And if this sort of thing is your bag - as it very much is mine - there is a New Yorker who has been doing something similar in Manhattan for over a decade as a blog and a book.)
posted by minervous at 8:09 AM on December 20, 2022 [3 favorites]

It is VERY MUCH my thing! I will be checking out that book, minervous, thank you.

And thanks for the post, Paul Slade.
posted by mochapickle at 8:30 AM on December 20, 2022 [1 favorite]

Love this stuff. I do to this for mine and my friends' apartments in New York sometimes.
posted by greta simone at 8:38 AM on December 20, 2022

Wow…the violent men who lived in these buildings!
posted by BostonTerrier at 8:46 AM on December 20, 2022 [2 favorites]

This is so super cool! I'll be in Edinburgh in May, will be using this as a reference!
posted by latkes at 9:20 AM on December 20, 2022

Reading through these it looks like each address has notable events happening every 5 years or so, but you have to remember these are tenements which typically hold between 8 and 15 separate flats.
posted by Lanark at 9:24 AM on December 20, 2022

One of my favorite museum visits ever was to 14 Henrietta St, in Dublin. Built as a Georgian townhouse for a prominent lawyer, the museum shows how life at this address changed over the history of the building, especially as it became a tenement. Moving and informative.
posted by dbmcd at 9:27 AM on December 20, 2022 [1 favorite]

posted by kyrademon at 9:39 AM on December 20, 2022

No way! So much drama, excitement, and pain in one little building... Thank you!
posted by kingdead at 9:57 AM on December 20, 2022

Diarmid Mogg Is amazing - thanks for posting this, I had lost track of him after I closed my twitter account.
posted by The River Ivel at 11:08 AM on December 20, 2022 [1 favorite]

This is so great. From 15 Buchcleuch Street:

"In court, Mr Lamphard, a commercial traveller, explained that he had dropped into the bar at 2 for a drink and Magnus had asked him to help out behind the bar, as the other barman had not turned up. They had been busy all day, and the baskets of strawberries were their late dinner.

Lamphard said that Magnus was “of an excitable disposition” and often swore in conversation, “some of the words being merely terms of endearment”. He was asked if telling a police constable to go to hell was a term of endearment, and he said it might be, in this case.

Lamphard explained that Magnus’s appearance of intoxication was a result of his being in an excited state after an altercation with a drunk man named Ferguson, who had been thrown out of the bar after he “became noisy” when Magnus refused to serve him.

The bailie found the evidence to be “extremely conflicting” and found the charge not proven."

Love, love love.
posted by widdershins at 11:29 AM on December 20, 2022 [2 favorites]

Metafilter: produced on a Scale of Magnificence never before attempted by the Manager, or any other man
posted by praemunire at 11:30 AM on December 20, 2022 [3 favorites]

Thank you so much for this! As is so often the case, we look for the personal connection in these posts and links. In my case, the connection is indeed quite personal. I recently spend a good number of years searching for my birth father. Long story short, through the miracle of DNA, I was able to work out who he was. He was Scottish and was born in Edinburgh. Although he was now dead, his daughter was still alive and also living in Edinburgh. In 2019 I went to visit her. She took me around all the places my birth father and his family had lived and worked. The family home they lived in before they emigrated across the world, was in Buccleuch Street. It was very emotional for me to stand outside that door and imagine my birth father and his family leaving for country where, a few months later, I would be conceived in a brief, unfaithful coupling in the dark. And so when I saw that one of the tenement houses described in the main link, was also in Buccleuch Street, a shiver went down my spine. Although not the same house - that would have been too much of a coincidence - it was close by, and looked identical to the house a family lived in that for sixty-odd years that I never knew even existed - until the fateful day I found my birth father. Such lives, such stories!
posted by vac2003 at 12:38 PM on December 20, 2022 [8 favorites]

Great post & thank you! A few years ago, we took a family trip to NYC, and booked a visit to the tenement museum. It is in the lower east side of Manhattan. If you have the opportunity to go, go. It was much more than I expected. The fact that it is largely intact is incredible. Couple that with a rich narrative provided by census data (showing the occupants over 80+ years) and it was incredible.

posted by zerobyproxy at 1:46 PM on December 20, 2022 [2 favorites]

Wow…the violent men who lived in these buildings!
You know the slogan "well behaved women seldom make history"? People think that it means that well-behaved women seldom do anything significant, but that's not what Laurel Thatcher Ulrich meant when she wrote that sentence. What she meant was that in the period she studies, women mostly only make it into the historical record when they do something that pisses off people in authority. And the same is largely true of working-class people in general. If you search tenement addresses in historical newspapers, you're mostly going to get arrest records, plus the occasional notable accident or death. Middle or upper-class people might have had their addresses in the newspaper in a wedding announcement or in the social pages or something like that. But a tenement address is probably mostly going to show up when someone was arrested or died.

You could probably use census records to figure out who was living in a given building when the census was taken, and then you could look for other records to build out a fuller picture of those people's lives. But that would take a lot of work, and honestly probably wouldn't generate a whole lot other than dates of marriages and births.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 4:38 PM on December 20, 2022 [3 favorites]

This is great!!
posted by starscream at 4:45 PM on December 20, 2022

maybe he'll do 2 grove st... that's the stair i grew up in.
posted by iboxifoo at 10:01 PM on December 20, 2022 [1 favorite]

This is amazing thank you for posting this!
posted by newpotato at 1:03 AM on December 21, 2022

This is amazing. I did a ton of family research on my Scottish ancestors prior to a 2019 trip to Edinburgh and some of these addresses are very close to where various of my ancestors lived. Fascinating stuff. Thank you so much for the link!
posted by juliebug at 5:07 AM on December 21, 2022 [2 favorites]


The site has a contact form for nominations.
posted by Paul Slade at 7:48 AM on December 21, 2022 [2 favorites]

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