Burns Monument, Calton Hill

Burns Monument

I seem to be on a bit of a monumental kick at the moment, so today I went to visit the Burns monument on Regent Road – it being his month.

This is Georgian shading towards Victorian – Burns himself is solid late 18th century, of course, but the monument was begun in 1831, which is into William IV – but it’s definitely neoclassical Georgian in style, as is the ‘old’ Royal High School across the road, begun in 1826 (the new Royal High is at Barnton, but the Royal High of the Georgian period was in High School Yards), and everything else around – this area was, I think, the third expansion of the Georgian New Town, in the 1820s.

Monument information

The original – and earlier – plan was to erect a statue to Burns, and the monument was only built when the statue had only used half the funds raised – which may be why there’s so little on the monument itself to say what it is, because the main inscription was on the plinth of the statue. However, although it was erected, the marble of the statue was damaged by smoke from a gasworks down below, and it was moved – it’s now in the National Portrait Gallery.

Monument inscription

The other thing I found interesting was the setting – Princes Street and Regent Road are so solidly on one level that it’s easy to forget how suddenly the land drops away below the bridges, but the old stairway of Jacob’s ladder (first recorded on a map in 1759) dropping to Calton Road shows just how much of a hill this is.

Jacob’s Ladder

On the other side of the monument is the New Calton Burial Ground, created in 1817 to hold the bodies moved from the old Calton graveyard when Waterloo Place was built through it – this doesn’t fall quite so steeply to the Old Town, but steeply enough. This was another treasure hunt find for me – I knew it was somewhere near the old one, but had no idea where it was.

New Calton graveyard

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