Place:Leith, Midlothian, Scotland

Alt namesNorth Leithsource: from redirect
Leith Northsource: alternate name for North Leith
South Leithsource: from redirect
Leith Southsource: alternate name for South Leith
TypeParish, Town
Coordinates55.95°N 3.167°W
Located inMidlothian, Scotland     ( - 1920)
See alsoEdinburgh, Midlothian, Scotlandparish into which Leith was absorbed in 1920
Lothian, Scotlandregional administration 1975-1996
City of Edinburgh, Scotlandunitary Council Area since 1996
source: Getty Thesaurus of Geographic Names
source: Family History Library Catalog
source: Family History Library Catalog
source: Family History Library Catalog

All discussion of North Leith and South Leith have been condensed into this article. Family History Library Catalog references for North Leith and South Leith are given above. Available data on births marriages and deaths are as follows:

in North Leith parish
Births and/or baptisms: 1615-1726, 1728-1854
Marriages: 1605-1706 and 1783-1854
Deaths and/or burials: 1754-1854
in South Leith parish
Births: 1599-1620, 1643--1855
Marriages: 1588-1854; irregular marriages: 1697-1818
Deaths: 1662-1667, 1681-1692 and 1704-1819
Burials at Calton Burying Ground: 1719-1857
Burials at Restalrig: 1728-1854

This data is expanded in the FamilySearch Wiki (see references below)

the text in this section is based on an article in Wikipedia

Leith (Scottish Gaelic: Lìte) is an area to the north of the city of Edinburgh, Scotland, at the mouth of the Water of Leith, which is the main river flowing through Edinburgh. The Water of Leith flows into the sea via the Firth of Forth.

The earliest surviving historical references are in the royal charter authorising the construction of Holyrood Abbey in 1128. The medieval settlements of Leith had grown into a burgh by 1833, and the burgh was merged into Edinburgh in 1920.

Historically part of the county of Midlothian, Leith is sited on the coast of the Firth of Forth and lies within the council area of the district municipality known as the City of Edinburgh since 1974.

The port remains one of its most valuable enterprises, handling over 1.5 million tonnes of cargo in 2003.


South Leith and North Leith

the text in this section is based on an article in Wikipedia

Previous to the bridge being built in the late 15th century, Leith had settlements on either side of the Water of Leith, lacking an easy crossing between them.

South Leith was larger and was controlled by the lairds of Restalrig: the Logan family. It was based on trade and had many merchants' houses and warehouses. This was where ships offloaded their cargoes at "The Shore" where they were collected by Edinburgh merchants. Leithers, or inhabitants of Leith, were explicitly forbidden by statute to participate directly in the trade at the port, to ensure that landed goods were not sold elsewhere.

North Leith was smaller but proportionately richer, coming under the jurisdiction of Holyrood Abbey. It was effectively a fishing village consisting of one street, now Sandport Street and Quayside Lane. Burgage plots ran down to the river from each house. This has traditionally been the shipbuilding side of Leith with several wet and dry docks built over time. The first dry dock in Scotland was built here in 1720. A small peninsula of land on the east bank also came under the same jurisdiction on what is now Sheriff Brae/Sheriff Bank.

The first bridge to link the two banks of the river was built in 1493 by Abbot Bellenden, who controlled the church at North Leith. The bridge was a toll bridge, the revenue supplementing the church's income. Reputedly Leith's oldest building, it was demolished in 1780 to allow ships to sail further upstream.

Local Government

this section is based on a section of an article in Wikipedia

Historically Leith was governed by the Town Council of Edinburgh, with separately organised baillies appointed by various bodies without contact with each other. (A bailie or baillie is a civic officer in the local government of Scotland. The position arose in the burghs, where bailies formerly held a post similar to that of an alderman or magistrate (see Wikipedia).) The result became vary unsatisfactory, and half of Leith was provided with no municipal government whatever or any local magistrates.

In 1827, by an Act of Parliament of the British Government, Leith was granted its own municipal government and responsibility for justice in the town. In 1833 the Burgh Reform Act made Leith a separate Municipal Burgh, with its own provost, magistrates, and council. The separation from Edinburgh was so deep that, until 1923, there was no through tram service between the two municipalities; at the boundary in Leith Walk it was necessary to change from a Leith tram (electrically powered) to an Edinburgh tram (cable hauled) until the electrification of the Edinburgh Corporation Tramways in the early 1920s.

Continued growth meant that Leith and Edinburgh formed a contiguous urban area. Leith was merged with Edinburgh in 1920 despite a plebiscite in which the people of Leith voted 26,810 to 4,340 against the merger.

For more information, see the EN Wikipedia article Leith., especially the sections "History" and "Traditional Industries". Wikipedia also has separate articles on North Leith Parish Church and South Leith Parish Church.

Research Tips

Sources for Old Parish Registers Records, Vital Records and Censuses

  • Scotland's People This is a pay website providing vital statistics and census data for all of Scotland with original images. There is a description at Scotland under Genealogical Resources.

Further Sources of Reference

Please note and respect the copyright warnings on these websites.

  • GENUKI article on Leith (very brief).
  • Scottish Places article on the town of Leith. The tabs of the right provide more information, and comparitive maps. There is a worthwhile bibliography.
  • The FamilySearch Wiki article on North Leith and provides direct reference to FamilySearch holdings on many topics with respect to the parishes.
  • The National Library of Scotland have a website devoted to maps from the 1600s right up to the present. Comparisons of modern-day and old maps of the same place can be made. From the home page click on "Find by place" and then follow the instructions on the next page. Once you are viewing the place you want, use the slider <----> at the top of the map to compare the layout of roads and the place names of smaller areas, perhaps even farms, with the landscape today. The website takes some getting used to. The One-inch 2nd edition, Scotland, 1898-1904 OS is a series of maps with the parishes delineated. Each of these maps cover an area of 18 x 24 miles and will zoom to comfortable reading size with a couple of mouse clicks on the map itself. Unfortunately, they are not geo-referenced, and it is necessary to go to the OS One Inch 1885-1900 series to locate places by latitude and longitude.
  • The Statistical Accounts for Scotland In the 1790s and again in the 1830s, the ministers of the all the parishes of the Church of Scotland were asked to provide a description of their parish to the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland. The original account request included 160 questions to be answered. These accounts are available in print in 20 volumes and are also online where it is freely available to browse. The browsing portal is below the viewing area of most computer screens. Scroll down to "For non-subscribers" and click on "Browse scanned pages". This brings you to another page on which one can enter the name of the parish in which you are interested.
  • Excerpts from The Ordnance Gazetteer of Scotland: A Survey of Scottish Topography, Statistical, Biographical and Historical, edited by Francis H. Groome and originally published in parts by Thomas C. Jack, Grange Publishing Works, Edinburgh between 1882 and 1885 are provided by Scottish Places. Selections from Groome and other gazetteers from the 19th century are also found on GENUKI.

This page uses content from the English Wikipedia. The original content was at Leith. The list of authors can be seen in the page history. As with WeRelate, the content of Wikipedia is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.