Broughton yesterday

How old is Broughton? We do not know for certain. But the name is Anglian in origin: early forms such as Broctuna and Bruchton came from ‘broc tun’ – ‘farm beside the brook’. The Angles didn't reach the Edinburgh area until the 7th century AD.

The earliest written record of Broughton we know of is in a charter granted to canons at Holyrood Abbey by David I, in 1128. Included in the lands and privileges he gave them was “Broctunam cum suis rectis diusis” (Broctun and its right marches). So that's nearly 900 years of history at least!

The earliest map featuring Broughton that we have found so far is one drawn at the time of the Siege of Leith, in 1560, probably by an Englishman.

Broughton was a village belonging to the Church for several centuries from 1128 onwards. For that period we've only found occasional references to it in the historical records.

A turning-point came after the Reformation, when Church lands reverted to the Crown. King James VI gave Broughton and other property to Sir Lewis Bellenden, his Justice-Clerk. Sir Lewis became Baron of Broughton, with his own court and prison at Broughton Tolbooth. (Daniel Wilson made this drawing of it shortly before it was demolished).

Under Bellenden and his successors Broughton expanded and became a much busier place. The Tolbooth itself stood where Barony Street and Broughton Street meet today. The village extended west to what's now the other end of Barony Street, with another group of houses to the east in what's now Broughton Place; and no farther than present-day London Street to the north and Albany Street to the south. A steep, narrow road known as Broughton Loan led to the city of Edinburgh. 

Everything began to change again when the development of the New Town reached the village. The first Georgian houses in Broughton Street were built in 1808-09, where Real Foods is now; the main-door flats were masked by later shops, but Nos. 35-37 still have their arched ground floors. Across on the opposite side of the street Nos. 10-12, with their linked Doric doorpieces, were built in 1810. Development was sporadic, some Georgian and some Victorian, with two late 18th century blocks still surviving today (Nos. 65-79). But over the next few decades Broughton was absorbed into the City of Edinburgh. The Tolbooth was demolished in 1829. George Simson's 1852 drawing of Remains of the Village of Old Broughton shows houses at the west end of Barony Street, some of which survived into the 1930s.

The most prominent public buildings in nineteenth-century Broughton were the numerous churches; joined later by public schools. What's now No. 32 Broughton Street was built as a George Heriot District School in 1853. The letters 'G' and 'H' are carved into the stonework at first-floor level. Originally the ground floor was arcaded and carts could be taken through to the yard behind. You can still see the arches behind the shopfronts; the shops came in 1889, when the pupils transferred to the new London Street School and the building was sold to St Mary's Free Church for use as their halls. The New Statistical Account of 1845 was full of praise for the Heriot District Schools: 'from the efficient manner in which they are conducted, they promise to be of the upmost benefit for the general diffusion of education among the lower orders'.

So Broughton became part of Edinburgh, not the separate village it had been for centuries. But that wasn't the end of its history. And Broughton's sense of identity has never been lost. Indeed, it may well have strengthened in recent years: we'd like to think Spurtle has contributed to that, and will continue to do so!

Do you have a question about Broughton's history? We'll try to answer it – or  suggest where you might find the answer.

Do you have an interesting snippet of information about our area's history, or a reminiscence, that you'd like to share? Email us:!


Since 2007, Spurtle has featured articles on the following local historical subjects.

Aitkenhead, Thomas (c.1689–97) p.3 Issue 163 (Oct. 2008)

Anchorfield, p.3 Issue 202 (Jan. 2012)

Armstrong, Nevill Alexander Drummond (1874–1954) pp.1, 3 Issue 189 (Dec. 2010)

Barony Church, p.3 Issue 188 (Nov. 2010), & online 'Breaking news' (1.11.10)

Botanic Cottage, p.3 Issue 152 (Oct. 2007); p.1 Issue 153 (Nov. 2007); p.1 Issue 167 (Feb. 2009); p. 1 Issue 171 (Jun. 2009), p.2 Issue 203 (Feb. 2012); & online 'Extras' (3.9.09); 'Breaking news' (7.6.12)

Broughton Court, p.3 Issue 185 (August 2010)

Broughton Parochial School (Rodney Street), p.3 Issue 172 (Jul. 2009); p.3 Issue 186 (Sept. 2010)

Broughton St Mary's Parish Church, p.3 Issue 171 (Jun. 2009)

Broughton St, Mather's Bar, Breaking news (7.10.10)

Burn, Robert (1752–1815), p.3 Issue 203 (Feb. 2012); p.3 Issue 204 (Mar. 2012)

Caribou, Hepburn House, E. Claremont St, pp.1, 3 Issue 189 (Dec. 2010)

Challenger Expedition (1872–76), p.3 Issue 176 (Nov. 2009)

Chambers, Robert (1802–71) p.3 Issue 177 (Dec. 2009)

Chambers, William (1800–83) p.3 Issue 177 (Dec. 2009)

Cowan Building (West Register Street), p.3 Issue 168 (Mar. 2009)

Crichton, Lieut-Col. Commandant Patrick (c.1755–1825), p.3 Issue 164 (Nov. 2008)

Dadd, Richard (1817–86), p.3 Issue 202 (Jan. 2012)

Dalyell, Sir John Graham (1775–1851), p.3 Issue 167 (Feb. 2009)

Dickens, Mrs Charles, see Catherine Hogarth

Dickson, Henry Newton (1866–1922), p.3 Issue 180 (Mar. 2010)

Drambuie Liqueur Company, p.3 Issue 200 (Nov. 2011); p.3 Issue 204 (Mar. 2012); & online 'Breaking news' (4.11.11)

Dworak, General Kazimierz (1895–1954), p.3 Issue 191 (Feb. 2011)

Edinburgh Deaf & Dumb Benevolent Society, p.3 Issue 198 (Sep. 2011); p.3 Issue 201 (Dec. 2011)

'Flower of Scotland' (4 Forth Street), p.3 Issue 164 (Nov. 2008)

Fulton, Thomas Wemyss (1855–1929), p.3 Issue 193 (Apr. 2011)

Garioch, Robert (1909–81), p.3 Issue 154 (Dec. 2007)

Gilroy's of East London Street, p.3 Issue 197 (Aug. 2011)

Graveyard, medieval (Leith Walk), p.1 Issue 174 (Sept. 2009)

Gretna Memorial (Rosebank Cemetery), p.2 Issue 159 (Jun. 2008)

Halkett, Samuel (1814–71), p.3 Issue 184 (July 2010)

Heriot Trust statue (formerly Broughton Street), p.3 Issue 153 (Nov. 2007)

Hogarth, Catherine, p.3 Issue 205 (Apr. 2012)

Huguenot temple (4 Forth Street), p.3 Issue 165 (Dec. 2008)

Leith coat of arms, p.4 Issue 203 (Feb. 2012)

Lloyd, Arthur (1839–1904), p.3 Issue 160 (Jul. 2008)

Logie Green, p.3 Issue 206, (May 2012)

Mackenzie, Sir Compton (1883–1972), p.3 Issue 177 (Dec. 2009)

Murray, Sir John (1841–1914), p.3 Issue 176 (Nov. 2009)

Museums Collection Service, p.3 Issue 156 (Mar. 2008)

Mutrees Theatrical Costumier, p.3 Issue 188 (Nov. 2010), & online 'Breaking news' (1.11.10)

Nasmyth, Alexander (1758–1840), p.3 Issue 181 (Apr. 2010)

Nasmyth, James (1808–90), p.3 Issue 183 (June 2010)

New Town admirals, p.3 Issue 199 (Oct. 2011)

Nicholson, Laurence James (1844–1901), p.3 Issue 192 (Mar. 2011)

Pilrig House, Breaking news (1.11.10; 6.12.10)

Pillans, Robert Stanley (c.1843–78), p.3 Issue 166 (Jan. 2009)

Pillar Clock (Leith Walk),  p.2 Issue 162 (Sept. 2008)

Powderhall Bridge (St Mark's Park), p.2 Issue 163 (Oct. 2008)

Raeburn, Sir Henry (1756–1823), p.3 Issue 155 (Feb. 2008)

Quin's fishmonger (Rodney Street), p.3 (Jan. 2009)

Redpath, Anne (1895–1965), p.3 (Nov. 2009)

Rock & pop stars, Breaking news (7.10.10)

Royal Navy and Royal Marine Club, p.1 (Nov. 2011); & online 'Breaking news' (21.10.11)

Sheriff, John (c.1775–1844), p.3 Issue 174 (Sept. 2009), & online 'Extras'

St Bernard's Football Club, p.3 Issue 178 (Jan. 2010); p.3 Issue 206 (May 2012); & online 'Extras' (1.1.10)

St Mary's Free Church, p.3 Issue 188 (Nov. 2010), & online 'Breaking news' (1.11.10)

St Vincent Street Church, Glasgow, p.3 Issue 188 (Nov. 2010), & online 'Breaking news' (1.11.10)

Sveinbjörnsson, Sveinbjörn (1847–1927), p.3 Issue 152 (Oct. 2007)

Swimsuits, p.1,Issue 178 (Jan. 2010), & online 'Extras'

Thompson, D'Arcy Wentworth (1829–1902), p.3 Issue 169 (Apr. 2009)

Thompson, D'Arcy Wentworth (1860–1948), p.3 Issue 182 (May 2010)

Thomson, Alexander 'Greek' (1817–75) p.3 Issue 188 (Nov. 2010), & online 'Breaking news' (1.11.10)

Waverley Telephone Exchange, p.3 Issue 196 (July 2011); p.3 Issue 205 (Apr. 2012); & online 'Breaking news' (5.4.12)

Witches and warlocks, p.3 Issue 175 (Oct. 2009)



Historic maps and much else of interest are available at:


Broughton History Society was founded in 1996, to encourage interest in history, and in the story of our local area in particular. Click on the link here to visit their page on this site.