When you mention The Colonies to someone from Edinburgh, most people will think of the charming rows of houses in Stockbridge next to the water of Leith. The Stockbridge Colonies were built between 1861 and 1911 by the Edinburgh Co-operative Building Company.
The Colonies are often considered to be a small village in their own right. With their social history and unique features of architectural interest and their close location to The Royal Botanic Gardens and Inverleith Park, they are now considered to be prime real estate.
Few people know that there are 11 such sites across Edinburgh and the people who built them were a group of workmen who wanted to make homes for their families away from overcrowded city-centre tenements. Their purpose was to provide owner occupied low-cost housing for, and organised by working people. Over a third of the shareholders were stonemasons and other tradesmen.
The Edinburgh Colonies are instantly recognisable, their streets are arranged back-to-back with ground-floor front doors facing in one direction and first floor front doors on the opposite side with the trademark external staircases running down to the pavement (at the end of each of the eleven parallel terraces are the original artisan crests portraying the different trades of the workmen).
The cottage style, two storey houses each have a front garden (Victorian clothes poles are an original feature), this means that facing houses have different street names, for example the ground floor homes on Miller Place share the same street with the upper terraces accessed by Reid Terrace.
The streets were named after the founders of the Company including the geologist and writer Hugh Miller: Reid Terrace – Hugh Miller Place – Rintoul Place – Collins Place – Dunrobin Place – Kemp Place – Bell Place
Characteristically, each flat originally had four rooms, a separate external toilet and a garden. The emblematic Colonies design promoted a strong and durable sense of community by virtue of the parallel terraces, gardens and the self-contained nature of the colony development which endures today.
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