Shandon, Edinburgh

Coordinates: 55°55′59″N 003°13′46″W / 55.93306°N 3.22944°W / 55.93306; -3.22944 (Shandon)

Shandon is an area of Edinburgh within North Merchiston approximately three miles west of the centre of Edinburgh. It is bounded by Slateford Road to the north, Harrison Road to the east, the Union Canal to the south and the Glasgow-Edinburgh Shotts Line and Suburban rail lines to the west.


Ashley Terrace, Shandon

Harris[1] states that the name is presumably related to Shandon on the Gareloch, near Helensburgh. Robert Napier (1791–1876) the famous marine engineer built the mansion of West Shandon at Shandon, Dumbartonshire in 1851 situated on the east shore of the Gareloch. There does not seem to be a connection with the Napier family of Merchiston on whose ground the Edinburgh streets were constructed and a mistake could have occurred here in tracing the history of the wrong "Napier" in selecting names for these streets.

Shandon Conservation AreaEdit

Shandon contains the Shandon Conservation Area, which was originally designated on 29 March 1996.[2] The conservation area is bound to the northwest by the Glasgow-Edinburgh rail line, to the northeast by Ashley Terrace and Shandon Place, to the southeast by the rear boundary walls of the rear gardens of Cowan Road and to the southwest by the Edinburgh suburban railway line. The conservation area has two distinct areas which are separated by a former Caledonian railway line. To the south, the ‘Shaftesbury Park’ colonies which were built in 1883-1904 and to the north, there is the smaller Shandon housing development which was built in 1880-1883.


Historical maps show that the land now covered by the Shandon Conservation Area, prior to development was open farmland. In 1880-1883, Shandon Crescent/Place/Road/Terrace/Street developed as an area comprising larger terraced dwellings and a small number of large detached villas. This housing development was built to cater for lower middle class families.

Shandon Crescent

In 1883, a 10-acre (40,000 m2) site to the south of the former Caledonian Railway was bought by the Edinburgh Co-Operative Building Company (ECBC). The site was formerly in the possession of George Watson's Hospital and was known as Shaftesbury Park. Between 1883 and 1904, the ECBC built 330 houses at Shaftesbury Park. Similarly, as in Shandon, the type of social class that the Shaftesbury Park housing was aimed at lower-middle-class families. In the mid-19th century, Scottish housing reformers sought an alternative to the traditional tenement and there was a deliberate movement to find a working-class housing pattern which broke with the tradition and gave every family a front door and its own garden. The development of artisan housing in Scotland was pioneered in Edinburgh with a scheme by Patrick Wilson for the Pilrig Model Dwelling Company. This was the first colony-type development in Edinburgh. In 1857, the Rosebank Cottages were developed by James Gowans, and were modelled from the Pilrig System.

The form and layout of the Rosebank Cottages provided a prototype for a number of Colony developments by the Edinburgh Co-operative Building Company. The company was formed in April 1861 by a group of Edinburgh building workers with its principal aim being to improve living standards amongst the working classes. To achieve this, the ECBC provided affordable housing to encourage home ownership through access to mortgage finance. At Shaftesbury Park, the social emphasis shifted away from housing predominantly artisans, to lower middle classes.[3]

The Electrical Exhibition of 1890 at ShandonEdit

It was primarily to demonstrate progress in electrical science that a huge exhibition was opened on 1 May 1890 at Slateford on land lying between the Caledonian main line and the Union Canal. Both the Caley and the North British opened special temporary stations nearby to cater for the large crowds who flocked to see the exhibition throughout that summer. The Caley station was situated midway between Merchiston and Slateford, the North British station on the adjacent suburban railway which the NB had acquired in 1885 The Caley's exhibition station was served by a half-hourly service of trains throughout the day, the first leaving Princes Street at 10:15 am. Return services left the exhibition station on the hour and the half-hour, the last train of the day arriving back at Princes Street at 11 pm. Passengers travelling from stations on the Leith branch could purchase special tickets which included the price of admission to the exhibition. The station was on a short purpose-built branch in effect, the use of which was strictly controlled by tablet working. When the exhibition closed after the summer the station was dismantled and the four block instruments sold off. While the original idea behind the International Industrial Exhibition had been to illustrate progress in electrical science, by the time it opened its scope had been enlarged to include mechanical science and even fine arts. The main building faced the Union Canal and was 700 ft long (210 m) and 250 ft wide (76 m), being divided into wings comprising nine courts each. In between was a concert hall seating 3,000 people complete with orchestra and organ. To the east across the suburban railway - over which a pedestrian bridge was erected - was the machinery hall with a locomotive annexe. The buildings cost £50,000 in all and were electrically lit. The exhibition was opened by the Duke and Duchess of Edinburgh whose procession travelled west along Dalry Road and up Ardmillan Terrace.

As The Scotsman reported: At Ardmillan Terrace, where the Exhibition first bursts into view, the scene was indeed a gay one. The roadway at each side from Harrison Park to the Exhibition was lined with Venetian masts, from which were suspended bannerets and shields. At intervals bright-coloured rows of streamers were stretched across the road. The numerous flags on the Exhibition buildings and others on private houses in the vicinity fluttered gaily in the breeze, and the brilliant sunshine added greatly to the effectiveness of a very pretty scene.

While the exhibition lasted the Union Canal enjoyed an Indian summer; electrically powered boats conveyed visitors from the site to Slateford and back for a fare of one halfpenny.[4]

St Michael's Parish ChurchEdit

St Michaels, Slateford Road, Shandon

St Michael's Parish Church (Church of Scotland) is a large and prominent church at the start of Slateford Road. It is in the Early English style and noted as "large and very perfect" by Gifford et al.[5] In 1879 the triangular site, where the present church now stands, was selected and purchased to replace the earlier Iron Church which was serving the districts of Dalry, Tynecastle and North Merchiston. The architect was Mr John Honeyman, R.S.A., of Glasgow and on Sunday 2 December 1883 St Michaels Church was opened for public worship. More information on the Kirk can be found here.

Harrison ParkEdit

Harrison Park looking Northwest

Harrison Park sits alongside the Union Canal, which provides a valuable wildlife corridor in the area.

The Friends of Harrison Park work in partnership with Edinburgh Council to oversee the management, maintenance and development of this green space. Recent projects, including upgrading of paths, interpretive signage, naturalised bulb planting, have all contributed to making Harrison Park a delightful, accessible and well used community green space. The eastern part of Harrison Park first came under control of Edinburgh Corporation in 1886 with a 15-year feu of 13.92 acres (56,300 m2) from George Watson's Hospital. An additional 1.375 acres (5,560 m2) were feued in 1902 for a bowling green and playground. The park is split in two by Harrison road, with a playground and football pitches on the east side. The western portion was purchased for £10,000 from the Merchant Company Education Board on 15 May 1930. More information about the Park can be found on the website of the Friends of Harrison Park

Union CanalEdit

The Union Canal at Shandon in the snow

The Union Canal bounds Shandon to the South and the Edinburgh Canal Society main base is Ashley Terrace Boathouse at Lockhart Bridge.

Caledonian BreweryEdit

The Caledonian Brewery

The Caledonian Brewery, the only survivor of Edinburgh's old breweries, founded in 1869, lies on Slateford Road to the north of the area.


  1. ^ The Place Names of Edinburgh, George Wright, Edinburgh 1996
  2. ^ SHANDON CONSERVATION AREA CHARACTER APPRAISAL Edinburgh City Development Department : Planning & Strategy : January 2003 ISBN 1-85191-047-6
  3. ^ Rodger M (1999) Housing the People: the colonies of Edinburgh, City of Edinburgh Council in association with the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland.
  4. ^ Shaw, Donald (1989) The Balerno Branch and the Caley in Edinburgh, The Oakwood Press
  5. ^ The Buildings of Scotland. Edinburgh. John Gifford, Colin McWilliam and David Walker. Medieval buildings by Christopher Wilson. penguin Books 1984.