untitled by Star Cat on Flickr.
Flickr OP: The Parish Church of St Cuthbert is a congregation of the Church of Scotland; it is within the Presbytery of Edinburgh. The church building is situated off Lothian Road in central Edinburgh, well below the level of Princes Street, surrounded by its churchyard. It was throughout the 19th century a fashionable church preferred by the rich burghers of the developing New Town.
The original burial ground was restricted to an area to the south-west, now a small mound in relation to the rest of the churchyard. This was latterly known as the “Bairns’ Knowe” (children’s hill) as it was often used for burial of children. Records show that this was open to the countryside until 1597, and sheep and horses would graze here. A wall was then built around the churchyard.
In 1701 ground was added to the west and north-west, concurrent with a refurbishment of the church, which is recorded as having been somewhat derelict since the period of the English Civil War.
In 1787 the north marsh (at the west end of what was then the Nor’ Loch was drained, immediately north of the church, to expand the area for burial. A little later the ground to the south-east was raised to drier levels and enclosed on its east side by a new wall.
In 1827 the watchtower to the south-west was built to defend against graverobbing which was rife at that time.
In 1831 the manse (to the south) was demolished, and a new manse and garden built further south.
Memorial to Rev. David Dickson (ca. 1840)In 1841 a railway tunnel was built under a new southern section of the graveyard, dating from omly 1834, to serve incoming trains to the new Waverley Station. Many graves had to be moved as a result of this. Stones from between 1834 and 1841 in this section have been totally lost or destroyed.
In 1863 the entire churchyard was closed under order of the newly appointed Medical Officer of Health, the graveyard being then considered “completely full”. The church however refused to cease burial considering a viable and important source of income. In 1873 the church, in a rare event, was taken to court for “permitting a nuisance to exist (as defined) under the Public Health Act 1867, being offensive and injurious to health”. This still did not effect closure. In 1874 they were ordered to close by the Council (then known as the City Corporation) but only did so after a year of further appeals.
The churchyard is impressive containing hundreds of monuments worthy of notice, including one to John Grant of Kilgraston (near Perth), and a three-bay Gothic mausoleum of the Gordons of Cluny by David Bryce.
One feature of oddness is at the west side of the churchyard, where Lothian Road has been widened over the churchyard (c.1900), but due to its greater height, has been done so on pillars, so the graves still remain beneath the road surface.