Jun 032023

Duff Street, Edinburgh, EH11 2HU

Site of the former Caledonian Distillery on Duff Street, Dalry. Photographed from Springwell Place.

On 27 September 1940 a 500lb bomb dropped on the Caledonian Distillery (“the Cally”), the largest distillery in Scotland, on the corner of Duff Street and Springwell Place. Gallons of whisky spread down the street causing an enormous fire which spread to tenements in the surrounding streets. Hundreds of residents were made homeless. Overall, however, Edinburgh was fortunate not to experience large-scale air raids during the war and avoided the worst of the Blitz. Tip to see this location: travel out to Dalry to see the site of the former distillery – it is now a residential complex. Looking south-east up Springwell Place shows which tenements were affected by the fire as there is a clear demarcation between the old buildings and the new.

Looking south-east up Springwell Place shows which tenements were affected by the fire.

An image of the Caledonian Distillery taken in 1966 can be seen here:

Sources: Craig Armstrong, Edinburgh at War, (2018), p. 82, Andrew Jeffrey, This Present Emergency: Edinburgh, the River Forth and South-East Scotland and the Second World War, (1992), p. 72, Jeremy A Crang, ‘The Second World War’ in E M Spiers, J A Crang & M J Strickland, A Military History of Scotland (2012), p. 567.

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Apr 032019

1 King’s Stables Road today

1 King’s Stables Road, Edinburgh, EH1 2JA

Starting in 1869, a building at 14 Leith Walk served as a firelighter factory where unemployed men could prove their willingness to work and earn wages to tide them and their families over. The work was hard-going, manually intense, and grimy, and it was thought that if a man could show his willingness to work there, he would work anywhere. Within a year of operation, more than 600 otherwise destitute men had been employed at the factory. In 1873, the Association took over factory management and when their headquarters moved to 1 King Stable’s Road in 1891, the factory moved here with it. A large waste paper store, another employment opportunity for men and women, was also on the premises. The Association learned, to their cost, the danger of keeping a waste paper store and firewood factory in close proximity to one another when a fire broke out in February 1896, damaging the building quite extensively and resulting in the sale of the premises and a move to North Fredrick Street.

The Grassmarket looking towards King’s Stables Road, 1865









Photo credits: Lucy Ridley, A. D. White Architectural Photographs, Cornell University Library