Jun 032023

Leith Walk, EH6

View from the top of Leith Walk and Union Street, looking north towards Leith.

On the night of 10 June 1940, when Italy declared war on Britain, anti-Italian riots broke out in Edinburgh. These were concentrated in Leith where there was a significant Italian commercial presence of cafes and fish and chip shops. Afterwards, a local journalist reported that the main thoroughfares of Leith looked as if a series of heavy bombs had fallen. Shop windows were smashed and premises ransacked and looted. Hostile crowds of up to 2000 people gathered and the police reported that over 100 shops were attacked. The Scotsman pointed out that an Italian man whose premises were severely damaged had two sons on active service in the Black Watch. This incident illuminates the readiness of British society to identify and target the internal ‘other’ at times of national crisis.

An image of an Italian ice cream shop in Edinburgh, c. 1907, can be seen here: https://www.scran.ac.uk/database/record.php?usi=000-000-003-554-C&scache=5nhz091lz7&searchdb=scran

Sources: Wendy Ugolini, Experiencing War as the ‘Enemy Other’ (2011), p. 123, ‘Italians Detained: Rioting During Night of Big Round Up’ The Scotsman 11 June 1940, p. 6.

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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