Apr 032019

Chalmers Close today

Chalmers Close, 81 High Street, Edinburgh, EH1 1SS

A particularly bad winter in 1869/1870 lead to the Edinburgh Association for Improving the Conditions of the Poor to commit to trying to feed the hungry in whatever way they could. One way they did this was to establish a hall on Chalmers Close where Penny Dinners could be purchased. The dinners consisted of either a basin of broth and a slice of bread for a penny or a plate of meat and slice of bread for twopence. In its first year, 22,809 dinners were sold. The Association also took over running a soup kitchen in the Canongate which opened every winter. Between the months of January and March 1869, the soup kitchen gave out enough rations to feed 50,000 people. This doubled the following year where a longer opening period meant that the kitchen gave out enough rations to feed upwards of 100,000 people.

Photo credit: Ema Smekalova

Apr 032019

5 Roxburgh Place today

5 Roxburgh Place, Edinburgh, EH8 9SU

In 1871, Flora Stevenson opened a Sewing Room here for five months of the year during winter to allow women the same chance the men had at the Firelighter Factory to prove the genuineness of their applications for relief and their willingness to work. The women worked for a small wage (three halfpence per hour) which was paid in the form of provisions or clothing. Their work in the Sewing Room helped many to go on to find more permanent employment as cleaners, nurses, or in shops and factories. Initially, clothes made by the women were sold, but from 1893 onwards, the work of the Sewing Room was dedicated to making clothing for destitute children. The Sewing Room remained in operation until 1896 and in later years it provided work for unemployed tailors as well as women.

Painting of Flora Stevenson