A history of the South Bridge vaults

• The vaults were created during the building of South Bridge in Edinburgh's Old Town between 1785 and 1788.

• They were originally used as storage areas or workshops for the shops on top of the bridge.

• By the 1790s the vaults became subject to problems with dampness as the bridge had not been damp-proofed during construction.

• These problems meant it became impractical to continue storing goods in the vaults.

• The Irish potato famine and the Agricultural Revolution left thousands of people without homes and therefore contributed to a huge increase in the Capital's population, with many people seeking a better life in Scotland.

• The Cowgate area became known as "Little Ireland" in the 1840s and 1850s, at which point living conditions in the city were at their worst.

• The vaults provided an ideal shelter for people without homes and an underclass population developed.

• Crime and prostitution were rife until the vaults were abandoned in the 1870s.


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