On this day 1829: Work begins on Edinburgh's George IV Bridge

George IV Bridge viewed from the Cowgate. Picture: TSPL
George IV Bridge viewed from the Cowgate. Picture: TSPL
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As home to several of the city's most important public buildings, it's difficult to imagine an Edinburgh without the 190-year-old George IV Bridge.

Named after King George IV, who had visited the Scottish capital to great fanfare in 1822, the bridge was designed by Edinburgh architect Thomas Hamilton. An esteemed town planner, Hamilton's other notable works in his home city included the Royal High School on the south face of Calton Hill and the Dean Orphanage (today the Modern Two, formerly the Dean Gallery).

Plans for the bridge showing an elevated carriageway adjoining the Lawnmarket appeared in The Scotsman on 27 November 1824. Hamilton and fellow architect William Burn, who had assisted with the early plans, travelled to London the following year to gain support for an Act of Parliament.

The passing of the Improvement Act of 1827 meant the King George IV Bridge could go ahead. Its construction involved demolishing three of Edinburgh's most ancient streets: Old Bank Close, Gosford's Close and Liberton's Wynd, which were located off the Lawnmarket.

But what Edinburgh lost at the Lawnmarket, it gained elsewhere. The creation of George IV Bridge paved the way for the building of Victoria Street, the elegant, curving roadway that is today regarded among the city's premier architectural beauty spots.

READ MORE: Lost Edinburgh: The creation of Victoria Street
Hamilton was also simultaneously appointed responsible for the design of a second bridge, a west approach into the old city; the King's Bridge at Johnston Terrace.

Spanning some 300 metres and arching over the historic ravine known as the Cowgate, the bridge provided a new link between Edinburgh's new developments to the north and south and opened both up to rapid expansion in the years that followed.

The foundation stone of the new bridge was laid on 14 August 1829 - but progress was slow.

Financial problems delayed completion of the project by the best part of a decade. The George IV Bridge was eventually finished in 1836.

As an interesting aside, there was some opposition to the bridge's name.

One Scotsman correspondent, writing in 1835, urged city officials to rethink the new bridge's regal appellation and opt instead for a name befitting of its location.

Titles offered during the debate included The Cowgate Bridge, The Lawnmarket Bridge, The St Giles' Bridge and the New South Bridge.

In the end, the city stuck with naming the bridge in honour of the late monarch.

Home to Central Library, Edinburgh's main public library; the National Library of Scotland; and the beautiful Lothian Chambers, the George IV Bridge of 2019 boasts a number of the city's most important civic institutions - not to mention cultural landmarks, including the famous statue of Greyfriar's Bobby at the bridge's southern end where it meets Candlemaker Row and The Elephant House café, the unofficial "birthplace" of Harry Potter.

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