On This Day, 1824: The Great Fire of Edinburgh Erupts

Great Fire of Edinburgh

On this day in 1824, the Great Fire of Edinburgh began its rampage through the Scottish capital.

The fire is believed to have first began in an engraving workshop adjacent to Old Assembly Close, located just off the High Street.

Edinburgh’s fledgling fire brigade – which had been established just two months prior to this incident – arrived but failed to contain the blaze and matters quickly spiralled out of control.

Spreading to the adjoined buildings, the fire leapt its way across the tightly packed rooftops of the Old Town. Within a few hours, several tenement buildings were engulfed in flames and the fire began to advance rapidly toward the Cowgate and throughout the area.

The Great Fire of Edinburgh

In the days following, the fire continued to spread as fire fighters fought a desperate battle to contain the blaze. The Old Assembly Hall was devastated, and the spire of the Tron Kirk was severely damaged.

Similarly, secondary blazes began to emerge as embers drifted on strong winds. This was the likely culprit when a new fire erupted on the roof of a sizeable 11-story building overlooking the Cowgate.

It is here that the situation began to deteriorate further. Buildings on the east side of Parliament Close, now named Parliament Square, were consumed by flames. Firefighters continued to tackle the spread, however, and managed to prevent St Giles Cathedral from being impacted.

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A number of buildings in the Cowgate area collapsed due to the ferocity of the blaze, which continued through to Wednesday.

Heavy rain and the heroism of Edinburgh’s fire brigade brought some respite for the local population, but smaller, isolated blazes continued until Friday the 19th of November.

Great Fire of Edinburgh

In the wake of the incident, engineers from the garrison at Edinburgh Castle were drafted in to help demolish badly damaged buildings which posed a risk to the public.

Around 400 homes were destroyed in the Great Fire of Edinburgh, with hundreds of families left homeless.

Thirteen people also died, including two firemen, while dozens more were injured.

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