Posts Tagged ‘Slums’

Scotland’s famous city houses the vaults also know as South Bridge Vaults. They are formed in the 19 arches of the South Bridge which was completed in 1788 and  for around 30 years they were used as taverns, cobblers, trading, and storage for illicit materials and (if you believe the rumours) were used for storing the bodies of the notorious Burke and Hare. The area however rapidly deteriorated and by around 1820 they were pretty much left abandoned. They were then rediscovered in 1985 during an excavation.

It seems that it didn’t take long for the problems to arise, the bridge had been rushed and flooding started to occur as early as 1795. They were slowly abandoned by  business users and that’s when the new users adapted them. The area was turning into a slum and the vaults took on the night-life associated with them, prostitutes operated in the Vault’s rooms used as brothels and there were pubs there too, the cities poor moved in and the living conditions were no doubt appalling.

The rooms were small, damp and had no light with poor air circulation, no running fresh water and no sanitation it’s not surprise that with families of ten plus in some of these rooms the rates of crime, robbery an murder soon escalated. Burke and Hare sold corpses to medical schools and were rumoured to have hunted for victims around the Vaults as well. All in all the descriptions sound like the back end of hell and though it seems that there is no clear date for the final leavers to the vaults it could be anything from the 1830’s-70’s, the lack of records is most likely due to the fact that ever little is recorded about the vaults as a whole.

The vaults were found by Norriw Rowan, he found a tunnel leading to them in the 1980’s and from this tunnel helped a Romanian Rugby player escape the Romanian secret police and seek political asylum. The tonnes of rubble were then moved by hand and the slums of Edinburgh were slowly given back to the modern world.

The vaults on the North Side of the Cowgate arch are pretty much used for ghost tours, and this is after all the bit I am interested in. There have been frequent enough visits during various paranormal tours. Most Haunted featured the place on their live show in Halloween 2006 (had I been haunting the place I’d likely have hidden on purpose).

Ghost Adventures covered this in one of their overseas trips and this is where I learnt the tale of the entertaining fellow Mr Boots. Visitors that feel threatened are  often told it could be due to this fellow. He’s even been given a fairly surly rap appearance wise. Mr Boots has knee-length boots, rough pants, dirty ruffled white shirt and he is unshaven with halitosis that is so strong people report it on their visits. Mr Boots has been seen towards the back of tour groups and is said to push people and to whisper obscenities in visitor’s ears.

In January 2010 I watched a show on the BBC that should you get chance to watch I would urge to say is pretty darned good! The BBC published the show Joe Swash Believes In Ghosts that was filmed during 2009. Swash spent a night in the vaults, he came out a believer.

Swash heard a voice that was believed to be that of a Catholic Priest performing the Last Rites, now if that is the case I can assure you if I heard it I’d be darned  worried! Swash was the only person in the Vaults that night, the voices recorded were not heard by him and the sound engineers initially thought that it might have been due to voices drifting around the tunnels from the above nightclubs but it was found to be unlikely due to the time and the nature of the voices.

The voices they recorded went on for some twenty minutes, some sounded like children yelling and all in all they were intriguing to say the least. It’s not often I find  myself replaying back the program and listening again so I suppose from the perspective I was highly entertained and got a good dose of what could have been a residual haunting from more sinister times, perhaps one of those voices was Mr Boots or even a victim of Burke and Hare!


The area of Narrow Marsh was demolished and redeveloped but I felt it served to be an interesting subject, given that I live in Nottingham anyway. On of the names that is still known for the area is Red Lion Street and despite renaming it to this little seems to have been an improvement, hence it’s eventual destruction.

The area was known by the name from around 1315, or just after the Battle of Bannockburn, in those days it was called Parvus Mariscus, or Little Marsh. It sounds a lot better in Latin doesn’t it? It was one of the oldest thoroughfares in Nottingham and likely was used way before the mention in 1315. It’s use as a main business route meant it was even taxed, 1523 the subsidy was called for and the towns collection for the time was around a thousand pounds in today’s Monday. It was taxed then at £7 13s 2d whereas Long Row, one of the important streets of the time, only paid £2 9s 6d.

The area was set out like narrow stripes of houses; a rear access to the property would be in there, with courts and alleys joining the roads. The lay-out was a very early part of the history of architectural styles. Long Row in Nottingham is another area which is known for this but Narrow Marsh was considered to have been earlier than this.  The Leen swamps must have made this place a nightmare of unpleasant diseases and likely contributing to rheumatism, also it’s known that in 1795 and 1809 the area flooded and traffic was unable to pass.

The “King’s Head” pub in Narrowmarsh was supposed to have been a resort for the infamous Dick Turpin. There was a pamphlet published in 1924 by Mr Louis Mellard that says that Tobias K was living a double life as both a farmer and then as a fencer for the highwaymen, Turpin being one.