PORTOBELLO, a parliamentary burgh, and lately a quoad sacra parish, chiefly in the parish of Duddingston, but partly in that of South Leith, county of Edinburgh, 3 miles (E.) from Edinburgh; containing 3588 inhabitants. This place, which is situated on the Frith of Forth, about half way between Leith and Musselburgh, is of very modern origin. It derives its name from a small inn built by a sailor, or soldier, who served under Admiral Vernon at the taking of Portobello, in America, in the year 1739, previously to which time it was one dreary tract of unproductive land covered with furze, with a wide expanse of low and sandy shore. On this waste, called the Figgate Whins, the monks of Holyrood were accustomed to turn loose their cattle; and the only passage through it was a road designated the Fishwives' Causeway, on the side of which was erected the inn of Portobello. In the year 1765, the discovery of a valuable bed of clay near the Figgate rivulet, induced an enterprising builder named Jamieson to erect a brick and tile manufactory and an extensive pottery, for the use of which he constructed a small harbour at the mouth of the rivulet, which has, however, long been in a ruinous condition. Mr. Jamieson afterwards letting portions of the land on building leases, a tower of brick, of fantastic design, was erected by Mr. Cunningham; it is now in ruins, but still gives name to one of the streets of the present town, at the end of which it is situated.
   The convenience of the beach for sea-bathing soon after led to the erection of various houses; and its proximity to Edinburgh inducing many of the citizens to make Portobello a place of temporary residence, the buildings rapidly increased; and the present town of handsome streets, crescents of elegant houses, and pleasant villas, arose on the site of what had been not many years before a solitary waste. The streets are well paved, and lighted with gas from works at the mouth of the Esk, in the town of Musselburgh; and the inhabitants are amply supplied with water. The baths are a good range of buildings at the extremity of Bath-street, fitted up with every requisite accommodation; and card and dancing assemblies, and concerts, are held in a suite of rooms at the other end of the same street. During the summer months Portobello is frequented by numerous visiters, for whose accommodation there are many excellent lodging-houses; and the town, with its appendant villas beautifully situated in tastefully-ornamented grounds, has a cheerful and prepossessing appearance. There are some extensive potteries in the town and neighbourhood; a large flint-glass manufactory, in which eighty persons are employed; a bottle manufactory, in which are forty hands; some chemical works, a paper manufactory, and brick and tile works, in which also many of the inhabitants are engaged; and near the town a valuable oyster-bed was discovered in 1839. The Portobello sands, which are smooth and firm, afford a fine promenade; and during the visit of George IV. in 1822, the yeomanry cavalry were drawn up there, and reviewed by His Majesty. The markets are amply supplied with provisions of every kind; communication with Edinburgh is afforded by good roads; and the Dalkeith railway passes close to the place.
   The town is governed by a provost, two bailies, and six councillors; and is associated with the towns of Leith and Musselburgh in returning a member to the imperial parliament. The late quoad sacra parish was separated from Duddingston by act of the General Assembly in 1834, and was about a mile in length and half a mile in breadth, and principally a town parish: the adjacent rural district is in a state of profitable cultivation. The ecclesiastical affairs are under the superintendence of the presbytery of Edinburgh and synod of Lothian and Tweeddale: the minister has a stipend of £200, derived from seat-rents, and secured by bond from the Managers of the congregation, the latter of whom are patrons. There is neither manse nor glebe. The church, or rather chapel of ease, was erected in 1810, at a cost of £2650, including its enlargement in 1839; it is a plain neat structure containing 800 sittings, of which thirty are free. The episcopal chapel dedicated to St. Mark is also a neat edifice, containing 504 sittings, of which fifty-six are free; the minister derives his income from the seat-rents. There are places of worship for members of the Free Church, the United Secession, Independents, and Wesleyan Methodists; and a Roman Catholic chapel. A school is supported in the town by voluntary subscription, and the fees; and is generally attended by about sixty scholars, which number, if the building would allow it, might be greatly increased. There is also a female school, principally supported by some benevolent ladies of the place, under whose superintendence it is conducted, and attended by seventy children. Among the charitable institutions is a Destitute and Sick Society.

A Topographical dictionary of Scotland. . 1856.

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