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29 October 2014
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South Leith Parish Church/Trinity House
This building by Thomas Brown was built in 1816. It sits on the site of the mariner's medieval hospice (which still have vaults, see also plaques on outside wall).

Trinity House was founded as a charity in the 14th century by mariners. It was first of all the site of a medieval hospital for the sick, elderly and travellers. Then it became - through trade incorporations - a place for sailors and related trades to retire and get care. Trinity House is now a working museum

The original Trinity House was built in 1555 by the Fraternity of Masters and Mariners of Leith - and it was a home for the poor and elderly of their community. The "hospital" was funded by a tax called 'Prime Gilt', levied on every ton of cargo that passed through Leith. For seafarers who knew their journeys were fraught with danger, it was a kind of insurance policy for their families back home.

The first building with it's thatched roof was replaced in 1816 by the one you see now - with a splendid meeting room inside, but the cellars from the original hospital remain, and have had many uses over the years. Leith is famous for the import of wine and it is almost certain that the finest claret and burgundy would have passed through here - some destined perhaps for the King. In 1636 a grammar school used this building and around the same time Oliver Cromwell had the vaults taken as a store for his army. There is still a section of the original building round the corner in St Anthony's Place - look up at the wall just above head height and you will see an inscription with some poetry dated 1570 and one below 1555.

In fact South Leith Parish Church, opposite Trinity House, lie 1300 years ago with the coming of St Triduana to Scotland. The church has major Templar links and the knights are thought to have built a Preceptory and hospice on the site.

An actual dating for the founding of the Templar hospice is impossible to say accurately, but it would have been around 1128. The hospice existed until 1327 with the coming of the Knights of St John who would have continued on the site until around 1390 at which time the Preceptory of St Anthony was approximately founded.

Or 1544 - the English looted South Leith Parish Church the English invasion known as the Rough Wooing.

Mary Queen of Scots insignia at South Leith Parish Church

The first provable royal link with South Leith Church is in 1327 with Robert the Bruce and possibly with William Wallace as well. According to court records Robert the Bruce came to Leith to receive treatment for Leprosy from the Knights of St John and that explains why the Knights of St John used the charter which they held from the time of Godfrey de Saulton. William Wallace wrote his famous letter to the burgers of Marleburg from Leith, to let them know it was safe to return to Scotland to Trade after the battle of Stirling Bridge.

In fact, as the church's own website claims: "This is the only place in Scotland where four consecutive coats of arms of a royal house can be seen."

Directions: Walking through the graveyard you will come to a gate on the far side. Cross through here and go over Constitution Street and into Links Lane, from here you are at the corner of Leith Links.

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