NT2673 : Site of the Netherbow Port

taken 13 years ago, near to Edinburgh, Great Britain

Site of  the Netherbow Port
Site of the Netherbow Port
This sculpted tablet on a tenement in the Royal Mile indicates the spot once occupied by the town gate known as the Netherbow Port which divided Edinburgh from the neighbouring burgh of Canongate. Originally part of the Flodden Wall from 1514 onwards, it was blasted by cannon-fire during Hertford's invasion of 1544 and rebuilt in 1571. In 1606, it was replaced by a new structure, as shown on the plaque, closely modelled on the Porte de St. Honoré in Paris.

This was the traditional place for displaying the heads of executed criminals and traitors, as at London Bridge.

When James Guthrie, minister at Stirling, was executed in 1661 for writing a "seditious" tract reminding Charles II that he had sworn but neglected to uphold the Covenant, his head was affixed to the Netherbow. It remained there for the next twenty-seven years, before his successor at Stirling, Alexander Hamilton, retrieved it for burial after James VII's departure in the 'Glorious Revolution'. LinkExternal link

The head and hands of Richard Cameron, 'Lion of the Covenant', were also displayed on the Netherbow, following his public repudiation of Charles II and violent death while making a last stand with his followers at Ayrsmoss in 1680. Shown first to his father, imprisoned in the nearby Tolbooth, they were affixed to the Port with the hands placed mockingly beneath the head in a position of prayer. Cameron's fate had seemed almost foretold the previous year when, at his ordination in the Scots Kirk at Rotterdam, the Rev. Robert MacWard had said before the assembled onlookers, "Richard, the publick standard of the Gospel is fallen in Scotland; and, if I know anything of the mind of the Lord, ye are called to undergo your trials before us, and go home and lift the fallen standard, and display it before the world. But, before you put your hand to it, ye shall go to as many of the field ministers as ye can find, and give them your hearty invitation to go with you; and if they will not go, go your lone, and the Lord will go with you. Behold, all ye beholders! Here is the head of a faithful minister and servant of Jesus Christ, who shall lose the same for his Master's interest; and it shall be set up before sun and moon in the public view of the world." LinkExternal link

In 1745, the Netherbow failed lamentably in its primary purpose of defending the town's eastern approach. Despite elaborate precautions, supervised by the University's Professor of Mathematics, Colin MacLaurin, involving the placing of ordnance to rake the flanking walls, the gate was rushed successfully by a small band of Jacobites when opened shortly before daybreak to let a coach through.

Deemed to be of no further use and increasingly viewed as an obstruction, the Port was demolished in 1764. The clock and weathervane were saved and are now part of the Gallery of Modern Art at Dean.

NT2673 : Site of the Netherbow Port

NT2673 : Model of the Netherbow Port

NT2673 : James VI tablet from the Netherbow Port

NS7993 : James Guthrie statue, Old Town Cemetery

NO2507 : Birthplace of Richard Cameron

NT2373 : The Netherbow Clock on the former Dean Orphanage
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NT2673, 2272 images   (more nearby search)
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Date Taken
Wednesday, 3 June, 2009   (more nearby)
Thursday, 4 June, 2009
Geographical Context
City, Town centre  Historic sites and artefacts 
Historic site > Historic site   (more nearby)
Subject Location
OSGB36: geotagged! NT 261 737 [100m precision]
WGS84: 55:57.0377N 3:11.0790W
Camera Location
OSGB36: geotagged! NT 261 736
View Direction
North-northwest (about 337 degrees)
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Other Tags
Royal Mile  Edinburgh Town Walls  Covenanters  Jacobite  1745 

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