Origin of Name: Derived from the Canons of Holyrood and the mills on the Water of Leith
Position: Inverleith & Warriston to the north, Broughton to the east, Stockbridge to the west and the Newtown to the south. See map above.
Historical Notes: Canonmills was founded by the Canons of Holyrood Abbey after King David I granted them land in 1128. They set up their mills by the Water of Leith between Canonmills Bridge and St Mark's Bridge. These mills ground corn and the bakers of Canongate and Broughton had to have their corn ground here by law. After the Reformation, these mills became the property of the Logans of Restalrig who sold them to the council in 1617 but in 1630 King Charles I bought Canonmills and Broughton then sold them to the Heriot Trust 6 years later. The mills were on the south side of the river and gradually the villagers built farms and cottages around them. There is only one surviving building from the milling days and that is Canon Mill which dates to the early 18th century and stands at the corner of Eyre Place and Canon Street. It was refurbished in 1987 and converted to offices. The mill trade was largely abandoned by 1865. The oldest part of the village is between Eyre Place and the bottom of Canon Street. It was largely rural until the mid 19th century when streets and housing were built as the city grew.
Canonmills Loch stretched from Dundas Street to Rodney Street and Royal Crescent/Eyre Place and appears to have formed when the Water of Leith overflowed and filled a natural hollow. The loch was partly drained in the mid 18th century confining the remains to the north east corner – this was known as Canonmills Haugh. It was completely drained in 1865 when a Patent Royal Gymnasium was built on the site. It was a type of theme park with rides all designed to promote fitness such as giant seesaws and a giant rowing boat. It closed in the late 1880s and was taken over by St Bernard's football club and the site is now King George V Memorial Park. In the Tanfield area now occupied by Standard Life a gasworks was built, in late Victorian times,on the site of 18th century Tanfield House of which no remains are left. Canonmills distillery was built behind on Glenogle Road. There were many different industries in the area but by the mid 20th century, most had gone.
Today: A very central and pleasant small area just south of the Newtown but very different in character. There is a mix of housing and flats both modern and old but nothing pre Victorian. There are local shops as well as a large superstore and some pleasant restaurants and bars. The modern industry appears to be finance with at least 2 large financial giants having large modern offices here. Then there's the river which gives the place a more rural feel.
Did You Know: Powderhall was a former estate named after a gunpowder manufacturer and was bought in 1870 to build a sports ground where athletics were practised. It was converted to a greyhound racing track in 1926 but also held some athletics meetings and between 1977 and 1995was used as a speedway for Edinburgh Monarchs. In 1995 it was demolished and modern housing built on the site.
The Canonmills clock was presented to the city in 1945 by Archibald Bryan who had felt the need for a clock in the area. It was to celebrate the allied victory in WWII. In 1991 it was moved a few feet away from it's original position when the Standard Life offices were built.
On present day Eyre Place, a brewer from the Canongate called James Eyre built Canonmills House in the early 19th century. He gave his name to the surrounding streets built after his death in 1832. The House was demolished in 1879 and a church built in its place. The Davidson Memorial Church has also since been demolished.