Origin of name: Also known as Dene or Den, it is an Anglo Saxon name meaning a narrow winding valley.
Position: West End to the south, Stockbridge and New Town to the east, Craigleith and Inverleith to the north and west and Murrayfield to the west. See map above.
Historical Notes: The area can be traced back to the 12th century when King David I gave profits from the area's mills to the Abbots of Holyrood. The Incorporation of Baxters (bakers) owned most of them as they were largely grain mills. There were in fact 2 separate villages. The one we know today was called The Water of Leith Village and the other, now long gone, was called the Village of Dean. It used to be sited roughly at the gates to the present Dean cemetery and consisted of only one main street with 2 or 3 small lanes to the east. The houses were mostly small with a single storey and thatched roof, inhabited by carters and quarrymen who worked at Craigleith quarry. There was a smithy and also a school and to the north lay Dean farm. The Village of Dean stood near to the 17th century Dean house which was owned by the Nisbet family. It was demolished in 1845 and Dean cemetery was laid out in the same year on the grounds. The Village of Dean was entirely cleared away by 1881.
The present day Dean village had an industrial past with not only mills but other industries such as a tannery which was in operation for more than 100 years. It is said that the smell permeated every corner of the village.
Dean bridge was opened in 1832 and was designed by Thomas Telford. It was built to open up the land on the north side which was owned by John Learmouth, the Lord Provost, who hoped to make money by building housing. It took sometime as it was the 1850s before Clarendon Crescent, the first street, was begun. Belgrave Crescent, just north of the village, was designed by John Chesser in 1874. Before this bridge opened, the main route to South Queensferry had been through the village and over Bell's Brae bridge. This had been built over a century before Dean bridge. The village's prosperity fell into decline and this reached a peak in the early 1960s. Since the mid1970s however renovations and new building has taken place making the village a desirable place to live.
Today: The area consists mainly of flats and expensive ones at that. The areas around the old village contain some very grand apartments and in the village itself, old mills and schools have been converted into attractive properties. There are some old properties that have been refurbished such as the Hawthorn Buildings on Hawthornbank Lane which were built in 1895. Next to them is a 1990s development built on an area previously known as High Green. Drumsheugh Baths on Belford Road, built in Moorish style, is privately owned and opened in 1882. The Gallery of Modern Art on Belford Road opened in 1984 in what was previously John Watson's School (designed 1825). The Dean Gallery, also on Belford Road was opened in 1999. The building was originally the Dean Orphan Hospital and opened in 1833.
Did You Know: When the Netherbow Port at Edinburgh's World's End was demolished in 1764, its clock was incorporated into The Dean Orphan Hospital – now Dean Gallery.
On the bank of the Water of Leith in Dean Village beside the iron bridge is a building known as Well Court. It was built in the early 1880s by John Findlay, owner of The Scotsman newspaper, as an experiment in model housing for working people. The flats contained 2 or 3 rooms and there was a social hall for the men. There were strict rules to living there and you could be locked out if you were out too late! It was extensively restored in 2007.
Kirkbrae House at the top of Bell's Brae was built in the 1600s and extended in 1892. It incorporates a sculptured panel taken from a ruined mill called Jericho that was built in 1619 and stood in Millar Row which lies below the house.
Although Comely Bank House and it's grounds are in today's Inverleith, all Comely Bank streets except Comely Bank Road are in Dean being built on the estate between 1892 and 1913.