Origin of Name: Derived from the convent of St Catherine of Siena.
Position: Grange to the south, Marchmont to the west, Newington to the east and Meadows to the north. See map above.
Historical Notes: As part of the ancient Burgh Muir, Sciennes was an area where vagrants and outlaws hid away from the city. It was due to concern for their spiritual welfare that in 1513 Sir John Crawford, a canon of St Giles, built a small chapel dedicated to John the Baptist. It was sited south of a small hamlet called Muresburgh around what is now Sciennes House Place but the chapel lasted only 4 years. In 1517 a group of titled widowed ladies were given permission by the Pope to establish a convent in the area. Crawford agreed to give up the chapel and so the last convent built in Scotland before the Reformation opened shortly after. It was dedicated to St Catherine of Siena and occupied land at the east end of present day Sciennes Road and the top of St Catherine's Place. It was burned by the English in 1544 during the sacking of Edinburgh but recovered before being almost totally destroyed in 1599 during the Reformation. Some nuns remained in the ruins and tended the plague victims who were placed there. By the 1870s the ruins had been taken away in order that villas could be built. All that is left are some stones in the garden of No 16 St Catherine's Place. The lands passed through many different owners over the following centuries including, in 1645, Sir William Dick of the Grange of St Giles. In 1856 the streets were not yet laid out but there were some random houses in the area including Sciennes Hill House built in 1741 and the site of the only meeting between Robert Burns and Sir Walter Scott. It still stands but has been altered and incorporated into tenements at number 5 Sciennes House Place. Livingstone Place & Gladstone Terrace were built between 1864 and 1868 over some of the old properties. There was some industry, engineering works and a distillery, located at the Sciennes/Sciennes Road area but that has long since gone.
Today: Sciennes is a desirable area with a high student population. There are tenement flats, modern flats and also some houses. All of them owned or privately rented. It is a small area but has the city's Sick Kids hospital and a large primary school. It is almost solely residential.
Did You Know: There is an old Jewish cemetery located at Sciennes House Place. It was opened by the Edinburgh Hebrew Congregation in 1816 and closed in 1870. It was originally entered from Causewayside down a passage called Jew's Close but this was closed off by a building in the 1960s
In the late 1700s it was fashionable to build a “hut” for a weekend retreat from the city. One exists in Sciennes – Sylvan Hut in Sylvan Place. It is not what we'd call a hut today but a substantial small mansion style house.
The Sick Kids hospital was built in 1895 by architect Sir George Washington Browne and is a listed building. It won't however last as a hospital after 2013 as the Sick Kids is moving to a new purpose build at Little France.
http://www.marchmontandsciennes.blogspot.com/ Community Council