Origin of name: Simply the area built to the south of the Old Town. Also known as part of Newington .
Position: Old Town to the north, Queen's Park to the East, The Grange & Sciennes to the south and Tollcross to the west. See map above.
Historical Notes: The Southside was Edinburgh's first real suburb and the building of George Square in 1766 was the first major development outside the Old Town. It preceded the New Town by just one year. (Nowadays only the west side of the square remains as the rest was developed by Edinburgh University in the 1960s.) The area developed at different times following 1766 but it incorporates some houses and lands from a much earlier time. For example St Leonards was a chapel and hospital dating as far back as 1261 and Pear Tree House and Chapel House were there before the building of George Square. Surgeon's hall was constructed between 1829 and 1832. Part of the Meadows is in Southside which was formerly the South or Burgh Loch. It was drained in the mid 17th century and by early 18th had begun to be turned into a public park. The area's main thoroughfare is Nicolson Street which was begun in the late 18th century, named after a Lady Nicolson, and joins onto Clerk Street which was begun slightly later although St Patrick Sq has slightly older housing. Dumbiedykes was originally a house where a Mr Braidwood taught and resided with his “deaf and dumb” pupils in the 1760s. In Victorian times Dumbiedykes was built up but in the early 1960s the whole area was demolished and rebuilt with what we have today.
Today: Southside is a busy central area with most of the housing being flats. It has the highest ethnic population in the city and also has a big student population. The Edinburgh central mosque is located here. For shopping there's a big variety on Nicolson Street and (South) Clerk Street where there used to be the Odeon cinema – a use is still to be found for the art deco building. The Royal Commonwealth Pool is currently being refurbished and the Queens Park is on the doorstep. The Festival Theatre with Surgeon's Hall across the road are on Nicolson Street and there's a great variety of restaurants, take aways, ethnic shops and many bars . There's even a licensed sex shop. Edinburgh University has lots of buildings located in the area and not just in George Square. A great area.
Did You Know: The old Simon Square wash house was next to the school in Davie Street/Simon Square. There are flats built on the site now but until the 1920s a street called Paul street was sited where the wash house was.
Back in the 1920s/30s there were some very bad slums around the St Leonards area. These began to be demolished and the people moved to new areas around the city such as Craigmillar and Granton. This policy continued in the 1950s/60s when great areas were knocked down and rebuilt.
In 1831 Edinburgh's first railway line was opened with a terminus at St Leonards. The Innocent Railway, so called because of its excellent safety record, ran all the way to Dalkeith. In its early days the carriages were pulled by horses. There is little left of this terminus today except for a couple of buildings such as The Engine Shed, built 1831, which is used as a business centre for people with learning difficulties.
Links: Southside Community Council - http://www.edinscc.org/