Public Housing, Craigmillar
©2023 Gazetteer for Scotland

Public Housing, Craigmillar

A district of Edinburgh, once dominated by a large and somewhat desolate public housing estate. Towards its southern boundary lies the noteworthy 14th Century Craigmillar Castle. The districts of Niddrie and Greendykes lie adjacent. The Craigmillar Creamery was established in 1884 and claimed to be the largest margarine factory in Scotland by the 1920s. The first brewery located here in 1886, with excellent rail links via the Innocent Railway and the Southern Suburban Railway. By the 1930s, seven breweries were operating to the northwest of Craigmillar. The public housing estate was begun to the south of this brewery complex immediately before World War II to provide homes for families displaced from the slums of the Old Town which were being cleared. Names transplanted from the centre of Edinburgh are recalled in the Bristo Memorial Church (1940), now united with the Richmond Craigmillar Parish Church (1935), located just to the east at Niddrie Mains. Two tower blocks were added to Craigmillar in the late 1960s. By this time, the district had gained a reputation for social problems and by the 1980s these included drugs-related crimes. Street disturbances involving frustrated young people during the 1980s and particularly in 1994 were portrayed by the press as 'riots' and focussed community action.

The Craigmillar Festival Society was an early example of a community support group, which was formed in 1962 to run a local festival but has developed to take a significant role in improving the social conditions and environment in the district. For a time it was Craigmillar's largest employer, running employment training schemes for the community. The Society was wound up in 2002 but many of its projects continued.

The Scottish Office designated Craigmillar a priority area for community regeneration in 1996. By 1999, many of the unoccupied blocks were demolished and by 2001 significant redevelopment had taken place, creating more than 1000 new homes, a Health Centre and a Community Business Centre. Some of the new streets were built on Dutch-inspired 'homezone' principles with priority for pedestrians and playing children. A new Neighbourhood Centre and Library opened in 2012 and a new 'town centre' was developed from 2016, which will include shops, a new high school, further housing and much-improved public spaces.

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