Leith Fort

Leith Fort
©2022 Gazetteer for Scotland

Leith Fort

Located on North Fort Street, in North Leith, are the remnants of Leith Fort. Built to defend the Port of Leith in 1779-93, the architect was James Craig (1744-95), better known for his planning of Edinburgh's New Town. The building of the fort was a reaction to the appearance in the Forth of Forth of a small American flotilla led by Scottish-born John Paul Jones (1747-92). This caused panic amongst the citizens of Edinburgh and Leith, although the Americans were prevented from landing due to a storm. In the early 19th Century the fort was enlarged to act as a prison for French captives from the Napoleonic Wars. Leith Fort was the base for the Royal Artillery in Scotland until after the Second World War and finally became a National Service training centre, but most of it was demolished in the late 1950s. The entrance and boundary wall of the old fort remain extant, with the original guardhouse and adjutant's office beyond, which are built in the Roman Doric style and are now B-listed.

Built 1957-63 to fill the cleared site, Fort House was quite the most awful immense public housing block, unimproved by CCTV cameras and lights on oversized poles and an electronic access system. Small overhanging drainage spouts on Fort House, and a few cannons lying in the grounds, represented a vague attempt to create a sympathetic juxtaposition in what is otherwise the most horrendously out of place brick-built structure. In addition to its architectural inadequacies, the housing block suffered from vandalism and graffiti and had become synonymous with violence and drug-taking.

Fort House was demolished in 2012 and subsequently replaced by a mix of lower-density one, two and three-bedroom 'colony style' homes; comprising 32 units of social housing for the City of Edinburgh Council and 62 mid-market rent houses run by the Port of Leith Housing Association. Completed in 2017, the development has won multiple awards.

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