King George V Park

(Scotland Yard Park)

A small public park on Eyre Place in N Edinburgh, King George V Park lies between the New Town and Canonmills, a half-mile (1 km) north of the city centre. Extending to 1.77 ha (4.4 acres), it represents one of a network of parks which serve as a memorial to King George V, who died in 1936. However, the intervention of the Second World War meant that it was not until 1950 that the park was opened by Walter Montagu-Douglas-Scott, the 8th Duke of Buccleuch (1894 - 1973), President of the National Playing Fields Association, who remain guardians of the facilities here, which are now managed by the City of Edinburgh Council.

Locally known as Scotland Yard, this is a pleasant park with winding paths, mature trees, shrubbery and lawns with seating and a play area with swings, climbing frames, a large slide and a basketball court. The park is located on the site of the former Canonmills Loch, which was drained between 1847 and 1865. This became the home of the Royal Patent Gymnasium, a remarkable theme park dedicated to health and fitness that was the initiative of philanthropist and businessman John Cox (c.1805-74), the owner of Gorgie Mills. The eastern section was incorporated later, having previously been the site of Scotland Street Goods Yard, where the railway brought commodities such as coal into the city.

The Royal Patent Gymnasium was described as "the new wonder of Edinburgh" when it opened in 1865, and comprised immense apparatus operated by dozens of participants, who each paid 6d for entry. The Patent Rotary Boat, also known as The Great Sea Serpent, was a vast circular contraption, 144m / 471 feet in circumference, which rotated on a pool of water and was powered by up 600 people. There was also the Velocipede Paddle Merry-go-Round propelled by the feet of 600 participants and Chang - a giant see-saw 30.5m (100 feet) long and 2.1m (7 feet) broad, which accommodated 200 people, raising half of them to a height of 15.2m (50 feet) before lowering them back down to the ground. In addition, there was a pendulum swing propelled by 100 people and five giant trapezes. There was also an assortment of more conventional gymnastic equipment, together with boats and canoes on a pond. During the winter, the grounds were flooded to create skating rinks. While it had regularly attracted 15,000 people in a day, the popularity of this gigantic outdoor gymnasium waned in the later years of the 19th C and the area became a football ground.

Scotland Street Station was established by the Edinburgh, Leith and Granton Railway Company in 1847, situated between the Rodney Street Tunnel and the Scotland Street Tunnel. The latter led under the New Town to what is now Waverley Station but survived only 21 years owing to the complexity of hauling engines up the steep incline by cable. Scotland Street Goods Yard was established at the end railway line when the Scotland Street Tunnel was bricked up. This goods yard closed in 1968 and was eventually redeveloped as a children's play-park, which formed an extension of the existing King George V Park. In the early 1980s, the local community worked together with the City of Edinburgh District Council to rejuvenate the park but, by 2002 it again required attention. Local residents formed an action group, the Friends of King George V and Scotland Yard Parks, with the aim of galvanising the City of Edinburgh Council to improve the appearance of the park and update its facilities. Rodney Street Tunnel was re-opened in 2009 as a cycle-way, bringing National Cycle Network Route 75 into the park.

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