NT2573 : Earlier site of the Mercat Cross, High Street

taken 11 years ago, near to Edinburgh, Great Britain

Earlier site of the Mercat Cross, High Street
Earlier site of the Mercat Cross, High Street
The Mercat Cross was the place where Edinburgh merchants gathered to transact business before the building of the Royal Exchange, now the City Chambers, in 1753. The Cross was dismantled in 1756. Its original position had been near the north-east corner of St Giles, whence it was moved in 1617 "to widen the street upon the occasion of the visit of King James the Sixth to his native country" (Calderwood) and close to which it has since returned. The position shown here must have been the spot referred to by George IV's chemist, Dr. Amyatt, when he wrote,

"Here I stand at what is called the cross of Edinburgh and can in a few minutes take fifty men of genius by the hand... In Edinburgh, the access of men of parts is not only easy but their conversation and the communication of their knowledge are at once imparted to intelligent strangers with the utmost liberality."


Yet this place is also a reminder of a darker period when Covenanters perished here during 'The Killing Time'. In its zeal to persecute these religious dissenters, the Monarchy exercised its right to annihilate its opponents physically, a tradition that goes back to the vicious Norman and Plantagenet kings of England, but was never an accepted method of punishment in Scotland. After the Battle of Ayrsmoss in 1680, David Hackston, LinkExternal link who was involved in the murder of Archbishop Sharp of St. Andrews and later joined Richard Cameron, LinkExternal link was brought here for execution. Both men had been instrumental in making the Sanquar Declaration, denouncing Charles II as a tyrant and opposing the succession of his brother as James VII.

The Privy Council instructed that

"The magistrates of Edinburgh are appointed, as soon as the body of David Hackston of Rathillet is brought to the Water Gate [at the foot of the Canongate], to receive him, and mount him on a bare-backed horse, with his face to the horse's tail, and his feet tied beneath his belly, and his hands flightered [pinioned] with ropes; and the executioner, with head covered, and his coat, lead his horse up the street to the Tolbooth, the said Hackston being bareheaded; that the three other prisoners be conveyed on foot, bareheaded, after him, with their hands tied to a goad of iron; ordain the said executioner to carry the head of Cameron on a halbert, from the Water Gate to the Council House."

And after another hearing at which his sentence was pronounced, it was further ordained,

"That his body be drawn backward on a hurdle to the Mercat Cross; that there be an high scaffold erected a little above the Cross, where, in the first place, his right hand is to be struck off and, after some time, his left hand; then he is to be hanged up, and cut down alive, his bowels to be taken out, and his heart shown to the people by the hangman; then his heart and his bowels to be burned in a fire prepared for that purpose on the scaffold; that, afterwards, his head be cut off, and his body divided into four quarters; his head to be fixed on the Netherbow; one of his quarters with both his hands to be affixed at St. Andrews, another quarter at Glasgow, a third at Leith, a fourth at Burntisland; that none presume to be in mourning for him, or any coffin brought; that no person be suffered to be on the scaffold with him, save the two bailies, the executioner and his servants; that he be allowed to pray to God Almighty, but not to speak to the people; that Hackston's and Cameron's heads be fixed on higher poles than the rest."

NO3911 : The Waterless Road

NO3714 : Covenanters Gravestone, Cupar Kirkyard

NT2573 : Edinburgh Mercat Cross
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NT2573, 5647 images   (more nearby search)
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Date Taken
Friday, 5 June, 2009   (more nearby)
Tuesday, 23 June, 2009
Geographical Context
City, Town centre  Public buildings and spaces 
Market cross   (more nearby)
Subject Location
OSGB36: geotagged! NT 257 736 [100m precision]
WGS84: 55:56.9862N 3:11.3945W
Camera Location
OSGB36: geotagged! NT 258 736
View Direction
WEST (about 270 degrees)
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Mercat Cross  Covenanters 

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