There once was a lonely cottage in Leith…. It’s hard now to imagine, but from 1763 to the 1820s the Botanics occupied a site at the top of Leith Walk (now Haddington Place). When they moved to Inverleith, the Botanic Cottage – home to the Head Gardener and to one of the first classrooms of the Scottish Enlightenment – was left behind. Vandalised and threatened with demolition, the poor cottage’s future was bleak – until a community campaign was set up to save it. The Botanic Cottage Project raised funds, commissioned surveys and came up with an ambitious scheme to conserve the building, and in 2008 – just before a new development threatened to swallow it up – it was dismantled, with every stone being carefully numbered and stored.
The cottage will be used as a new centre for community and education work in the Garden. The upstairs classroom (where, in the 18th century, Professor John Hope – the sixth Regius Keeper of the RBGE and Professor of Medicine and Botany in the University of Edinburgh – taught medical students about plants) has become a spacious community area with elegant Georgian-style chairs specially made by Garvald Edinburgh, while downstairs you will find a kitchen (the floor is reclaimed Caithness stone and the beautiful Scottish oak benches are the work of Grassmarket Furniture), potting shed and education spaces. Groups of all ages can now use the cottage for classes, workshops, talks and meetings – indeed, it is already hosting Open Book’s Reading Together sessions, cookery demos by the Edible Gardening Project and Art in Healthcare’s Parkinson’s Art Group.
The Botanic Cottage Garden Gala will take place 12 noon-6pm on Monday 30th May 2016 in the Botanic Cottage and Demonstration Garden, Royal Botanic Garden of Edinburgh, Inverleith Row. It’s free and all are welcome! The Botanic Cottage is funded thanks to the support of the Heritage Lottery Fund. This event is part of a season of events at the Botanics called Be Inspired by Nature and is also part of the Year of Innovation, Architecture and Design, supported by Visit Scotland. All images © Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh.