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BRODE'S CLOSE

 
 



Statue of Deacon William Brodie
outside Brodie's Close.

BRODIE'S CLOSE

This close will be forever associated with one of Edinburgh’s most infamous sons, Deacon William Brodie, a leading figure in respectable 18th century society during the day but a thief by night.

Originally, the Close was only a ‘throwgang’ which passed from the Lawnmarket to the Cowgate. However, in 1570 a mansion was built towards the foot of the close, on the south east side of an open court, by Edinburgh magistrate William Little. The close bore the Little family name until the early 18th century, when it was renamed Cullen’s Close after the eminent judge who lived in the mansion.

The Brodie family was next to take up residence here. One of Scotland’s most ancient families, the Brodies can trace their roots as far back as MacBeth. Ludovick Brodie, the first Brodie to live in the mansion, was a much respected Writer to the Signet in Edinburgh and, on his death in 1758, aged 86, was the oldest member of the Society. His son, Francis, was born here in 1708; rather than follow law, he became a very prosperous wright and cabinetmaker, and was elected a member of the Town Council as Deacon of the Incorporation of Wrights by his fellow craftsmen. The Brodie family was firmly established in Edinburgh society, and it was during this time the close was named Brodie’s Close.

Francis’s son – and, as it turned out, black sheep of the family – William Brodie, was born in the mansion in September 28th 1741. Before achieving notoriety he had followed in his father’s footsteps, successfully continuing the family business and becoming the second Brodie to be elected Deacon of the Incorporation of Wrights. When his father died in 1782 William inherited the family business, a considerable number of houses in the city, the family mansion in the close, and the sum of £10,000.

Around 1835, because of ‘the improvements’ being made to Edinburgh, the Brodie mansion was demolished, and is now covered by Victoria Terrace. At a later date, the Deacon’s workshops and woodyard, which were situated at the lower extremity of the close, made way for the foundations of the Free Library Central Library on George IV Bridge. Apart from the Thistle room in the Celtic Lodge, which may have been used as a showroom, nothing now remains of the Brodies apart from their name above the entrance to the close, and the continuing legend of Deacon William Brodie – gentleman by day, thief by night.

 
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