About this artwork

In 1871 Archibald Burns was appointed by the Edinburgh Improvement Trust to document buildings in the area between the Cowgate and the University’s Old College, which were to be demolished that same year as part of a slum clearance programme. Burns took his photographs after the buildings had been cleared in February 1871, which explains the many removal and relocating signs. The resulting series captures perfectly the desolation and melancholy of the derelict area. The effect is heightened by his use of the then old-fashioned salted paper process, which gives the photographs an air of nostalgia. The Horse Wynd is now a set of steps rather than a street; it runs from the Cowgate at its present junction with Guthrie Street up in a straight line to present day Chambers Street.

Archibald Burns

Archibald Burns

Archibald Burns was a professional photographer in Edinburgh, best known for his landscape and architectural images. He published an illustrated book in 1868, called 'Picturesque Bits from Old Edinburgh'. This was a photographic guide to the Old Town, which paid attention to social issues such as overcrowding and poor sanitation. Apart from being documentary, Burns's work is quite obviously picturesque. For an added nostalgic look, he often used salted paper which makes pictures appear old and faded.