The Edinburgh Geologist
This year sees the completion by Fountains plc of the construction of the Hutton Memorial Garden at St. John's Hill in Edinburgh. The architects for the project were Crichton Lang Willis & Galloway of Edinburgh and the garden has been constructed on what has been a small piece of waste ground since the late 1960s. The site coincides exactly with the house and garden of James Hutton (1726-1797), recognised throughout the world as the Founder of Modern Geology.
As the second son of William Hutton, merchant and City Treasurer, and Sarah Balfour, James Hutton abandoned farming in Berwickshire at the two small farms that he inherited from his father at the end of 1767. He returned to Edinburgh, building a house in the early 1770s at St. John's Hill, then a fancy new development within sight of Salisbury Crags where Hutton was to make his first profound geological observations. He lived with his three sisters and wrote the four books and other papers, including his Theory of the Earth, for which he is renowned. Hutton is still probably the least known of the four great figures of the Scottish Enlightenment in the second half of the eighteenth century, the others being Adam Smith, David Hume and Joseph Black.
James Hutton died at his house at St. John's Hill on 26th March 1797 and is buried in the Greyfriars Kirkyard in Edinburgh where his grave remained unmarked until 1947, the 150th Anniversary of his death when the then Lord Provost, Sir John Falconer, unveiled a plaque commemorating Hutton as the Founder of Modern Geology. To mark the bicentenary of his death, an International Conference was organised by the Royal Society of Edinburgh, which Hutton co-founded in 1783, in the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh. During the meeting, on the afternoon of Wednesday 6th August 1997, a bronze plaque, cast by Charles Laing & Sons Limited Foundry, was unveiled at the north side of the site of Hutton's house in the names of The Royal Society of Edinburgh and the Edinburgh Geological Society. Participating in the unveiling ceremony, attended by delegates and invited guests, were David Land, President of the Edinburgh Geological Society, Fraser Morrison CBE, Executive Chairman of Morrison Construction Group plc, Councillor Brian Weddell, Chairman of the Housing Committee of the City of Edinburgh Council, Professor Sir Stewart Sutherland, Principal and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Edinburgh and Professor Malcolm Jeeves CBE, President of the Royal Society of Edinburgh.
bronze plaque was mounted on a single block of Clashach stone from the southern
edge of the Moray Firth, a Triassic dune-bedded sandstone from a coastal quarry
north of Elgin now being much used in major buildings, an outstanding example
being the National Museum of Scotland. On the cut face of the stone beneath the
plaque, David Lindsay's Stone Carvers inscribed the famous final sentence of Hutton's
1788 paper: '...we find no vestige of a beginning, no prospect of an end'.
1997, all these materials have been in store with the British Geological Survey
in Edinburgh and they are now incorporated in the splendid new Hutton Memorial
Garden. Excellent features in the design include a substantial flight of well-lit
steps with railings leading up the steep bank from Viewcraig Gardens, with disabled
access from the southern back of the garden by a ramped path leading from the
University car park off the Pleasance.
The Garden is
located at St John's Hill and is best approached from Holyrood Road. A hundred
metres east of the junction with the Pleasance, turn into Viewcraig Gardens and
walk up past the entrance to the car park. About 50 m from Holyrood Road, a flight
of steps leads up to the Garden. The University car park (for disabled access)
can be reached through the arch north of the Sports Union, opposite the terminated
end of Drummond Street. At the far end of the car park, on the left, a ramp leads
down to the Garden.
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