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Portobello Coade Stone Pillars

Three ornamental Coade Stone pillars form the focal point of the community garden on the Promenade at the foot of John Street. The pillars, which date from the early 19th Century, used to stand in the garden of Argyle House, Hope Lane, off Portobello High Street until they were taken into Council storage in 1989 when a new extension was built onto the house.  Coade Stone, an artificial stone named after its inventor Eleanor Coade, is noted for its fine sculptural detail. The pillars stood in the garden of Argyle House for at least 90 years but how they came to Portobello in the first place is a mystery. Since 1989 PAS campaigned to have the pillars, which are listed and owned by the Council, re-erected on a suitable site in Portobello.

Research by PAS proved that the pillars were Coade Stone and that the designs on the two smaller pillars were identical to the Coade Stone chimneys of Dalmeny House, built in 1817, near South Queensferry, seat of Lord Rosebery. There are three designs on the Dalmeny chimneys and on the two smaller Portobello pillars - the fleur-de-lys, Tudor rose and crown and lion. The rose refers to the Rosebery name and it’s possible that the flower held by the lion may be a primrose, Primrose being the family name of the Earl of Rosebery. Records show that around 1820, £3,800 worth of Coade Stone, which included decorations in addition to the chimneys, were shipped to Leith from the Coade factory in Lambeth so it is possible that some of the chimney sections came to Portobello then. The third larger pillar which stood in the garden of Argyle House has a hoop design, quite different from the “Dalmeny” designs. Its construction is different as it is made of complete circles whereas the circles of the two smaller pillars are made up of quadrants. The larger pillar was not designed as a chimney and its origin is unknown.

By 2005 the Council had agreed that the pillars could be re-erected in a new community garden built to replace a disused paddling pool on the Promenade and that they would maintain the pillars. PAS made a successful application to the Heritage Lottery Fund and was granted £49,700 which was about 80% the total cost. The Council contributed by building the bases of the pillars and the internal metal supports for each pillar and Portobello Community Council and PAS each contributed £2,400.

The pillars were expertly restored by Graciela Ainsworth and her team of stone conservators who removed layers of paint from the pillars and repaired damaged sections. Only one ‘Dalmeny’ pillar retained its original crown top so a local potter and PAS member made crown tops for the other two pillars to match the one existing original crown top.

The project not only preserves part of Portobello’s history but also provides an attractive focus to a community garden on Portobello promenade.

See the photographs