As you walked from Millerfield Place to Livingston Place you crossed a huge social divide. As David Daiches observed, Millerfield Place had back gardens, while Livingston Place had back greens! Before us is the edge of the Grange, which some Jews might have aspired to at the turn of the twentieth century, but few would have reached until after World War II. For those of more modest means, the Marchmont tenements to the west provided good solid housing – a great improvement over the old quarter. Malcolm Rifkind (the former Scottish Secretary and Foreign Secretary) describes Marchmont in the 1950s in his autobiography Power and Pragmatism (2016):
I grew up with my parents and my older brother Arnold in a flat at 34 Warrender Park Terrace. It was part of a rather imposing Victorian terraced edifice overlooking the Meadows which, then as now, were open grassland, with only a short walk required to get to the Old Town and City Centre …
He then goes on to quote Alexander McCall Smith (The Sunday Philosophy Club)
it is a handsome construction .. a high tenement in the Victorian manner … in six stories of dressed stone…Some of the roofs were bordered with turrets, like the slated turrets of French chateaux … the edge of the roofs had stone crenellations, carved thistles, the occasional gargoyle, all of which would have given the original occupants the sense that they were living in style, and that all that distinguished their dwellings from those of the gentry was mere size.
By 1956, a quick count of the membership of the now united Edinburgh Hebrew Congregation, shows an equal number of families in Marchmont as in the villas of the Grange and. Even in the 1970s one certain Marchmont street (Arden Street) had the largest concentration of Jewish families in Edinburgh. This street may be a familiar name because it is also home to Ian Rankin’s Inspector John Rebus.
Today, the community is dispersed. Gone is the desire of most of those attending synagogue to walk to it. Although there is still a perception amongst Edinburgh’s Jews as to the areas that remain ‘Jewish’, (and which areas are distinctly non-Jewish), but this is lodged more in nostalgia than in fact.
For more information on patterns of residence and work see: https://jewishstudies.div.ed.ac.uk/mapping-jews-in-edinburgh/