Lying between Anchorfield and Annfield, the road was first used as part of the main route from Newhaven to Trinity Mains for carts and coaches because of its more gradual incline compared to its alternative, the Whale Brae, or Whiting Road as it was once known.
The street name dates from 1867 and is thought to be built on ground of the combined farms of Claypots and Hawthornvale which was recorded in 1741 as being worked by James Reid, a burlaw baillie of Leith (an officer of a neighbourhood court for the settlement of differences or complaints). A house or cottage, Hawthorn Ville, is recorded in 1819 and can be seen on the map of 1822 but is shown also on a map of 1759 ( Fergus & Robinson).
Soon, the area became built up with tenements including small shops and main door houses, built mostly along the length of the north side of the street with some buildings on the south side which once included a police station and fire station. The street is clearly marked as such in the Post Office Map of 1945. The road then runs almost parallel to a valley on the southern flank which would become the route of the Caledonian Railway Company — the Caley — laid probably about 1864 and now a footpath and cycleway. At the top of the present access to the footpath was its stables.
It wasn’t uncommon then for railway companies to have stables nearby and it’s possible that the horses were not only used for the transport of goods, but to also shunt single waggons in the Caledonian sidings in the docks. Most of the lines in the docks were owned by the dock company but the approaching lines and yards were not. The depot would be owned by the LMS after 1923 and by British Rail after 1948. Down at the level of the footpath was a small locomotive shed. The stables were still in use in the fifties when they were eventually closed. Ultimately, the Edinburgh Sculpture Workshop took over the site in 1994 and have subsequently created a state-of-the-art sculpture centre.
Opposite the Edinburgh Scuplture Workshop is the entrance to Jessfield Terrace. On the corner of Hawthornvale and Jessfield Terrace is No 48, which formerly was a shop and dairy owned by Mr John Robb. He is listed as having the shop, a house in No 46 and byres, stables and hay shed at the rear of the property. The byre was where the cows were kept supplying the milk for the dairy. This may seem a little strange to us today to have cows in the middle of the city but it was a fairly common practice to have these local dairies with their own byres. As there were no fields for them to graze on, they were fed silage. The properties remained in the family at least until the 1940s when William Ramage Robb, presumably the son of John, was listed as the proprietor. When they stopped keeping cows isn’t certain, but it was probably around the time that the Scottish Milk Marketing Board was formed in 1933.
We now return down the hill of Hawthornvale to the corner of Annfield Street on its left-hand side. Or you can linger a while longer and read about the railways that served Newhaven and also the world-class Edinburgh Sculpture Workshop