curiosity about the ways of the world

New life in Rodney Street

A sunny morning and  cafe tables are out on the pavement. Pigeons strut, seagulls soar and two women  sip a breakfast smoothie by the bus stop.  Slowly, oh so slowly, Rodney Street is gaining a sense of place.

It’s always been a mystery to me why Rodney Street has taken so long to discover a new identity. Sadly, while Broughton Street blossomed, brassed up and acquired a smart urban look, Rodney Street withered and almost died.

It had its own character when we first arrived.  I remember pushing a pram down the hill. Past  St Cuthbert’s Co-op Store to Preacher’s Patisseries of Perfection, parking the pram outside Bruce and Mary’s fish shop, emerging with newspaper-wrapped, gleaming fresh haddock to find silver coins in the pram (lucky for the new baby).

Across the street a crumbling cinema (what was it called?)  was demolished to create a building site  that lay waste for a long time. Food shops just about held their own when William Low, Scotland’s own supermarket chain,  occupied the dip by the traffic lights. Then Tesco took over and the lights went out: Co-op and  chemist closed, bakers shut up shop.

New life flickered from time to time and some of it survived. Bike shop,  ski shop, cake maker and booze store are still going. The florist blooms. But somehow the street never held together as a shopping centre, as a ‘destination’ in marketing-speak. Generally it was somewhere people went through – not to – even though the old cinema waste-land  filled with new flats and the flats grew old enough to  acquire weather stains.

Yet this year, while recession glooms all around, suddenly there is new life in Rodney Street. It has a lot to do with eating. Between the fast food cafe and the ski shop, there’s a sandwich bar and another cafe. But nearby there’s also a gift shop, a letting agency and a chiropractor. Long may they all last.

Actually, a cinema would not go amiss.


  1. Administrator

    Brilliant, thanks John. I see there was a cinema at Shrubhill too.
    According to this source, The New Electric Cinema opened in 1908, became Petit Paris and closed in 1918.

    A new, ’boutique’ cinema might be a good thing for the renovation of Leith Walk?

  2. John

    The cinema you remember in Rodney Street was the Ritz, demolished 1983.

    I only known that because of a link that lists all Edinburgh’s demolished cinemas.

    RIP the Alhambra in Leith Walk!!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

© 2024 Fay Young

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑