The closes, or alleyways, that peel off Edinburgh’s Royal Mile are said to resemble the bones of fish, and each has a tale or two to tell. Every one of these alleyways is given a name associated with a prosperous person or a certain profession relating to that particular passage. However, Bakehouse Close has a more salacious backstory than this heading might suggest.
The High Street, the backbone of this aforementioned fish, was the main artery of the Old Town in the capital city of Edinburgh. Toward the end of the 1700s, this was an area known for its dens of vice and immorality. A visitor who came here to explore the wonders and innovations during the Age of Enlightenment was in need of a guide to help steer them in the right direction and avoid the pitfalls of sin and depravity. But they might also want to know where to procure a companion of the feminine persuasion.
This is where James “Balloon” Tyler”s Rangers Impartial List comes in handy. It was a guidebook that helped gentlemen tourists select a particular lady based on a range of criteria, including her age, physical characteristics, and temperament. It also noted if the woman possessed certain skills and attributes, such as; “She regards neither decency or decorum, and would be willing to lie with a chimney-sweep as with a Lord.” This particular publication contained nearly 70 women and listed where to find them.
One such venue was The Cock and Trumpet Pub located just off Bakehouse Close. This establishment was often frequented by the likes of Robert Louis Stevenson. The insignia of The Cock and Trumpet can still be viewed above the doorway of the courtyard currently occupied by the Edinburgh World Heritage organization.
Besides the remnant of the previously mentioned tavern, there is a placard with information pertaining to the Ranger’s List, including; several photos and assorted entries. These were provided by the group Edinburgh in 101 Objects. The original copy of the guidebook resides in the National Library of Scotland and can be viewed online.
British television enthusiasts may recognize Bakehouse Close as the filming location of the Print Shop of “Alexander Malcolm” from the series Outlander. It’s here that the characters “Jamie” and “Claire” were reunited.