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Edinburgh from the Air, 1951

In the middle of a December day in 1951, a de Havilland Mosquito photographic reconnaissance aircraft flew over Edinburgh at low-level, flying through the smog of the city to photograph the streets below. The aircraft, serial number RG 207 of 58 Squadron, Royal Air Force, made seven passes over the city at an altitude of 500 feet, taking over 900 photographs of the city and its outskirts. 


The atmospheric conditions recorded in the photographs taken over the city centre illustrate why Edinburgh was known as 'Auld Reekie' at the time, in reference to the emissions from thousands of domestic coal fires. Those photographs taken in cleaner air over the suburbs record in great detail the steady expansion of the city, as new housing developments spread into the green fields and open spaces to the north and west. The images featured here provide a taste of this remarkable sortie.


Flying westwards over central Edinburgh, the aircraft captured this image showing the pitched roofs of Waverley Station, overlooked by Calton Jail and St Andrew's House.
A few seconds later the aircraft overflew the east end of Princes Street. A horse-drawn cart can be seen crossing the tram tracks in front of the North British (now Balmoral) Hotel.
On another pass over central Edinburgh, the aircraft flew north-east over Rutland Square. Visible to the right are multiple railway tracks leading into the terminal of Princes Street Station.
Flying northwards over North Bridge, the aircraft photographed the Tron Kirk, Waverley Station and the North British Hotel.
Heading north-east, the aircraft photographed three trams at the foot of Leith Walk, with Leith Central railway station visible on the right.
At the start of a southward run over the city, the aircraft photographed Leith Martello Tower. This 19th century coastal defence fort was subsequently incorporated into the docks, following land reclamation and expansion of the port of Leith in the 1960's.
Flying a westward track, the aircraft photographed the storage warehouse of Jenners department store, visible to the right of the railway junction between the Edinburgh to Glasgow main line and the Corstorphine branch.
The crescents and avenues of suburban bungalows at Craiglockhart were photographed during a low-level run heading north-east over the city. 
Prefabricated housing at Muirhouse, viewed facing east. These temporary dwellings were later demolished to make way for permanent housing in the 1960's.

Drylaw House and walled garden, located on the north-western outskirts of Edinburgh, was photographed at the end of another pass over the city.