Henry Raeburn versus the Stockbridge Steam Engine

Henry Raeburn v. Andrew Kedslie

This day the new jury court met in the Court of Exchequer, when their Lordships proceeded to try the case of RAEBURN &c. against KEDSLIE. This was an action relative to the erection of a steam engine at Stockbridge-mills, which the pursuers contend, is a nuisance. (Edinburgh Evening Courant, 22 January 1816), p. 3

Thus was a legal battle that had been going on since 1814 reported in the local press. My brief study of the case is in the latest issue of the Book of the Old Edinburgh Club and you can download the article here: Nineteenth Century Nimbys (pdf)


In the Subject section of the index to the Session Papers held in the Signet Library, there is a case listed under ‘Nuisance’ called ‘Raeburn v. Kedslie 1815’. This case, in addition to featuring early nineteenth century Scotland’s most famous portrait artist, was the first heard in the newly introduced civil jury court in Edinburgh. Henry Raeburn was a native of Stockbridge and one of its primary land owners. Andrew Kedslie was a grain merchant who had a mill near the Stockbridge toll road. They came into conflict at a time when the Industrial Revolution gripped Britain and pastoral ideals of living were becoming increasingly unrealistic in urban settings. Raeburn v. Kedslie involved issues of land use, neighbours’ rights and social class. The court documents and reports relating to the case reveal much about the realities of a growing urban environment in early eighteenth century Edinburgh.


Signet Library Index to Session Papers (Internet Archive)

Book of the Old Edinburgh Club

One comment Add yours
  1. Absolutely fascinating. I am descended from the Kedslies and Watsons who emigrated to Poland in the 19th C. Those Kedslies had derived from those in this story, enticed to Poland by economic downturn and Polish landowners looking for skilled settlers. That in turn turned pear-shaped and my ancestors moved on elsewhere. A probably rather tenuous and as yet unproven but tempting family link is to the Skirvings eg Archibald. Known to each other- and to Raeburn – but connected? Alexander Skirving Watson (see Wiki) provides a tantalising inherited name.

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