Hugh Miller side view

EXPLORE
THE AMELIA TRAIL

Welcome to The Amelia Trail, a FREE walking trail around Edinburgh of the statues and sculptures of Amelia Robertson Hill (1821-1904).

Amelia Robertson Hill is probably the most famous female Victorian Scottish artist you haven't yet heard of! If you're an Edinburgh local, you will have passed her statues every day on Princes Street and Shandwick Place for years. If you're a visitor to Edinburgh, her statue of David Livingstone is the first statue you'll see on Princes Street, after getting off the train at Waverley Station.

To mark the 200th Birthday of this incredibly talented lady artist, we have created this FREE walking trail of her statues and sculptures around Edinburgh. Please download the map and enjoy the trail!

[NB: It's a good idea to plan your trip in advance if you’re intending to visit the indoor statues, because the galleries and museums currently require advanced booking due to Covid].

 

ABOUT AMELIA

Amelia Robertson Hill (1821–1904), née Paton,
was a prominent female Scottish sculptor of the 19th century.

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Amelia’s work stands in some of the most public locations in Scotland, and includes the statues of David Livingstone in Edinburgh’s Princes Street Gardens and Robert Burns in the centre of Dumfries. She was one of only two female artists chosen to contribute to the famous Scott Monument in Edinburgh, portraying characters from Sir Walter Scott’s books. Her statues of Magnus Troil and Minna Troil can be seen on the south-west buttress, and Richard the Lionheart (Coeur de Lion) on the south-east buttress.


Born in Dunfermline, daughter of Joseph Neil Paton the damask designer, Amelia was the elder sister of Sir Joseph Noel Paton and Waller Paton, also well-known artists of the 19th century. She married pioneer photographer David Octavius Hill in 1862 and they lived at his studio, Rock House on Calton Hill, Edinburgh. Other former residences of theirs include 33 George Square and Newington Lodge in Mayfield Terrace.

Amelia’s career took off in her early 40s, with her marble busts of eminent (and sometimes controversial) figures such as historian Thomas Carlyle, artist Sir George Harvey and physicist Sir David Brewster. She was then commissioned to carry out several public statues, rare for a female artist of the period. Despite her professional achievements and exhibiting over 60 sculptures between 1860 and 1882, Amelia was denied membership to the Royal Scottish Academy due to Victorian attitudes at the time towards gender equality. However, things are very different now and had Amelia been an artist today she would have certainly been elected as an Academician. Undeterred, she helped to found an alternative arts society, the Albert Institute (1877), which welcomed aspiring artists regardless of gender. Amelia’s figures of ‘Painting and Poetry’ can still be seen above the elaborate entrance to the building (now offices) on Edinburgh’s Shandwick Place. 

After the death of husband D.O. Hill in 1870, Amelia sculpted a bronze bust for his grave in Dean Cemetery. She was later buried with him. Spot the mistake of her birth date on the gravestone!

Amelia is remembered as an inspiration to other artists who have faced discrimination. Her legacy remains in her statues which serve as a ‘permanent exhibition’, free for all to view in and around the city of Edinburgh. Enjoy the tour!

[Image: Amelia Robertson Paton by Alexander Blaikey. Chalk on paper, drawn about 1863. On display at The Scottish National Portrait Gallery]. 

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ON THE SCULPTURE TRAIL

Walk through Edinburgh and view the statues sculpted by Amelia Robertson Hill.

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SIR JOSEPH NOEL PATON 

The Scottish National Portrait Gallery, Queen Street. 


Amelia's brother Sir Joseph Noel Paton (1821-1901), also a well known Scottish artist of the 19th Century, is best known for his extraordinarily detailed fairy paintings and his depictions of Victorian childhood. One of his paintings, ‘The Lullaby’, showing his wife softly playing a lullaby to his sleeping son, is currently on display upstairs on the top floor of the gallery. A marble bust by Amelia of the same wee boy, her nephew Diarmid, exists in a private collection.

Noel Paton was Queen’s Limner (court painter) to Queen Victoria. This white marble bust by Amelia (1872) shows Sir Joseph Noel Paton, an imposing figure with his distinctive beard and tartan plaid. It is situated among the other illustrious figures from Scottish history, in The Great Hall, on entering the gallery. Amelia was deeply fond of her brother, and lived with him and his large family for a while at his home in 33 George Square (where the University Library now stands).

At present, during Covid times, it is essential to book your visit to the Scottish National Portrait Gallery well in advance, via their website, see below.

David Octavius Hill

DAVID OCTAVIUS HILL

The Scottish National Portrait Gallery, Queen Street.


Amelia was the second wife of pioneer photographer David Octavius Hill (1802-1870), depicted here in a marble bust dated 1868. Artist D.O. Hill and engineer Robert Adamson developed groundbreaking photography techniques, from their studio at The Rock House in Edinburgh. They photographed many landscapes and urban scenes, including images of the Scott Monument under construction. As well as photographing many well known figures, such as Hugh Miller the geologist, and various prominent members of the Free Church, they also photographed ordinary working folk, in particular the Newhaven fish wives who were a familiar sight at that time, carrying their heavy creels around Edinburgh selling their fresh herring. 

This marble bust, together with the bust of her brother Noel, were in Amelia's possession until her death when she bequeathed them to the Scottish National Portrait Gallery with the express "wish that these busts should be placed in proximity to one another". At present, it may be found on the top floor of the gallery in the Heroes & Heroines Exhibition. While you are there, take a look at the portrait of Amelia by Alexander Blaikey (opposite the bust of DO Hill), and her brother Joseph Noel Paton's painting of 'The Lullaby' located nearby.

At present, during Covid times, it is essential to book your visit to the Scottish National Portrait Gallery well in advance, via their website, see below.

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DAVID LIVINGSTONE

Princes Street Gardens East, next to the Scott Monument.

Amelia Robertson Hill’s prominent statue of David Livingstone, the famous Scottish physician, missionary and explorer, shows him holding a bible, dressed in a cloak and haversack, with a compass and pistol at his waist. The cast off lion skin represents him having survived a mauling. Livingstone died in 1873 while searching for the source of the Nile.

Duncan MacLaren MP said, after the unveiling of the statue in 1876, that he hoped that the statue "would also be a memorial of the distinguished skill of Mrs D.O. Hill, the lady artist, who had executed this statue to the entire satisfaction of the committee, and of all the judges who had seen it, who had pronounced it an admirable likeness and a work of art". It was "believed to be the first [public] statue executed by a lady".

This is the first statue which visitors to Edinburgh are likely to see up close, on entering the Princes Street Gardens, after alighting the train from Edinburgh Waverley Station.

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THE SCOTT MONUMENT 

The Scott Monument, Princes Street Gardens East. 


Known by some as 'The Gothic Rocket', The Scott Monument is one of Edinburgh's most famous and iconic landmarks. Amelia was one of only two women to be chosen to sculpt figures for the monument dedicated to author Sir Walter Scott. Each figure represented a character from his books. 

Amelia's figure of Magnus Troil, from Scott's novel 'The Pirate' (1821), stands on the South-West buttress, just above well known Edinburgh local, George Heriot ('Jinglin' Geordie'). His daughter Minna Troil, also by Amelia, is on the lower tier of the same buttress.


Amelia's depiction of Richard The Lionheart (Coeur de Lion) is on the South East Buttress upper tier, holding a large shield.

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LADY EMILY MERELINA SHAND

The Royal Scottish Academy, at The Foot of the Mound, Edinburgh. 

The white marble bust of Lady Emily Merelina Shand, née Maymott (1840-1911) is on display in the main foyer of the RSA. Lady Emily was the wife of Scottish Law Lord Alexander Burns Shand, 1st Baron Shand PC. He was famously depicted, looking earnest and bespectacled in a caricature by Vanity Fair’s cartoonist Spy, as a “Scots Lawyer", who was described as "a vara wee man, and vara Scotch". 

The story about how Lady Emily Shand got her title was mentioned in Lord Shand's obituary in The Northern Times, 1904:

'He was made a peer in 1892 by Queen Victoria who had been puzzled, it was said, by the fact that while he enjoyed the title of Lord Shand as a law lord in Scotland, his wife was still "Mrs Shand". Said the Queen, "I can alter that by making you a peer", and forthwith the peerage was conferred on him'.


Lord Shand was a keen, rather than good, golfer, but there were bunkers named after him at Musselburgh and at Biarritz in Southern France where a scratch medal, The Shand Medal, was competed for in the years before the First World War. His memorial in Kintore Parish Church, Aberdeenshire was designed by Dr William Kelly ARSA.

At present, during Covid times, it is essential to book your visit to the Royal Scottish Academy (RSA), see below.

However, if the RSA is closed, it is possible to see Lady Shand through the window on the left hand side of the main entrance. She is situated in the alcove on the left hand side of the main foyer stairs.

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HUGH MILLER

National Museum of Scotland, Level 5. 


Amelia’s white marble statue of geologist and author Hugh Miller (1802-1856), depicts him on Cromarty Beach holding a specimen of the fossil fish Pterichthys milleri, which was named after him. He found these fossils in the red sandstone near his home in Easter Ross.

At present, during Covid times, it is essential to book in advance to visit to the National Museum of Scotland, see below.

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‘PAINTING AND POETRY’

The former Albert Institute, Shandwick Place. 


If you have ever got off the Airport Bus at Shandwick Place and looked up, you may have wondered why a seemingly innocuous office block has such an elaborate entrance. In fact, it was once a radical arts organisation! 


After being denied membership to the RSA due to outdated Victorian attitudes at the time, Amelia helped to found an alternative arts society named the Albert Institute, opening in 1877, which welcomed all aspiring artists regardless of gender. Above the ornate doorway to the building, Amelia’s portrait bust of Prince Albert (in relief) and the figures of ‘Painting and Poetry’ can still be seen.

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BRONZE BUST OF DAVID OCTAVIUS HILL

The final resting place of Amelia and David Octavius Hill, Dean Cemetery. 


The bronze bust of Amelia’s husband, photographer D.O. Hill was cast by Amelia after his death in 1870. It can be seen amongst the left hand row of graves on entering the cemetery from the Main Gate on Dean Path.


D.O. Hill, a highly respected artist and photographer of the day, was ever supportive and encouraging of Amelia's work. He even allowed Amelia to help him finish his huge 'Disruption' painting, showing the First General Assembly of the Free Church of Scotland, with over 400 portraits. Above D.O. Hill's signature on the painting, there is a chair with D.O. Hill's and Amelia's initials carved in it. 

After her husband's death Amelia wrote: "I have no pleasure in my work, I miss the kind approving word and look". According to RSA sources, the bust on the grave appears to have been Amelia’s way of securing a permanent memorial to her beloved husband, ensuring that his 43 years of service (39 of those as Secretary) to the RSA were fully recognised. Amelia was later buried at the same spot. On reading her gravestone, you may spot the mistake in Amelia’s birth date! It says she was born in 1820, whereas according to official records she was born in the same year as her famous brother Sir Joseph Noel Paton in 1821.

Dean Cemetery have kindly given us special permission to include David Octavius on our trail. It is a working cemetery, so when you visit, please respect the rules, stick to the paths and be mindful of family members visiting their loved ones in the cemetery. Dean Cemetery is open between 9AM and 5PM (or dusk in Winter), excluding public holidays.

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FORMER RESIDENCES OF THE PATONS AND HILLS.

The Rock House (pictured) at Calton Hill was Amelia’s home with D.O. Hill, where Hill famously developed his groundbreaking photographic techniques. Other former residences of theirs include 33 George Square (where Edinburgh University Library now stands) and Newington Lodge in Mayfield Terrace.

 
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