Edinburgh’s first “garden city”
The local community served by Inch Community Centre, although not as old as Inch House, also enjoys a remarkable and important history. This extensive housing scheme was built by Edinburgh Council from 1951 onwards as Edinburgh’s first “garden city”. This project was driven by the vision of offering people living in the congested and impoverished slums of the Old Town of Edinburgh the chance of better living conditions in what was then open countryside on the outskirts of the City. As part of the vision every house in the Inch was to have its own garden.
The competition to choose an architect was held in 1946, and was won by a 29-year old English architect, David Stratton Davis. As well as providing a garden for every house, Stratton Davis conceived the whole project as an organic whole, ensuring that there would be plenty of green spaces and trees in the streets, and cunningly landscaping the scheme to offer striking views of local landmarks such as Inch House, Arthur’s Seat or the Pentland Hills at every other end of a street or break in a line of houses.
The project was extremely well-resourced, allowing for a wide degree of architectural ambition. This allowed Stratton Davis to experiment in variety of ways, introducing such features drawn from the architecture of Cheltenham (close to his native Gloucester) as classical porticos, pilasters and pedimented gables, features altogether unexpected in a Scottish council scheme! It is therefore no surprise that Inchers have always felt that their community is in some significant way “special”, or that the Saltire Society was led to award Stratton Davis a prize in 1954 for “the best designed local authority housing in Scotland”.