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Exhibition details for 43641 - The Edinburgh Town Guard
The Edinburgh Town Guard
Uploaded by Nico Tyack
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The Edinburgh Town Guard
The Town Guard of Edinburgh was a civic unit of armed guards founded to keep the city's streets and wynds safe. It was unique in the world because, despite its red uniform and hierarchy of captains, sergeants and corporals, the Guard was an entirely civic institution acting as the strong arm of the Town Council with the Lord Provost at its head.

The Guard was founded in the 1680s at a time when religious and political turmoil made Edinburgh a dangerous place. Their duties included patrolling the streets by day and by night to suppress any riots or disturbance, attending official occasions such as the King's birthday, and keeping law and order during public executions. They were initially based in a purpose built Guardhouse on the High Street, just uphill from the Tron Kirk, but in the 1780s they moved in to the infamous Tolbooth.

The Town Guard was not popular in Edinburgh. They were the object of hatred and ridicule, and contemporary accounts and portraits of the time do little to restore their reputation. Drunkenness and violence were rife among the recruited men, and corruption and abuse of power among the captains.