Alexander Wood

Alexander Wood was one of the youngest of the group of Advocates who lived in Charlotte Square, are closely associated with Charlotte Chapel, benefited with relative ease from Scotland's increasing wealth, and threw themselves into projects for civic improvement, in education, health and infrastructure. Wood held a claim to fame as a member of the prosecution of resurrectionist William Burke.

His story is somewhat overshadowed by (and not to be confused with) the colourful histories of two slightly older contemporaries and namesakes. Alexander 'Lang Sandy' Wood (1725-1807) was an eccentric surgeon who took on his rounds a tame raven, a sheep, and (something never before seen in Edinburgh) an umbrella. Alexander 'Molly' Wood (1772-1844) was a merchant in Canada who fled to Scotland in 1810 following a homosexual scandal.

Lived
12 November 1788 - 18 July 1864
Origin
Edinburgh
Father
George Wood, MD, Edinburgh
Mother
Isabella Campbell, d.28 July 1789, buried in Restalrig Churchyard. Eldest daughter of John Campbell of Glensaddle and Newfield. (5)
Address
Before his marriage he lived at 45 Queen Street, then after his marriage at 6 Hope Street, moving in 1818 to 37 Charlotte Square
Estate
Woodcot Park, near Pathhead, Midlothian
Profession
Advocate 18 June 1811. Crown Counsel 1825. Sheriff of Kirkcudbright 9 Nov 1830. Dean of Faculty 12 Nov 1841. Lord Wood 23 Nov 1842, resigned 1862 (4). In 1828 he was one of the deputy advocates in the trial of William Burke (of Burke and Hare) on 24-25 December 1828. (4)
Wealth at death
£43,456. He had shares in Gourock Harbour and Clydesdale Junction Railway, but most of his wealth was in land and property. At his death he lived at 1 Royal Circus and rented out 7 and 9 South East Circus Place. The 'Sunk flat' of no.9 was 'occuped by the Episcopal Working Society.' He also owned houses in Seafield Road. He also collected paintings:
'Madonna and Child by Fiarin. St John by Genevei purchased by me at Parina. The Monalisa said to be by Leonardo da Vinci probably a copy by Laini or Marco Ugeoni purchased in Rome by Alexander. The portrait of a lady by Georgeone. The St Cecilia by Domenichino. The Monchorin Landscape presented to me by Mrs Macdoald Home. more than one Bonificios. A landscape by Hobbina. View of Florence by Andrew Wilson. Large copy of Peronisis Views. The small Vangrigen (?) thought by O'Neil to be an early Cuyp. The sea piece by ?Stork.'
Chapel connection
1815, wedding (3), 1817-1821 baptisms
Married on
16 December 1815
Spouse
Jane Anderson
Children
Janet Elizabeth (1817), George (1818), John Andrew (1819), Isabella Mary (1820), Alexander (1821)
Connections
He was active in the various measures for Improvement in Edinburgh in 1824, along with several Charlotte Chapel/ St John's colleagues. He was one of the first directors of the Edinburgh Academy, along with Colin MacKenzie, Henry Cockburn, Leonard Horner and Roger Aytoun. (5) He was also one of the Directors of the Western Dispensary 'for diseases of the eye and ear' at 135 Rose Street, of which Daniel Sandford was the only clerical vice-President and Colin MacKenzie, Adam Duff, Robert Downie, James Skene and Erskine Douglas Sandford were Directors, and Alexander's father George Wood was the Physician. (8) He was also one of the Directors of the Edinburgh Oil Gas Light Company 'to supply this pure and beautiful light at an expense not exceeding one-third of that of ordinary tallow candles', of which Walter Scott was chairman, and James Skene, Roger Aytoun, Colin MacKenzie were Directors. (9)

Sources

  1. Registers of Charlotte Chapel (NAS CH12/3)
  2. Edinburgh Post Office Directory 1818
  3. Caledonian Mercury, 18 December 1815
  4. Francis J. Grant, The Faculty of Advocates in Scotland 1532-1943, with genealogical notes
  5. (Edinburgh: Faculty of Advocates, 1944)
  6. Magnus Magnusson, The Clacken and the Slate: the story of the Edinburgh Academy 1824-1974 (Collins, London, 1974), p.36.
  7. Francis J. Grant, Index to the Register of Burials in the Churchyard of Restalrig, 1728-1854 (Edinburgh, Scottish Record Society, 1908) p.10
  8. Alexander Wood's will and inventory, National Archives of Scotland SC70/4/94/779 and SC70/1/123/73
  9. Caledonian Mercury, 12 January 1824
  10. Caledonian Mercury, 10 June 1824
  11. R. Michael Gordon, The Infamous Burke and Hare, Serial killers and resurrectionists of Nineteenth Century Edinburgh (McFarland, North Carolina, 2009) p.99
  12. Obituary, Caledonian Mercury 20 July 1864

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