Before Edinburgh Council built thousands of houses on it, Wester Hailes was open countryside. But that’s not to say it was empty. If you click on the 1914 map below, Wester Hailes appears as the name of a farm which can be seen located just off the road running north from Juniper Green. The railway and canal have already been constructed and the road runs under and over them before meeting what will become the A71 at Sighthill which, at this time, also consists of no more than a single building. The names of Dumbryden and Kingsknowe are prominent and the Hailes Quarry is identified.
By the late forties or fifties when this aerial photograph was taken not a lot had changed.
The canal and railway can be easily made out and then, bisecting them, the road up to the Gillespie Crossroads with the distinctive zig zag north of the railway. The farmhouse is still there (almost exactly where 7 Clovenstone Gardens now stands) and, on this stretch of it, the road appears to be an avenue of trees with a row of cottages and a couple of larger buildings alongside. The flooded Hailes Quarry is in the lower left hand of the photo and, running west from it, the various houses and smallholdings which made up “old” Dumbryden.
The most significant change and a precursor of what was to come is in the lower right hand corner where the streets and crescents of the Calders prefabs – known at the time as Sighthill Camp – can be seen. These were constructed at the end of the war, as part of the government’s Temporary Housing Programme, to meet the chronic shortage of decent housing which existed. A total of 537 were constructed in the Calders and there were two different types which accounts for the different coloured roofs. They were demolished in the mid sixties to make way for today’s Calders.