Brodie’s Close is a small alleyway (or close) directly opposite Deacon Brodie’s Tavern and was indeed named after him. It’s down here where his family used to live and work.
Today there’s also Deacons House Cafe in Brodie’s Close, where you can get yourself breakfast, a light lunch or snack down a very typical, atmospheric Edinburgh alley.
Deacon Brodie (as he was commonly called) was not only a celebrated cabinet maker, he was a trusted city councillor and a trade guild president (ie: Deacon) who mingled with the Edinburgh elite. But he also had a dark side that so captured people’s imaginations that 100 years later, he would become the inspiration for Robert Louis Stevenson’s classic Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde.
To the outside world, Brodie was a perfectly upstanding Edinburgh citizen. He had been taught the craft of cabinet making by his father and was soon considered the best in town. So his customers were some of the Edinburgh’s wealthiest and most high profile citizens. He was also a member of the most exclusive private clubs of the time, The Edinburgh Cape Society, which put him in the company of Edinburgh literati like Robbie Burns, painter Jacob More and anthologist David Herd. But Brodie also led a very dangerous (and no doubt very busy) double life.
Brodie was a drinker and gambler and had racked up huge debts. These days most people in his position would probably just find a way to commit financial fraud from the safety of their laptops. But in those days of course, you had to get your hands dirty. So he turned to burglary. And for almost twenty years, he was very, very good at it.
Fortunately for Brodie, furniture making wasn’t his only trade skill. He was also a pretty good locksmith, and with the two roles put together, he was able to scope out the security measures in the homes of his customers, make wax copies of their keys (often for doors he himself was installing) and then simply come back, let himself in and pilfer whatever he fancied.
As far as we know, his first major crime was in 1768, when, aged 27, he used his locksmith skills to copy keys to a bank and got away with £800, which for that time was a huge sum. -> see comments below...