Astoft

Royal Mile, Edinburgh - Canongate to Abbey Strand


The Royal Mile runs from Edinburgh Castle down to Holyrood in five stretches:
Castlehill, Lawnmarket, High Street (link), Canongate (here), Abbey Strand
Map

Click on photos to enlarge

Notes in italics from Pevsner Architectural Guides, Edinburgh by John Gifford, Colin McWilliam and David Walker (1991), Yale University Press.


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Stretch of the Canongate between New Street and the old Canongate Tolbooth at the bottom. These tenements were largely restored or rebuilt in the 1950-60s, retaining the traditional facades.


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Canongate Tolbooth. The building to the left of the tower, although now part of the Tolbooth, was originally an early 17th century tenement. The Tolbooth has served various purposes through the ages: Collecting tolls from travellers through Canongate burgh, council chamber, police court, prison.  The tower was built in 1591, the courtroom block to the E at the same time or soon after. This is Canongate's expression of burghal pride, so the tower above its vaulted pend to Tolbooth Wynd has conical-roofed bartizans at the front with qautrefoil gunloops, and a conical spire rising from flattened broaches. ... A large clock, dated 1884, sticks out over the street on scrolled wrought-iron brackets. Forestair and lean-to stair-turret in the angle of the courtroom block, which is quite domestic but has a rectangular oriel at the E end, partly balancing the tower. In the centre of the block, a large pedimented frame ... In this frame the Burgh arms. They are late C19, as is a good deal of the rest of the courthouse block, which acquired its appearance in Robert Morham's restoration of 1875. He provided a new roof of steeper pitch, and a parapet, and replaced three piended dormers with four steeply pedimented ones ...  


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No. 200 Canongate is a replica of 1956-7 by Gordon & Dey of a harled early C17 front, with gabled dormer heads on the second floor and a row of gabled dormers at the attic. The central arch leads to Old Playhouse Close, the location of the first permanent theatre in Edinburgh between 1747 and 1769. Commemorated by the plaque at the entrance.
Huntly House, which houses the museum of Edinburgh. The name is misleading - it was never a great town house ... By 1517 there were three small houses side by side. They were united in 1570 ... Rubble ground floor, corbelled-out ashlar first floor
. (About 1671) the tenement was raised by two timber-framed and harled storeys with three broad gables to the street, jettied out above the eaves line of the existing building. ...
Through the pend on the left one enters into Bakehouse Close, showing the rear of the building.


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Canongate Kirk. Opened in 1691 as the new parish church of the burgh of Canongate. More here.
Robert Fergusson
strolling past the kirk. He is buried in the kirkyard - more here.
Panmure House
in Panmure Close off the Canongate. The house is late 17th century, L-plan with crowstepped gables.  Adam Smith lived here and is buried in Canongate kirkyard - more here.


Reid's Court, Canongate Manse
         
  Reid's Court. Early 18th century, restored in 1958-9 as Canongate Manse.  
         
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White Horse Close at the bottom of the Canongate. The Close was the arrival and departure point for the London stage. The name comes from the horse that carried Mary Queen of Scots to and from Holyrood Palace nearby. In Sir Walter Scott's first novel, Waverley, The White Horse Inn was the lodgings of Bonnie Prince Charlie's officers when they entered Edinburgh in 1745. 
Of the current buildings in the close, the Pevsner guide states  ... so blatantly fake that it can be acquitted of any intention to deceive. A court built for Laurence Ord in the late C17, its buildings focused on the inn at the N end (first picture), was bought in 1889 by Dr Barbour and his sister, and reconstructed by James Jerdan as working-class housing , then even more extensively by Frank Mears & Partners in 1962. The W side is now a very plain row of harled two-storey houses, the E side is very self-consciously picturesque (second picture), the N end a Hollywood dream of the C17. Even the datestone of 1623 joins in the fantasy; it used to read 1523 but was recut c.1930 to give a more plausible date. The advantages of harling as a cover-up for modern brickwork are nowhere better displayed. It is actually an amazing reproduction when one compares it with this Painting of 1845.


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Queensberry House, at the bottom end of the Canongate, built 1681-6. Single-storey rusticated porch between the two wings added c.1700. It has now been incorporated into the new Scottish Parliament building as shown here. For more on the parliament building see separate page.


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Abbey Strand, the last, short bit of the Royal Mile, leading up to the Palace of Holyroodhouse. Two buildings only. The harled four-storey W one, restored by Thomas Ross in 1916, began as a late C15 or early C16 tenement of three storeys and attic with two two-room dwellings on each floor. Each half had its own forestair to the first floor ... and a corbelled-our stair-turret to the floors above. After the sack of Edinburgh in 1544 the building was reconstructed and extended N by 3.3 m, the turret stairs were removed, and a new stair-tower serving the whole structure was put up at the back. ...
To the E ... an early-C17 L-shaped two-storey addition with three unequal crowstepped gables to the front. The present ground floor with a large pend arch on the r. ... is due to H.M. Office of Works, 1935.  



To Lawnmarket and High Street stretch of the Royal Mile

Old engravings of the Royal Mile

The Royal Mile described in Wikipedia

More of Edinburgh at Astoft


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