Listed Building

The only legal part of the listing is the address/name of site. Addresses and building names may have changed since the date of listing – see ‘About Listed Buildings’ below for more information.


Status: Designated


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Date Added
Local Authority
Planning Authority
NT 26089 73982
326089, 673982


Archibald Elliot, 1815. 2-storey, castellated, irregular'plan, former Calton Jail Governor's House, with 3 and 4-stage round and polygonal towers to S and with adjoining turreted curtain wall to E and W. Dramatically situated on side of steep rocky ground of Calton Hill overlooking Waverley valley to S. Coursed and squared rubble with tooled margins. Base course, string courses, corbelled and crenellated parapets. Round-arched windows openings. Some segmental-arched windows to ground. Tower with narrow round-arch window openings.

Predominantly timber sash and case windows with mixture of glazing patterns; some 4 over 2-pane, some 5 over 4-pane, some 9 over 6-pane. Grey slates and lead flashings to roof. Wallhead stack with polygonal cans. Cast-iron rainwater goods.

INTERIOR: (seen 2007). Comprehensively modernised. Retains tight, open spiral staircase with stone treads, with timber and iron balustrade.

CURTAIN WALLS: to the E and W of the house. Tall, battered, coped rubble walls interspersed with castellated turrets, built on the side of the steep rocky slopes of Calton Hill and following the undulations of the hillside.

Statement of Special Interest

The castellated and turreted form of the former Governor's House combined with its dramatic and spectacular situation makes this arguably one of the finest Picturesque buildings in the country. It is the only complete building to survive from the previous Calton Jail of 1815, which was the largest prison in Scotland. The Gothic appearance of the house is atypical for early 19th century Edinburgh and the juxtaposition of the different height levels of the landscape helped to create this remarkable building. The house has been altered internally, but retains its original narrow spiral staircase.

The building was the Governor's House for the Calton Jail of 1815 which stood to the North of it and the house contained private apartments as well as a Committee room for the use of the Commissioners, who governed the prison. The curtain wall enclosed both the new prison and also the older one by Robert Adam, which had been built in 1791. The Jail was demolished in the 1930s to make way for St Andrews House (see separate listing).

There were some complaints at the time of construction which suggested that this building was too Gothic in its architecture, but Sir Walter Scott replied that the situation of this building, on the edge of a precipice and overlooking other buildings like a citadel was a highly appropriate place for a Gothic building.

Archibald Elliot (1760-1823) was one of the leading Edinburgh architects in the early 19th century. Elliot was particularly well-versed in the Gothic style and used it for the majority of his work, including some of his country house commissions. He was the architect responsible for much of the building of Regent Road and Waterloo Place.

References from precious list description: Georgian Edinburgh 40.

List description updated as part of Edinburgh Holyrood Ward resurvey 2007-08.



Robert Kirkwood, The Plan of Edinburgh and it Environs, 1817. 1st Edition Ordnance Survey Map, (1849-53).Thomas Shepherd, Modern Athens, 1829, edition published in 1980. John Gifford, Colin McWilliam and David Walker, The Buildings of Scotland, Edinburgh, 1984. p441. RCAHMS, Canmore database.

About Listed Buildings

Historic Environment Scotland is responsible for designating sites and places at the national level. These designations are Scheduled monuments, Listed buildings, Inventory of gardens and designed landscapes and Inventory of historic battlefields.

We make recommendations to the Scottish Government about historic marine protected areas, and the Scottish Ministers decide whether to designate.

Listing is the process that identifies, designates and provides statutory protection for buildings of special architectural or historic interest as set out in the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) (Scotland) Act 1997.

We list buildings which are found to be of special architectural or historic interest using the selection guidance published in Designation Policy and Selection Guidance (2019)

Listed building records provide an indication of the special architectural or historic interest of the listed building which has been identified by its statutory address. The description and additional information provided are supplementary and have no legal weight.

These records are not definitive historical accounts or a complete description of the building(s). If part of a building is not described it does not mean it is not listed. The format of the listed building record has changed over time. Earlier records may be brief and some information will not have been recorded.

The legal part of the listing is the address/name of site which is known as the statutory address. Addresses and building names may have changed since the date of listing. Even if a number or name is missing from a listing address it will still be listed. Listing covers both the exterior and the interior and any object or structure fixed to the building. Listing also applies to buildings or structures not physically attached but which are part of the curtilage (or land) of the listed building as long as they were erected before 1 July 1948.

While Historic Environment Scotland is responsible for designating listed buildings, the planning authority is responsible for determining what is covered by the listing, including what is listed through curtilage. However, for listed buildings designated or for listings amended from 1 October 2015, legal exclusions to the listing may apply.

If part of a building is not listed, it will say that it is excluded in the statutory address and in the statement of special interest in the listed building record. The statement will use the word 'excluding' and quote the relevant section of the 1997 Act. Some earlier listed building records may use the word 'excluding', but if the Act is not quoted, the record has not been revised to reflect subsequent legislation.

Listed building consent is required for changes to a listed building which affect its character as a building of special architectural or historic interest. The relevant planning authority is the point of contact for applications for listed building consent.

Find out more about listing and our other designations at You can contact us on 0131 668 8914 or at


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Printed: 29/02/2020 00:22