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.

University of Edinburgh, Surgeon’s Hall, Including Screen Wall, Gates, Railings and Lamp Standards, Nicolson Street, EdinburghLB27772

Status: Designated


There are no additional online documents for this record.


Date Added
Last Date Amended
Local Authority
Planning Authority
NT 26096 73268
326096, 673268


W H Playfair, 1829-32, with later additions by A F Balfour Paul, 1908-9. Important and imposing 2-storey, T-plan Greek Revival purpose-built Surgeon's Hall with dominant fluted Ionic hexastyle portico to W (principal) elevation with columns resting on tall screen wall. Chamfered sandstone ashlar to portico, coursed rubble to rear with ashlar dressings. Chamfered base course, band course, cornice. Venetian window to N.

FURTHER DESCRIPTION: principle (W) elevation with central pedimented portico with honeysuckle and palmette frieze. Carved foliage decoration in tympanum. Very tall timber panelled and metal studded entrance door with consoled pediment above.

N and S elevations with off-centre, slightly advanced 2-storey, 3-bay sections with Doric loggias to ground. Advanced pedimented single bays to W with paired Doric pilasters to outer corners.

2-storey linking corridor at SE corner to Nos 6 and 7 Hill Square with glass and timber swing entrance doors.

SCREEN WALL, GATES AND RAILINGS: to W. Tall, channelled and coped ashlar screen wall, incorporating flanking pedimented gateways with scrolled buttresses. Base course. Decorative cast-iron gates. Low coped wall to W surmounted with decorative cast-iron railings and incorporating 4 cast-iron lamp standards. Mixture of glazing; predominantly 12 and 4-pane timber sash and case windows with some fixed stained-glass windows. INTERIOR: (seen 2007). Excellent decorative scheme with some original Playfair features. Timber and glass revolving doors lead to double-height coffered, domed entrance hall. Sweeping D-shaped staircase with stained-glass stair window. Major rooms have timber panelling and classical fire surrounds. 6-panel timber doors, many with deep cornices. Decorative cornicing. Lecture hall with ornately decorated plaster coved ceiling and cornicing. Elaborate carved plaster doorheads. 7-bay nave and aisle plan galleried museum hall with Doric pilastered piers and glass-coffered ceiling.

Statement of Special Interest

Surgeon s Hall is an exceptional building designed by William Playfair, one of the country s most eminent architects and a leading exponent of the Greek Revival style. It is particularly distinguished by its large-scale portico on the street elevation and it contains an impressive interior decorative scheme. Designed in the Greek Revival style, the massive scale of the Ionic portico presents a monumental frontage to the street. This monumentality is enhanced by the construction of the large building into a relatively small site.

W H Playfair (1789-1857) was an renowned and eminent architect and a leading figure in Edinburgh s Enlightenment. He was responsible for many of the buildings in 19th century Edinburgh including the National Gallery (1848), The Royal Scottish Academy (1822-6) and Royal Circus (see separate listings). An expert exponent of the Greek Revival style, his buildings helped to create Edinburgh s Enlightenment character. This building is considered to be one of the best examples of his work.

The Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh has been in continuous existence since 1505 when, as The Barber Surgeons Of Edinburgh, it was incorporated as a Craft Guild of the City of Edinburgh. Their first meeting place was in Dickson s Close in 1647, but as the Incorporation expanded, they required a building with an anatomical theatre and in 1697, they moved into Old Surgeon s Hall (see separate listing) in High School Yards. By the beginning of the 19th century, they had outgrown this space and they purchased the Riding School on Nicolson Street on which site the current building is positioned.

The building was altered and adapted in 1908-9 by the architect Balfour Paul, who added a further extension for the museum by extending into part of nos 6 and 7 Hill Square (see separate listing).

A F Balfour Paul (1875-1938) was an Edinburgh based architect who practised primarily in Edinburgh. His work includes both private houses and public buildings.

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

Statutory address updated (2015). Previously listed as 'Nicolson Street, Surgeon's Hall including screen wall, gates, railing and lamp standards'.



Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland: CANMORE ID 52407

1st Edition Ordnance Survey Map, 1849-53.

Youngson, The Making of Classical Edinburgh, 1966, p279.

John Gifford, Colin McWilliam and David Walker, The Buildings of Scotland, Edinburgh, 1984. p244.

Leaflet from the Royal College of Surgeons. (accessed 23-04-07).

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.

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North courtyard, University of Edinburgh, Surgeon’s Hall, Including Screen Wall, Gates, Railings and Lamp Standards, Nicolson Street, Edinburgh
Southeast elevation, University of Edinburgh, Surgeon’s Hall, Including Screen Wall, Gates, Railings and Lamp Standards, Nicolson Street, Edinburgh

Printed: 19/09/2019 21:55