Statement of Special Interest
A fine example of mid 19th century civic street architecture, ceremoniously marking the entrance to the Meadows Park from the N and making a strong contribution to the streetscape of the area.
In the 17th century the Meadows was occupied by the South or Burgh Loch which provided the town with water for drinking, washing and brewing. In the early 18th century the area was drained and a pleasure ground established with perimeter paths, hedges, lime avenues, drainage canals and a summerhouse. An Act of Parliament of 1827, which protected the Meadows from being built upon, predated the national movement in the 1830s to create parks for the improvement of public health in the overcrowded conditions of rapidly expanding towns. The erection of this grand entrance to the Meadows in the mid 19th century coincided with the granting of full public access and the creation of a number of walks crossing the park, and is a fine example of the role of public subscription in the development of such places as a focus of civic pride.
The gatepiers were built by public subscription in the 1840s but were not completed as planned due to insufficient funds. The original design planned four pillars with the two central ones to be surmounted by unicorns. When the required funds were not fully raised, only the central pillars were built and without the planned unicorns. In 1849, George Smith, (1793-1877) architect and designer of the pillars appealed to Edinburgh Town Council to help finance the completion of the gatepiers. The Council agreed to pay Mr Handyside Ritchie, sculptor, £55 for the erection of the unicorns on top of the two pillars. The unicorns are carved from Binny freestone.
George Smith was appointed architect to the Edinburgh Improvement Commissioners in 1834. He carried out several commissions in the immediate area such as on George IV Bridge and West Bow.
(List description updated at re-survey 2011-12.)