John Chesser, 1886-88 incorporating 2 earlier, recessed buildings immediately to left and right of central pavilion (see Notes). Substantial, predominantly 2-storey with basement and attic, former educational building with elaborate Free Renaissance 6-4-3-4-6 bay composition, stepped to follow gentle slope of Chamber Street. Sandstone ashlar; channelled at ground floor. Deep-moulded cill courses; dentiled eaves and blocking course. Balustraded cill aprons at 1st floor. Mansard roof with ornate iron cresting.
FURTHER DESCRIPTION: 3-storey central pavilion with pair of coupled Roman Doric columns flanking round arched entrance with rope moulding. Corinthian columns at 1st floor flanking central tripartite bow window; sculptured pilasters and central tripartite with Corinthianesque colonnettes at 2nd floor. Above, scrolled pediment bearing figure of putto at anvil; truncated pyramid roof with wrought-iron crown.
Recessed 3 storey and attic, 4-bay to left (former phrenological museum): ground floor canted bay with stilted segmental arches and portrait keystones; balustraded parapet above. Key-blocked and segmental-arched windows to 1st floor; round-arched to 2nd, all with Corinthianesque columns. Segmental-headed, moulded pediment to dormer above. Recessed 2-storey and attic, 4 bay to right (E): segmental-arched openings; key-blocked and consoled at 1st floor, segmental-arched dormers. W wing repeats this treatment for 3 bays and ends in a 3-bay centre bay pavilion with round-arched ground floor; Roman Doric pilasters at 1st with ornamented necking and frieze; sculptured attic panel. Bipartite round-arched windows to W flank. E wing: 3-bay to left with superimposed pilasters, coupled at ground floor, broad at 1st floor. Corinthianesque columns to windows. Dormer approximately answering the phrenological museum; remaining 3-bays repeat of right side of W wing.
Predominantly 4 and 8-pane timber sash and case windows. Grey slate. Cast-iron rainwater goods. Slated mansard roofs with elaborate iron cresting.
INTERIOR: seen 2007 - comprehensive late 20th century refurbishment for use as Crown Offices serving Sheriff Court to rear.
Statement of Special Interest
No 25 Chambers Street is a fine example of a late 19th century institutional building with good Rennaissance detailing borrowing stylistic influences from French chateau design. Its imposing 268' principal elevation integrates and adapts already existing buildings to create a unified and balanced whole. It substantial mass adds significantly to the streetscape, responding to the monumental Renaissance bulk of the Museum of Scotland (see separate listing) located opposite. Built by George Heriot's Trust, which the Educational Endowments Commission amalgamated with the Watt Institution in 1885, the building incorporates two slightly older structures either side of what is now the central pavilion section. These are the original Watt Institution, built by David Cousin & John Lessels 1872 to designs by David Rhind, the prominent Edinburgh architect renowned for his commercial buildings and now represented by the 4 bays to the right of Chesser's central pavilion (which in turn replaced the French-roofed pavilion of Rhind's earlier building). To the immediate left is the former Phrenological Museum by David Cousin of 1875-77. Rhind's original building comprised the existing 4-bay with a monumental porch bearing a statue of James Watt by Peter Slater 1854. The composition of the earlier building approximately answered that of Minto House (at the other end of Chambers Street) in reverse. Well-respected Scottish architect, John Chesser was renowned for his work in the Rennaissance style and carried out a number of commissions in association with Heriot-Watt. Cousin and Lessels laid out the plans for many of Edinburgh's early responses to the Improvement Act of 1872 including the wholesale rebuilding of portions of Blackfriars Street and St Mary's Street.
List description revised as part of Edinburgh Holyrood Ward resurvey, 2007/08.