Listed Building

The legal part of the listing is the address/name of site only. All other information in the record is not statutory.

University of Edinburgh, The Watson Building (Former George Watsons Ladies College), 3, 5 and 7 George Square, EdinburghLB28002

Status: Designated


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Date Added
Last Date Amended
Local Authority
Planning Authority
NT 25858 73030
325858, 673030


MacGibbon and Ross, 1890-93 incorporating earlier W building by same architects of 1876; Peter L B Henderson addition to E, 1902; George Washington Brown, 1910 further extension to W wing; Later internal alterations. Prominently sited to N side of George Square. Predominantly 2-storey, with attic and basement, 20-bay, multi-phase former school buildings in French Renaissance style with mansard roofs. Arranged 9-5-6, with pedimented symmetrical 5-bay single storey entrance to centre. Polished ashlar with channelled pilastered angles, consoled ground floor windows with linked cornices and segmentally pedimented dormers.

FURTHER DESCRIPTION: 1893 building of 17th century Parisian Hotel type plan with 4-bays to W and 3 bays to E joined by 3 bay entrance forming glazed internal courtyard behind and enveloping earlier 1876 L-plan. Entrance arch with head keystone, consoled and double-broken segmental pediment, shallower triangular pediment and urns above. 5-bay 1910 addition to W in same style as adjoining section with round arched finialled dormer windows and advanced tripartite bay to right with channelled margins, Venetian window to attic under segmental pediment with dentilled cornice and carved tympanum crest. 1902, 4 storey, 3 bay, Classical style E addition with plain pilastered bays and blind 4th floor with engaged columns and urn finials.

N (REAR) ELEVATION: plain 2-storey and basement elevation with mansard roofs and irregular fenestration. Coursed rubble with ashlar margins. Recessed courtyard area to E with multi-glazed window openings.

Plate glass in timber sash and case windows to principal elevations, 4-pane pattern to rear. Flat lead roofs with slated mansards; corniced wall and ridge stacks; ashlar coped skews; predominantly cast iron rainwater goods.

INTERIOR: some fine late Victorian interior details survive including the large galleried main entrance hall (1890) which was created when the building was extended to form a U-plan; decorative cast iron railings to open basement area; exposed timber trussed roof with ball finials on 4 slender iron columns, timber boarding and rooflights. Main stair (formerly entrance, 1876) now enclosed to NW of internal courtyard with decorative cast iron banisters, decorative coloured wall tiles, geometric floor tiles, margined and coloured stair window and black slate fireplace to former entrance hall. E stair with plain white tiles and decorative border. Timber panelling and some glazed classroom partitions.

Statement of Special Interest

A large school building on a prominent site to the heart of the University Buildings on George Square and demonstrating some fine stone detailing as the work of several notable Scottish architects. Although a multi-phase building it represents a significant example of French Renaissance academic architecture in Scotland.

The original building of 1876 was an L-plan west wing and rear with the later 1890 E wing forming a U-plan, refacing the original in the French Renaissance style of the addition and infilling the former courtyard with the fine glass roofed hall. The original main staircase and projecting stone entrance survive internally to the NW corner of the entrance hall.

The building was built as a result of a bequest of £12,000 by George Watson (1654-1723) to set up the original George Watson's Hospital School which opened on a site near Lauriston Place in 1741. The hospital schools fell out of favour in the later 19th century and Watson s was then reopened under the governorship of the Merchant Company as a fee paying day school in 1870. The building on George Square was built as part of this expansion. The original hospital school buildings which had been further to the W were sold to the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary which then subsumed it into their subsequent development of the Lauriston Place site to form the now vacated ERI. The building was in use by the school until the early 20th century when the whole school moved to a new campus on Colinton Road.

The crest to the apex of the 1910 west wing is of the Merchant Company who owned the school at the time. The entrance is inscribed George Watsons Ladies College on paired scrolls. The main entrance has finely carved stone detailing with a fine glazed fanlight over. The detailing extends to purpose-built reveals to house the decorative cast iron gates when in the open position. The cost of the additions in 1890-93 were £10,000.

List description updated at re-survey 2011-12.

Statutory address updated (2015). Previously listed as '3, 5 and 7 George Square, University of Edinburgh former George Watsons Ladies College, The Watson Building, Psychology Department'.



Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland: CANMORE ID 74113

J Gifford, C McWilliam and D Walker, Buildings of Scotland, Edinburgh (1984) p242.

Dictionary of Scottish Architects, (accessed 2012).

About Listed Buildings

Listing is the way that a building or structure of special architectural or historic interest is recognised by law through the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) (Scotland) Act 1997.

We list buildings of special architectural or historic interest using the criteria published in the Historic Environment Scotland Policy Statement.

The statutory listing address is the legal part of the listing. The information in the listed building record gives an indication of the special architectural or historic interest of the listed building(s). It is not a definitive historical account or a complete description of the building(s). The format of the listed building record has changed over time. Earlier records may be brief and some information will not have been recorded.

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South Elevation, University of Edinburgh, The Watson Building (Former George Watsons Ladies College), 3, 5 and 7 George Square, Edinburgh (On a sunny wintry day)
South Elevation, University of Edinburgh, The Watson Building (Former George Watsons Ladies College), 3, 5 and 7 George Square, Edinburgh

Printed: 21/11/2018 21:02