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, Old Surgeon’s Hall, High School Yards, EdinburghLB28003

Status: Designated


There are no additional online documents for this record.


Date Added
Last Date Amended
Local Authority
Planning Authority
NT 26210 73463
326210, 673463


James Smith, dated 1697, with significant 19th century additions. Symmetrical, 3-storey, 4-bay former Surgeon's Hall (now offices,) with polygonal stair towers to E and W. Random rubble with raised ashlar margins. Projecting base course, band course, cill course to 1st storey. Bipartite windows to upper storeys corniced to 1st floor. Central pedimented moulded doorpiece with 2-leaf timber entrance door. Pedimented central projecting stair tower to rear (S) with round-arched stair windows and moulded doorpiece to W.

Predominantly 12-pane timber sash and case windows, some Gothic glazing pattern to round-arched stair windows to rear. Grey slates, cast iron rainwater goods. Coped gable stacks.

INTERIOR: (seen 2007). Comprehensively modernised.

Statement of Special Interest

This building was the former Surgeon s Hall built in 1697 by the celebrated Scottish architect James Smith.

Originally a 2-storey building, an extra storey was added in the 19th century when the 1st storey windows were enlarged. The Hall is a well-proportioned building with simple Classical detailing. The pediment above the entrance door is a replacement, as the original went to the new Surgeons Hall (see separate listing).

The Incorporation of Edinburgh Surgeons had until 1695 only been allowed to practise in the city and suburbs of Edinburgh. After 1695, they could practise in all of the South East of Scotland but this meant they were required to teach more students anatomy. In order to do this, the Surgeons asked the Town Council for more bodies for dissection, which was agreed on condition that they built an anatomical theatre. This theatre was situated within this Hall. The Edinburgh Surgeons moved to here in 1697 from their previous quarters in Dickson s Close and the first public dissection took place here in 1703. In 1832, the surgeons moved out their New Surgeon s Hall in Nicolson Street and this building became a fever hospital attached to the Royal Infirmary, which at that time was based in Infirmary Street. More recently, it was the Faculty of Dentistry for Edinburgh University. It is now the Faculty of Social Sciences Graduate School at the University of Edinburgh.

James Smith (circa 1645-1731) was a renowned architect of considerable importance in the history of Scottish architecture. He was involved in many of the most important building projects at the turn of the 18th century and he became the Surveyor of Royal Works in 1683. His work includes Dalkeith House, the restoration of Drumlanrig Castle and the building of Canongate Kirk in Edinburgh (see separate listings).

References from previous list description: OEC v.5 p92. Royal College of Surgeons (Creswell). Modern Athens (Shepherd).

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

Statutory address updated (2015). Previously listed as 'High School Yards, Old Surgeons Hall'.



Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland: CANMORE ID 52408

William Edgar, City and Castle of Edinburgh Map, 1765, NLS.

1st Edition Ordnance Survey Map (1849-53).

A Logan Turner, Story of Great Hospital, 1979.

John Gifford, Colin McWilliam and David Walker, The Buildings of Scotland, Edinburgh, 1984. p186.

Howard Colvin, Biographical Dictionary of British Architects 1600-1840, 1995 p893.

University of Edinburgh Website at (accessed 25-07-07).

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.

Listing covers both the exterior and the interior. Listing can cover structures not mentioned which are part of the curtilage of the building, such as boundary walls, gates, gatepiers, ancillary buildings etc. The planning authority is responsible for advising on what is covered by the listing including the curtilage of a listed building. For information about curtilage see Since 1 October 2015 we have been able to exclude items from a listing. 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 Historic Environment Scotland Act 2014. 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 current legislation.

If you want to alter, extend or demolish a listed building you need to contact your planning authority to see if you need listed building consent. The planning authority is the main point of contact for all applications for listed building consent.

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Southeast elevation, University of Edinburgh, Old Surgeon’s Hall, High School Yards, Edinburgh
Northwest elevation, University of Edinburgh, Old Surgeon’s Hall, High School Yards, Edinburgh

Printed: 21/11/2018 21:00