Listed Building

The only legal part of the listing under the Planning (Listing Buildings and Conservation Areas) (Scotland) Act 1997 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. The further details below the 'Address/Name of Site' are provided for information purposes only.

Address/Name of Site

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

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. Other than the name or address of a listed building, further details are provided for information purposes only. Historic Environment Scotland does not accept any liability for any loss or damage suffered as a consequence of inaccuracies in the information provided. 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.

Find out more about listing and our other designations at You can contact us on 0131 668 8914 or at


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

Printed: 09/02/2023 10:12