Listed Building

The only legal part of the listing 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.


Status: Designated


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Date Added
Local Authority
Planning Authority
NT 26727 73927
326727, 673927


Circa 1690. Alterations circa 1895, Simon and Tweedie; restored 1976, Robert Hurd and Partners (see Notes). 4-storey and attic, 5-bay tenement with three crowstepped wallhead gables and shop to ground, situated on prominent corner site opposite Palace of Holyrood and the Scottish Parliament. Harled rubble. Raised cills. Internal turn-pike stair to central bay; boarded timber door to ground. 2-window wallhead gables, each with single garret window flank single window wallhead gable. 4-bay to rear (N) elevation, some narrow openings at 1st and 2nd floors, gable to 3rd bay.

Slate roof. Tall end stacks; broad and shouldered at W end, narrow pair at E end. Crowstepped skews and skewputs. Clay cans. Cast-iron rainwater goods.

INTERIOR: Turnpike stair to centre front elevation. Understood to have been comprehensively refurbished following restoration in 1976.

Statement of Special Interest

Russell House is a fine example of a restored 17th century tenement in the Edinburgh vernacular style. Edinburgh has a rich heritage of 17th century tenement houses which add significantly to the architectural character of the city. Situated in a particularly prominent and sensitive location opposite the entrance to Holyrood Palace and the Scottish Parliament building, it adds visual interest and traditional character to the grouping. Sitting between two plain 20th century residential blocks, it also serves as a valuable punctuation mark ending the lengthy run of historic buildings along the lower end of the N side of the Canongate.

Internal alterations were undertaken by the practice of Simon and Tweedie in 1895. Prior to the restoration by Robert Hurd in 1976, the building was three-storeys with an attic garret and a shallower pitch. A metal plaque situated to the left of the turn-pike stair doorway reads 'RUSSELL HOUSE - a 17th century tenement preserved by Sir Patrick Geddes (1854-1932). This building was rescued from demolition and restored again in 1976 by the perseverance and endeavours of a number of bodies and individuals, including Sir Robert Russell (1820-1972), after whom it is named'.

The historic and architectural value of Edinburgh's Canongate area as a whole cannot be overstated. Embodying a spirit of permanence while constantly evolving, its buildings reflect nearly 1000 years of political, religious and civic development in Scotland. The Canons of Holyrood Abbey were given leave by King David I to found the burgh of Canongate in 1140. Either side of the street (a volcanic ridge) was divided into long, narrow strips of land or 'tofts. By the end of the 15th century all the tofts were occupied, some subdivided into 'forelands' and 'backlands' under different ownership. Fuedal superiority over Canongate ceased after 1560. The following century was a period of wide-scale rebuilding and it was during this time that most of the areas' mansions and fine townhouses were constructed, usually towards the back of the tofts, away from the squalor of the main street. The 17th century also saw the amalgamation of the narrow plots and their redevelopment as courtyards surrounded by tenements. The burgh was formally incorporated into the City in 1856. Throughout the 19th Century the Canongate's prosperity declined as large sections of the nobility and middle classes moved out of the area in favour of the grandeur and improved facilities of Edinburgh's New Town, a short distance to the North. The Improvement Act of 1867 made efforts to address this, responding early on with large-scale slum clearance and redevelopment of entire street frontages. A further Improvement Act (1893) was in part a reaction to this 'maximum intervention', responding with a programme of relatively small-scale changes within the existing street pattern. This latter approach was more consistent with Patrick Geddes' concept of 'conservative surgery'. Geddes was a renowned intellectual who lived in the Old Town and was a pioneer of the modern conservation movement in Scotland which gathered momentum throughout the 20th century. Extensive rebuilding and infilling of sections of the Canongate's many tenements took place, most notably by city architects, E J McRae and Robert Hurd (mid 20th century) with some early frontages retained and others rebuilt in replica.

Formerly known as 11-15 Canongate. Statutory address and list description updated at resurvey (2008).



John Gifford et al, Buildings of Scotland - Edinburgh, (1991) p220. Charles McKean, Edinburgh - An Illustrated Architectural Guide (1992) p46. Dictionary of Scottish Architects, (accessed 10.05.2007)

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 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.

The only legal part of the listing is the address/name of site. Addresses and building names may have changed since the date of listing and if a number or name is missing from a listing address it may still be listed. Listing covers both the exterior and the interior and any object or structure fixed to the building. Listing can also cover structures not physically attached but 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. 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 advises on the need for listed building consent and they also decide what a listing covers. The planning authority is the main point of contact for all applications for listed building consent.

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