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

3 and 5 Canongate (Russell House), EdinburghLB28426

Status: Designated


There are no additional online documents for this record.


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


Dating from around 1690, four-storey and attic, five-bay tenement with three crowstepped wallhead gables and shop at ground floor. Alterations around 1895 by Simon and Tweedie. Restored in 1976 by Robert Hurd and Partners. Situated on prominent corner site opposite Palace of Holyrood and the Scottish Parliament.

Constructed in harled rubble. Raised cills. Internal turnpike stair to central bay with a boarded timber door at ground floor. Two-window wallhead gables, each with a single garret window at the apex, flanking a single window wallhead gable. Four-bay to rear (north) elevation, some narrow openings at first and second floors, gable to third bay.

Slated roof. Tall end chimneystacks with clay cans, that to west end is broad and shouldered and that to east end is a narrow pair. Crowstepped skews and skewputs. Cast iron rainwater goods.

Interior: turnpike stair at centre and front of building. 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, 3 and 5 Canongate adds visual interest and traditional character to this group. It is between two plain 20th century residential blocks and also serves as a valuable point ending the lengthy run of historic buildings along the lower end of the north 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 roof pitch. A metal plaque to the left of the turnpike 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. Feudal 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, Ebenezer James McRae and Robert Hurd (mid-20th century) with some early frontages retained and others rebuilt in replica.

Statutory address changed from '3 Canongate, Russell House' to '3 and 5 Canongate (Russell House), Edinburgh' in 2019.

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



Gifford, J. et. al. (1988) The Buildings of Scotland: Edinburgh. London: Penguin Books, p.220.

McKean, C. (1992) Edinburgh - An Illustrated Architectural Guide. Edinburgh: RIAS, p.46.

Dictionary of Scottish Architects, Russell House, 3 Canongate, at [accessed 10.05.2007].

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


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Printed: 03/06/2023 02:57