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
Supplementary Information Updated
Local Authority
Planning Authority
NT 26702 73921
326702, 673921


17th century origins. Restored and reconstructed, 1889 by James Jeerdan and again, 1964-5 by Sir Frank Mears and Partners (see Notes). Unified group of irregularly composed dwellings in picturesque Scots-Revival style arranged around tapering quadrangle. Variety of exposed and harled rubble with ashlar dressings. Predominantly raised cills, architraves and chamfered margins. Pend leads S to Nos 23-33 Canongate.

FURTHER DESCRIPTION: White Horse Close comprises N ELEVATION: Bi-furcated forestair leading to flanking jettied timber and plaster gables with bowed fronts. Pedimented dormer breaking eaves above forestair with '1623' datestone. Irregular arrangement of doors and windows throughout. Crowstepped wallhead gable to right corner; below, 2-storey outshot in re-entrant angle. E ELEVATION: Advanced crowstepped gable to centre with right-angled forestair to right. Round-arched pediment to ground floor window to far right. S ELEVATION: Arrangement of outshots, stepped towards pend; pantiled single-storey section to centre. W ELEVATION: Unified run of harled 2-storey dwellings (Nos 2-5).

23-33 Canongate: Comprising 3-storey and attic building to Canongate with segmental-arched arcaded ground floor with rounded central arch; 3-bay, recessed garretted E section with timbered steeply pitched gable to attic; shop to ground. Oriel window at re-entrant angle to left.

Grey Scottish slate to Canongate elevation; red pantiles to White Horse Close properties. Harled and exposed red brick end and axial stacks. Clay cans.

Statement of Special Interest

Nos 1-12 White Horse Close is an interesting example of a mid 20th century reconstruction of a 17th century Edinburgh close. The Canongate has a rich network of closes which add significantly to the architectural character of the city. The extensive restoration and reconstruction work carried out by Frank Mears and Partners in the 1960s mimics and accentuates the former character of the close and its 17th century dwellings with an irregular arrangement of crowstepped gables, jettied bays, dormer windows, external forestairs and pantiled roofs, forming a picturesque and unified whole. 'Buildings of Scotland' describes the work as 'so blatantly fake that it can be acquitted of any intention to deceive'. The 1523 dormer datestone was recut to read 1623 around 1930. No 29 Canongate was the house of the eminent Catholic Bishop Paterson until his death in 1831.

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.

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



1st edition Ordnance Survey 1:1056 scale map (Edinburgh and its Environs, 1854). The Builder, March 16 1889. British Architect, March 15 1889. Scott Moncrieff, Edinburgh (1st ed.) pl 59 illustrates condition prior to the 1889 restoration. The Royal Commission on the Ancient Monuments of Scotland, An inventory of the ancient and historical monuments of the city of Edinburgh with the thirteenth report of the Commission, Edinburgh, No. 93 (1951) p158-60. Iain Gordon Lindsay, Old Edinburgh (1959). John Gifford et al, Buildings of Scotland - Edinburgh, (1991) p220. Charles McKean, Edinburgh - An Illustrated Architectural Guide (1992) p38. 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.

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