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

Bible Land, 183-187 (Odd Numbers) Canongate, EdinburghLB28434

Status: Designated


There are no additional online documents for this record.


Date Added
Last Date Amended
Local Authority
Planning Authority
NT 26364 73770
326364, 673770


Dated 1677. Predominantly rebuilt, 1956 by Robert Hurd (see Notes). 4-storey and attic, double tenement with interesting roofline with ogee-capped dome above central, turnpike stair. Pair of shops to ground. Random-rubble with polished ashlar dressings. Chamfered margins. Slightly recessed boarded timber doorway to centre with elaborately moulded and pedimented cartouche above (see Notes). 5-window arrangement to right with pair of windowed gablets, one with curved skews. 4-window arrangement in 2-2 pattern to left with gable-headed dormers. Irregular fenestration to rear.

12-pane timber sash and case windows. Scottish slate. Ridge and end stacks. Clay cans. Cast-iron rainwater goods.

Statement of Special Interest

'Bible Land' is a fine example of a restored 17th century tenement building. The central, ogee-capped dome and distinctive attic storey as well as the elaborate cartouche set this building apart and contribute much to its character. The shopfronts to left and right are also in keeping with the essential character of the building adding interest to the streetscape.

The substantial restoration by Robert Hurd, who spearheaded the Canongate regeneration project during the 1950s, included the rebuilding of the principal elevation to the same design as the original. The introduction of the pedimented dormer heads to the W side is conjectural.

Bible Land was built for the Incorporation of Cordiners in 1677. The Cordiners or 'Cordovers' were group of artisans who used leather from Cordova in Spain. In the 16th century, there were eight craft incorporations of the Canongate, distinct from those of Edinburgh. The earliest, the hammermen or metalworkers, were established in 1540. The Cordiners followed in 1554, and tailors later in the same year.

The pedimented cartouche, dated 1677, depicts the Cordiners' emblem, the shoemaker's knife, flanked by cherubs'' heads and an open book inscribed 'Behold how good a thing it is and how becoming well, Together such as brethren are in unity to dwell' taken from Psalm 133.

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 updated at resurvey (2007/08).

Statutory address updated (2015). Previously listed as '183-187 (odd nos) Canongate, 'Bible Land'.



Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland: CANMORE ID 52359

John Gifford et al, Buildings of Scotland - Edinburgh, (1991) p212.

Charles McKean, Edinburgh - An Illustrated Architectural Guide (1992) p29.

Dictionary of Scottish Architects, (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.

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Southeast elevation, Bible Land, 183-187 (Odd Numbers) Canongate, Edinburgh

Printed: 04/10/2023 03:58