Listed Building

The legal part of the listing is the address/name of site only. All other information in the record is not statutory.


Status: Designated


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Group Category Details
100000019 - See Notes
Date Added
Local Authority
Planning Authority
NT 26466 73759
326466, 673759


1633-4. Restored 1936-7 by Neil and Hurd (see Notes). Interesting and important, 3-storey and attic, L-plan townhouse with forecourts to Canongate and Bakehouse Close screened by high walls. Rubble with chamfered sandstone dressings, crow-stepped gables, pedimented and finialed dormer windows breaking eaves, irregular fenestration and carved details.

FURTHER DESCRIPTION: N ELEVATION (Canongate): 3-bay with central wall-head gable. Timber door with panel above to left. Timber balcony at 1st floor right adjoining wall of Huntley House, No 142 Canongate (see separate listing). W ELEVATION (Bakehouse Close): deeply moulded cill course at 1st floor. Studded timber door to NE angle with heavy roll-moulded architrave, broken pediment above dated 1633 with Acheson family crest and cypher. Further studded timber door opposite. Thistle and rose-finialled pediments with carved monograms. Walled L-plan courtyard with 2-leaf timber door to screenwall. Garden to rear with studded timber door and moulded surround to Bakehouse Close.

Variety of multi-pane timber sash and case windows. Steep pitch with thick, grey Scottish stone slate (nail-rot in evidence - 2007). Coped, gable stacks with moulded detailing. Clay cans. Predominantly cast-iron rainwater goods.

INTERIOR: Ground floor with timber-beamed ceiling and large stone fireplace in former dining room. Curving stone stair with wrought-iron banister and acorn newel post to ground floor; timber stair (circa 1938) rising through all upper floors. Numerous large fireplaces, some with moulded lintels; smaller fireplaces to upper levels and attic rooms. 1st floor: moulded plasterwork ceiling with rose and thistle motif to former dining room. 2nd floor: 1938 scheme with timber panelled room with timber fire-surround, timber panelled ceiling with carved central crossed sword and sceptre motif surrounded by four crowns; further ceiling with painted foliate motif also part of 1938 restoration work. Studded timber doors to ground floor rooms of an early date, some with original wrought-iron latches.

Statement of Special Interest

Part of an 'A Group' comprising Canongate Parish Church; Canongate Tolbooth; 167-169 Canongate; 142-146 Canongate, Huntly House; 140 Canongate, Acheson House and the Canongate Burgh Cross which together form the historic core of the former Canongate Burgh (see separate listings).

An outstanding example of a large, early 17th century Scottish townhouse. Encompassing many layers of historic fabric, Acheson occupies a sheltered and secluded position on Edinburgh's Canongate behind a walled forecourt, signifying its status by distancing itself from the throng of the main thoroughfare. Of particular note are the enclosed courtyard plan and the variety of finely carved architraves and mouldings that adorn the exterior. Its later, 1930s interior alterations are also of considerable interest for their date and association. The Canongate's rich and varied survival of early town and mansionhouses as a whole add immeasurably to the built enviroment of this key area of the city.

Built for Charles I's Sectretary of State for Scotland, Sir Archibald Acheson and his wife, Dame Margaret Hamilton in 1633-4, in later years it was divided for use as a tenement during the 18th century, and by the early 19th century was used as a brothel. It was comprehensively restored in 1937 by Robert Hurd for the 4th Marquess of Bute, both key figures in the 20th century conservation movement in Scotland, responsible for the restoration of Gladstone's Land, Lamb's House and 5-7 Charlottes Square (see separate listings). Numerous interior alterations include quality timber ceiling work and ironwork. Many original exterior details survive, adding greatly to its special interest. The pediment above the stair-tower door bears the date 1633 and the Acheson family crest of a cock and trumpet. The former principle entrance was accessed through a forecourt screened by high walls to Bakehouse Close. The Canongate gateway was formerly located in Anchor Close. The inscription above door reads 'O Lord In Thee Is All My Traist'. On the west side of the house The Bakehouse Close gateway, with its heavily moulded lintel, belonged to Elphinstone House (Carberry Tower) in 1927 and was transferred in 1938 as part of the restoration work. The move is noted in a commemorative plaque beside the entrance. The crowstepped gable of the stair-tower is also a conjectural completion of the original architect's unexecuted design. Prior to 1937 it was a catslide roof. The building is currently unoccupied although plans (2007) are at an advanced stage to integrate the building with the adjacent Huntley House museum at No 142 Canongate (see separate listing).

List description revised as part of Edinburgh Holyrood Ward resurvey, 2008.



Robert Hurd, A History of Acheson House (1952). John Gifford et al, Buildings of Scotland - Edinburgh, (1991) p215. Charles McKean, Edinburgh - An Illustrated Architectural Guide (1992) p30.

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 statutory listing address is the legal part of the listing. 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.

Listing covers both the exterior and the interior. Listing can cover structures not mentioned 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. For information about curtilage see 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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