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- Category: A
- Group Category Details: A
- See Notes
- Date Added: 14/10/1970
- Local Authority: Edinburgh
- Planning Authority: Edinburgh
- Burgh: Edinburgh
National Grid Reference
- NGR: NT 26466 73759
- Coordinates: 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.
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