Circa 1625 with later additions (see Notes). Outstanding, 2-storey, mansion house with gabled 1st floor balcony supported by massive carved corbels and 3 large windows with moulded margins above, each with strapwork pediment. Exposed rubble with ashlar dressings to principal (N) elevation; harled elsewhere. 9-bay wing (circa 1647) adjoining to E. Further 3-storey, 5-bay block (1753-4) to S. Tall pyramidal gatepiers and crowstep-gabled lodge adjoin to W. Pantiled summerhouse located at SE corner of former garden of Moray House (see Notes).
FURTHER DESCRIPTION: N ELEVATION: Corbelled balcony with wrought-iron railings; string course below; rose finial to gable apex. E-wing with moulded cill courses, stepped at ground floor. Pedimented windows to rear S gable; fleur-de-lys finial at apex. Semi-octagonal stair tower to W elevation.
INTERIOR: first floor balcony room to N contains a domed plaster ceiling with pediments, strapwork compartments and low relief panels containing numerous organic and mythological motifs. 'Cromwell Room to S has fine painted timber panelling with allegorical scenes. Further domed plaster ceiling divided into quadrants by four large ribs ending in plain saucer dome; white marble fireplace; decorative carved and beaded doorframes. Head of turn-pike stair to W with turned timber balustrade and wooden newel post rising to saucer shaped plaster ceiling containing 21 panels with range of similar motifs.
Predominantly muti-pane timber sash and case windows. Scottish slate. Ashlar skews. Two stacks to W elevation of main block each with pair of tall, diamond-set chimneys. Diamond-set ridge and end stacks to E wing. End stacks to rear block. Cast-iron rainwater goods.
GATES AND GATEPIERS: late 17th century. Pair of substantial clustered-shaft piers, each crowned with a massive, elongated needle spire finial. Wrought-iron gates with decorative iron arch above.
PORTER S LODGE: Crowstepped, 19th century gate lodge, perhaps containing 17th or 18th century fabric. Round-arched doorway to street. Roll-moulded doorways elsewhere. Mansarded to rear section with end stack. Slate roof. Timber sash and case windows.
SUMMERHOUSE: Diminutive, single-storey, rectangular-plan, piend-roofed summerhouse situated at SE corner of former Moray House garden (NT 26459 73657). Coursed rubble with voussoired round-arched openings. Red pantiles. (Heraldic beasts, formerly located at roof corners, currently stored within summerhouse - seen 2007).
Statement of Special Interest
Moray House is perhaps the finest survival of a 17th century aristocratic mansion house in the Canongate. It is particularly notable for its distinctive corbelled balcony and superior 17th century Rennaissance plaster ceilings. Its imposing obelisk gatepiers also add considerable interest to the streetscape.
A seventeenth century drawing suggests that the original house was in the form of a complete quadrangle of four wings enclosing a central courtyard. Moray House was built, possibly by William Wallace (see Imrie and Dunbar, Accounts Of The Master Of Works, Vol II) for Mary, Dowager Countess of Home and then passed to her daughter the Countess of Moray in 1643. The monogram and arms of the Countess are carved within the pediment above the centre window to the S gable end. Coats of Arms featuring the lions of Home and Dudley are incorporated into the strapwork pediment above the N gable windows. The S gable originally mirrored the N elevation with a similar corbelled balcony.
The British Linen Bank were tenants between 1753 and 1790 at which time the S wing was added. Lord Kames, the renowned Scottish lawyer, philosopher and agriculturalist, was also a tenant of the South Wing during this period. Sold in 1845 to the North British Railway Company, the extra windows and lowered cills to the E wing (Canongate elevation) date from its use as a Free Church Normal School from 1849.
The building is currently part of the University of Edinburgh's Education department, connected, via ground floor link, to Thomson's Land to the S.
Moray House retains fine plasterwork ceilings in the Cromwell Room, Balcony Room and within the original 17th century spiral stairwell. The plasterwork ceilings share a number of ornamental motifs in common with those in Pinkie House, Musselburgh (1613), and Winton House, East Lothian (1630s). Of the more complex motifs, the goddess surrounded by a variety of flowers and fruits is also embedded in the ceiling of the summer house.
Moray House formerly occupied a large parcel of land stretching Southwards to Holyrood Road where its small summer house with round-arched-openings stands (although it has been suggested that it has been moved slightly from its original location and . The summer house is traditionally known as the place where the Articles of the Union of the Scottish and English Parliaments were finally agreed.
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.
Part of A-group with Moray House garden gateway (HB 28450) (see separate listing).
List description updated at resurvey (2007/08).
Statutory address updated (2015). Previously listed as '174 Canongate, Moray House including gates, gatepiers, porters lodge and summerhouse'.
Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland: http://www.rcahms.gov.uk/canmore.html CANMORE ID 52312
T MacGibbon and D Ross, The Castellated and Domestic Architecture of Scotland from the Twelfth to the Eighteenth Centuries (1887-92) 5v.
J M Wallace, The Historic Houses of Edinburgh, (1987) p27-9.
John Gifford et al, Buildings of Scotland - Edinburgh, (1991) p213.
Charles McKean, Edinburgh - An Illustrated Architectural Guide (1992) p29.
Dictionary of Scottish Architects, www.scottisharchitects.org.uk (accessed 10.05.2007)
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Printed: 15/09/2019 08:57