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

University of Edinburgh, St John’s Land, 176-184 (Even Numbers) Canongate, EdinburghLB28451

Status: Designated


There are no additional online documents for this record.


Date Added
Last Date Amended
Local Authority
Planning Authority
NT 26338 73732
326338, 673732


1755. (Reconstructed, 1955, Gordon and Dey, see Notes). 4-storey, 10-bay rectangular-plan tenement block with armorial panel above large basket-arched pend to right of centre. Random rubble with sandstone ashlar dressings. Corniced eaves course. Architraved windows with long and short margins. Bays 3-7 from left united by single architrave to 1st and 2nd floor windows with ashlar panels between and scrolled open pediments in relief. Wider set fenestration to bays above and to right of pend. Rear courtyard (S) elevation: 3-bay with full-height turn-pike stair tower to left. Later, bipartite window at each floor to right. Canted bay to outer right.

INTERIOR: extensively modernised (1956) to provide accommodation and facilities for Moray House Institute of Education including classrooms, staff studies and proscenium theatre (seen at resurvey - 2007).

Predominantly 12-pane timber sash and case windows. Scottish slate. Cast-iron rainwater goods.

Statement of Special Interest

A mid 18th century tenement block that retains its traditional character. No 176-184 is distinguished by its particularly generous pend to St John's Street and its simple, unobtrusive detailing. The Canongate area of Edinburgh has a particularly rich history of tenement building, of which No 176-184 is a valuable component.

The building underwent extensive reconstruction in 1955 by the architectural partnership of Gordon and Dey, following similar conservation principals to those championed by Robert Hurd (see below). Originally constructed by the Earls of Hopetoun, who built Hopetoun House, the building is currently known as St John's Land, taking its name from St John Street (and the associated Order of St John In Scotland) to the S. It was acquired by Moray House Institute of Education in 1956 and is now part of the University of Edinburgh.

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 'toft's'. 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 '176-184 (even nos) Canongate St John's Land'.



Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland: CANMORE ID 132684

E J MacRae, The Royal Mile (1962) p41.

John Gifford et al, Buildings of Scotland - Edinburgh, (1991) p213.

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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North elevation, University of Edinburgh, St John’s Land, 176-184 (Even Numbers) Canongate, Edinburgh

Printed: 04/10/2023 04:11