John Lessels, 1860-1867, incorporating smaller mansion circa 1780. 3-storey and attic, L-plan Baronial mansion. 3-bay original house with single storey extension (circa 1820) to S; 1860-1867 additions including advanced, 3-stage cap-housed tower, new wing and single storey service wing to N; extension to SE by Gordon, Duncan and Somerville (1979). Stugged cream sandstone ashlar to principal elevation and single storey wing; stugged, squared and snecked sandstone to modern extension; rubble to sides and rear of original 18th century house and to 1820 wing. Circular bartizans; cable moulding and cherub friezes to corbels;
3 small single windows with cable moulded architraves; heraldic carving to eaves course; cast-iron finials to conical roofs.
MAIN BLOCK: (original 18th century house).
W (ENTRANCE) ELEVATION: base course; carved biblical inscription and cornice to entablature of 1st floor windows; cable moulding to architraves and heraldic carving to pediments to 2nd floor windows; eaves course; cornice. Central, advanced doorway; 2-leaf panelled door; doric columns and pilasters, cornice and heraldic panel to doorpiece; 3-light, corniced, canted window to 1st floor above; single window to 2nd floor above with bracketed cill and carved scrolls to architrave. 3-light canted window to ground floor outer right; single window to 1st floor above with consoled cornice to architrave; single window to 2nd floor above. Tripartite window to ground floor outer left; single window above with consoled cornice to architrave; single window to 2nd floor above. Bartizan to 2nd floor at SW angle.
S ELEVATION: 2-bay with single storey wing adjoining to E (see below); crowstepped gable; single windows to both bays to all floors; 2 smaller windows with decorative cast-iron window guards to attic; bartizan to 2nd floor at E angle.
TOWER: strip quoins; corbelled, castellated parapet with bartizans to 3 angles.
W ELEVATION: advanced bipartite window at ground; cornice and finely carved heraldic panel above; band course between ground and 1st floors; bipartite window to 1st floor with carved panel above corniced architrave; single architraved window above with bracketed cill, corbelled cornice and broken pediment. Bartizans to SW and NW angles; crow-step gables and pedimented window to cap house above parapet.
N ELEVATION: 2-bay; lean-to extension to ground floor with tripartite window to outer right; heraldic panel and pediment above; flanking skewputts; single windows to 1st and 2nd floors above with carved panels to corniced architraves; single pedimented window in lean-to to ground floor outer left; single architraved windows to 1st and 2nd floors above with carved panels and cornices; central carved panel depicting shield between bays and 1st and 2nd floors; bartizans to E and W angles.
NEW (1860-1867) WING: adjoining and advanced from N elevation of tower; 2-storey and attic, 2-bay; bipartite doorway to ground floor outer right; single window to 1st floor above with carved stone balcony and broken pediment; carved panel above single window to attic and to crowstepped gable above; single windows to ground floor outer left and to 1st floor above; single attic window with decoratively carved pediment breaking eaves; simple, square bartizan to E angle. Linking block to service wing to E.
SERVICE WING: L-plan, single storey wing adjoining new wing and modern extension to N.
W ELEVATION: 2 crowstepped gables flanking 2-bay linking block; octagonal laundry at N angle; conical roof swept at eaves with original vents and cast-iron finial.
E ELEVATION: advanced block to outer right with crowstepped gables; 5-bay linking block to left with central crowstepped gable and single windows with pediments breaking eaves; box dormers.
SINGLE STOREY WING (1820) TO S: 3-bay, bowed extension to original house.
MODERN (1979) EXTENSION: on site of Lessel's conservatory adjoining to E; single storey and attic; 3-bay to S with advanced 2-bay block to outer right with crowstepped gable; 6-bay to E elevation adjoining service wing.
Variety of small-paned, timber, sash and case windows. Grey slate pitched roofs; corniced wallhead stacks.
INTERIOR: fine interior with many original features remaining. Entrance via vestibule leading to STAIR HALL: polished stone dog-leg staircase to left with ornate wrought brasswork supporting handrail. 2 rooms to right of stair HALL: the RED ROOM , 1882, (now used as a study room) by Alexander Dingwall and John Haddon of Bonnar and Carfrae with a dramatic colour scheme in red, gold, black, white and olive green; ebony fittings and red velvet panels, both with gold leaf beading; carved classical figures to ebony overdoor; carved, black marble fireplace with decorative tiles to hearth; intricate papier mache cornice with classical male heads at corners of the room and between panels; ceiling decorated at each corner with elaborate Rococo design in gold. To the N of the Red Room, the DRAWING ROOM (now a music room), possibly of 1861, by Thomas Bonnar; bowed to S; oak skirtings, panelled doors and corbelled doorpieces; carved white marble, round-arched fireplace with pulvinated frieze and keystone; large mirror above; further full-height mirror to W wall; gilt beading to light green plasterwork panels; ceiling decorated with clouds, cherubs, flower vases, female classical heads and classical plaque in grisaille. BILLIARD ROOM to E of stair hall; top-lit with elaborately carved oak fittings; paired strapwork pilasters; recessed, panelled cue cupboard to W wall; white marble fireplace with decorative tiling within; strapwork pilasters and heraldic motifs to carved oak fire-surround; tripartite mirror to overmantle; egg and dart frieze and heraldic panels to cornice; carved wood panels to ceiling.
STUDENT BEDROOMS: some panelled corridors and doors; finely carved fireplaces with mirrored overmantles; beams with simple carved design.
BOUNDARY WALL: high rubble boundary wall surrounding estate.
Statement of Special Interest
Original house built by the merchant Alexander Scott and bought by the Dick Cunninghams of Prestonfield from whom William Nelson (son of Thomas Nelson, publisher) acquired it in 1860. The Nelsons owned the Parkside publishing works (on the Dalkeith Road/Holyrood Park Road site currently occupied by Scottish Widows) which was also designed by John Lessels. The decoration for the music room, often attributed to Charles Frechou, is in the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland collection of Thomas Bonnar's designs.
In 1869 Thomas Nelson built St Leonards House while his brother owned the adjacent estate of Salisbury Green. The combined estates were sold to Sir Donald Pollock, who gifted the land to Edinburgh University. Between the wars Salisbury Green was bought by Sir Donald Pollock who gave it to the University of Edinburgh for use as a student residence.
John Lessels (1809 – 1883) was a Kirkcaldy born architect who practised in Edinburgh from 1846 and was appointed joint architect to the City Improvement Trust in 1866. By the early 1860s, Lessels had gained the patronage of Nelsons the publishers for whom he designed the extension to Salisbury Green and St Leonards Hall, Holyrood Park Road in 1869.
The original eighteenth century mansion house is visible on Kirkwood's map of 1817. The mansion as extended by John Lessels appears on Edinburgh OS 1876.
Listed building record and statutory address updated (2015). Previously listed as 'Dalkeith Road, Salisbury Green including boundary walls'
Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland: http://www.rcahms.gov.uk/canmore.html CANMORE ID 121405
Kirkwood, R. (1817) This plan of the city of Edinburgh, Edinburgh: R. Kirkwood and Son.
Ordnance Survey (Surveyed 1877, published 1878-81) Large scale Scottish town plans, Town Plan of Edinburgh (south east part). London: Ordnance Survey.
NMRS Jubilee Collection ref no. XSD/5000/34/24A.
Simpson, A. L. (1876) In Memoriam: Thomas Bonnar.
Wilson William Nelson: A Memoir (1887; published privately for Nelson's family and friends), pp.121-136.
Paton, H. M. (1942) Lands of St Leonard's in Book Of The Old Edinburgh Club, Vol 24, pp. 233-234.
Crossland, J. B. (1992) John Lessels, Edinburgh Tatler, 11 May 1964.
Gow, I. (1988) "The Finest Room in Scotland: Thomas Bonnar's Decoration of the Drawing Room for Newbattle Abbey" Scottish Society For Art History Yearbook.
Gifford, J. McWilliam, C. and Walker, D. (1988) The Buildings of Scotland: Edinburgh. London: Penguin Books, p. 637.
Dictionary of Scottish Architects, John Lessels, http://www.scottisharchitects.org.uk/architect_full.php?id=200066 [accessed 10 March 2015].
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