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
Supplementary Information Updated
Local Authority
Planning Authority
NT 26193 74545
326193, 674545


W. H Playfair, designed 1821, building began circa 1823. Near-symmetrical, long classical palace-fronted range with shops to ground floor; 42-bay, 3-storey (attic floors to advanced pavilions) principal elevation; to SW elevation, 3-storey and attic, 5-bay quadrant corner with 2-storey tetrastyle in antic Roman Doric colonnade to 1st floor; to NW elevation, 3-storey and attic, 3-bay splay corner with 2-storey tetrastyle Ionic portico to 1st floor. Polished ashlar (predominantly painted to ground floor); predominantly coursed rubble with dressed margins to rear. Base course; dividing band between ground and 1st floor; cill cornice to 1st floor (excluding SW elevation); cill band to 2nd floor (principal elevation only); main cornice dividing 2nd and attic floor; eaves cornice (defaced to Nos. 4-8); blocking course. Predominantly regular fenestration to upper floors.

W (PRINCIPAL) ELEVATION: 5-bay advanced pavilions to outer left and right; to central pavilion, 3-bay advanced sections flanking 6-bay central section. To ground floor: to 1st and 10th bays from left, modern timber doors in original round-arched openings with teardrop and circle glazing pattern to stilted segmental fanlights; to 19th and 24th bays, modern timber doors in original round-arched openings with blocked segmental fanlights; to 32nd bay, modern timber door in original round-arched opening with segmental fanlight; to 36th bay, modern door in original round arched openings with replica teardrop glazing to fanlight, flanked to left (35th bay) and right (37th bay) by windows in original round arched openings with replica teardrop glazing to fanlight; windows to 38th and 40th bay, 2-leaf timber-panelled doors to 39th and 41st bay; timber-panelled door to 42nd bay, all in original round-arched openings with teardrop glazed segmental fanlights. To 16th, 17th and 18th bay from left to 1st floor, original fenestration pattern replaced by out of character single, large, quadripartite window.

NW ELEVATION: advanced 3-bay section to centre. To centre bay to ground floor, 2-leaf timber panelled door with large letterbox fanlight of 3 central panes bordered by narrow margin lights; windows flanking to left and right bays. To 1st floor, dividing bays, 4 giant Ionic columns supporting entablature with dentilled cornice and pediment above. To attic floor, pilaster-strips dividing bays; blind window to centre bay.

SW ELEVATION: slightly recessed curved elevation. To ground floor, round arched openings framing 2-leaf timber panelled door to centre bay, with windows flanking; all with teardrop glazed segmental fanlights; ornamental cast-iron grates below cills. Dividing bays to 1st floor, giant engaged Roman Doric columns, flanked to outer left and right by antae, supporting entablature with modillioned cornice. Pilaster-strips dividing bays to attic floor; blind window to 2nd bay from left.

REAR ELEVATION: 2 narrow semi-curved receding sections to far left.

GLAZING etc: to ground floor: predominantly out of character modern plate glass; to NW elevation, SW elevation and right pavilion of W elevation, 16-lying-pane glazing bordered by narrow margin lights. To upper floors, predominantly 12-pane glazing in timber sash and case windows; plate glass in timber sash and case windows to 2nd to 10th (inclusive) bays to W elevation, to 16th to 18th bays (2nd floor) inclusive to W elevation, to 20th and 21st bays to W elevation, to 25th to 27th (inclusive) bays (2nd floor only) to W elevation, and to 33rd to 37th (inclusive) bays to W elevation; 6-pane glazing to top sash and plate glass to bottom sash to 1st floor to 28th to 31st (inclusive) bays to W elevation; 4-pane glazing in timber sash and case windows to 1st floor to 11th to 15th (inclusive) bays. To attic floor, predominantly 8-lying-pane glazing in timber sash and case windows (predominantly 12-pane glazing in timber sash and case to rear). Double-pitched roof with some piended sections to pavilions; graded grey slates; stone skews and skewputts. To N pavilion, 1 mutual ridge stack to far left, 1 ridge stack to centre, 1 wallhead stack to right; all corniced ashlar preceded by 3 linked individual octagonal flues. To 3-storey sections, 1 corniced rendered ridge stack to front elevation, 1 corniced rendered ridge stack to rear elevation, 2 corniced wallhead stacks (brick to N section, rendered to S section) to rear. To central pavilion, corniced, partly rendered wallhead stacks to far left and far right; 3 corniced, predominantly rendered ridge stacks to centre. To S pavilion, 1 mutual ridge stack to far right, 1 ridge stack to centre, 1 wallhead stack to left; all corniced ashlar preceded by 3 linked individual octagonal flues. Circular cans to all stacks.

INTERIOR: to ground floor of No 11 Elm Row, front room subdivided by screen of 2 Ionic columns; round-arched opening (leading to back room) with architraved doorpiece featuring ornate mouldings and raised keystone with eagle motif; egg and dart ceiling cornice; plaster ceiling border.

Statement of Special Interest

Part of the Calton A-Group.

The block comprising 1-23 Elm Row and 2 Montgomery Street forms part of Playfair's Eastern New Town (or Calton) scheme, and as such is an important example of the work of one of Scotland's leading early 19th century architects. Playfair was one of the major driving forces of the Greek Revival in Edinburgh at this time, and his public commissions such as the National Monument, the Royal Institution and the National Gallery (see separate listings) gave strength to Edinburgh's reputation as the Athens of the North. The Calton Scheme was one of his few domestic commissions, and the variety of designs, different for each street, demonstrates Playfair's expertise with the Grecian style and his characteristic punctilious attention to detail.

The impressive curved Roman Doric quadrant at the SW corner of Elm Row, in conjunction with its Ionic counterpart on the other side of the road at Blenheim Place, forms one of the architectural set-pieces of Playfair's Calton scheme, set on a commanding corner site framing the Eastern exit and entry to the city via the then newly built London Road. The northern approach road, Leith Walk, is addressed by the long palace-fronted W range which is terminated at the NW end by the imposing splay corner with Ionic portico (Playfair originally intended that this should be balanced by a Doric portico on the other side of Montgomery Street, but this was never built). The block comprising 1-23 Elm Row and 2 Montgomery Street is important for its streetscape value, as an example of the work of one of Scotland's leading early 19th century architects, and as a significant element of the Eastern New Town scheme.

Designed and built as high quality private housing with shops to ground floor, the majority of the block retains its original uses. The ground floor originally featured an arcade of round arched openings, but only those at the S end survive. In 1875, Thomas Cochrane, Wine and Spirit Merchant, commissioned McGibbon and Ross to draw up designs for forming an internal door between 23 Elm Row and 2 Montgomery Street

The origins of the Eastern New Town, which was to occupy the east end of Calton Hill and lands to the north of it on the ground between Easter Road and Leith Walk, lie in a 'joint plan for building' which three principal feuars (Heriot's Hospital, Trinity Hospital and Mr Allan of Hillside) entered into in 1811. In 1812 a competition was advertised for plans for laying out the grounds in question. Thirty-two plans were received, displayed and reported on by a variety of people, including eight architects. Eventually, it was decided that none of the plans was suitable. However, it was a more general report by William Stark (who died shortly after submitting it) which caught the attention of the Commissioners and formed the basis of the final scheme. Stark's central argument stressed the importance of planning around the natural contours and features of the land rather than imposing formal, symmetrical street plans upon it. After several years of little or no progress, in 1818 the Commissioners finally selected William Henry Playfair, Stark's former pupil, to plan a scheme following his master's Picturesque ideals.

The resulting scheme, presented to the Commissioners in 1819, preserved the view of and from Calton Hill by the creation of a limited, triangular development of three single-sided terraces on the hill itself. These looked over a huge radial street pattern, centred on the gardens of Hillside Crescent, on the land to the north. The feuing of these lower lands started well, with Elm Row, Leopold Place, Windsor Street and the west side of Hillside Crescent being built fairly swiftly. However, demand for the feus faltered severely, due to the growing popularity of new properties being built to the west of the New Town. The fate of the Calton scheme was sealed in 1838, when it was decided that feuars should pay poor-rates to both Edinburgh and Leith. This virtually halted development for the next thirty years. The result of all these problems was that very little of Playfair's original scheme was ever built. When building resumed in the 1880s, some of Playfair's original street lines were adhered to, as was the case with Hillside Crescent, and in others such as Brunton Place, Brunswick Street, Hillside Street (originally to be a longer street called Hopeton Street), and Wellington Street (also curtailed). However, due to piecemeal residential, industrial and transport developments immediately to the north, it would have been impossible to further follow Playfair's original layout, even if this had been considered desirable.

Elm Row was named after the double row of elm trees which once extended 600 feet down Leith Walk. The retention of these trees was strongly advocated by Stark in his Report, contrary to the previous competition entries, which had all proposed the removal of the trees. Playfair's plan retained the trees, but they have subsequently been removed.



OS Map, 1853, 1877. MINUTES OF MEETINGS OF THE COMMITTEE FOR FEUING THE GROUNDS OF CALTON HILL 1811-1822, Edinburgh City Council Archives. W H Playfair, DRAWINGS, Edinburgh University Library, 1790-1857. Edinburgh City Archives, Dean of Guild: 19th March 1875; 22nd September 1881 (relating to new shopfront at No 14); 1st March 1888 (relating to alterations to 5 Elm Row); 5th March 1890 (relating to alterations to 2 and 3 Elm Row); 18th May 1893 (relating to alterations to 7 Elm Row); 22nd March 1894 (relating to alterations to 12 Elm Row); 20th June 1895 (relating to interior alterations to 8 Elm Row); 3rd June 1897 (alterations relating to 19 Elm Row); 16th March 1899 (relating to alterations to 20 and 21 Elm Row; 28th June 1900 (relating to alterations to 6 Elm Row); 14th January 1904 (relating to alterations to 14 Elm Row); 20th July 1905 (relating to subdivision of houses at 10 Elm Row); 14th July 1904 (relating to lowering of a floor at 23 Elm Row); 3rd September 1907 (relating to new shopfront at 18 Elm Row); 7th April 1910 (relating to alterations to form a shop); 14th July 1904 (relating to lowering of a floor at 2 and 4 Montgomery Street); 13th March 1927 (relating to a new shopfront at 12 Elm Row); 7th November 1930 (relating to alterations at 3 Elm Row); 2nd December 1932 (conversion of warehouse to shop and 2 houses at 4 and 6 Elm Row); 10 September 1936 (relating to alterations to shopfront at 14 Elm Row); 14th October 1938 (relating to new shopfront and alteration to 18 Elm Row); 14th July 1941 (relating to subdivision of dwelling house); 17th February 1967 (changes to shopfront to 15 Elm Row); 26th May 1967 and 29th March 1968 (alterations and change of use at 4 Elm Row); 8th December 1967 (alterations to 12 Elm Row). A J Youngson, THE MAKING OF CLASSICAL EDINBURGH, (1966) pp148-156. I Lindsay, GEORGIAN EDINBURGH, (1973) pp54-55. Gifford, McWilliam and Walker, EDINBURGH, (1994), p447. H Colvin, DICTIONARY OF BRITISH ARCHITECTS, (1995), p766. J Lowrey, THE URBAN DESIGN OF EDINBURGH'S CALTON HILL in THE NEW TOWN PHENOMENON - ST ANDREWS STUDIES IN THE HISTORY OF SCOTTISH DESIGN AND ARCHITECTURE AND DESIGN, (2000), pp1-12. RCAHMS Collections.

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Printed: 23/05/2018 15:24