Skip to content
Print
Listed Building

The legal part of the listing is the address/name of site only. All other information in the record is not statutory.

16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 23a and b, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29 George Square, including boundary walls and railings and excluding the 2012 extension to the rear of number 24, EdinburghLB28810

Status: Designated

Documents

Where documents include maps, the use of this data is subject to terms and conditions.

Summary

Information

  • Category: A
  • Date Added: 14/12/1970
  • Last Date Amended: 13/06/2016

Location

  • Local Authority: Edinburgh
  • Planning Authority: Edinburgh
  • Burgh: Edinburgh

National Grid Reference

  • NGR: NT 25730 72945
  • Coordinates: 325730, 672945

Description

James Brown, 1767-1779. Numerous alterations and additions including enlargement of attic storeys with new dormers: William Smith and Sons, joiners, 1882 (mansard roof at numbers 16 and 17); James Bow Dunn 1890 (number 21); Arthur Colville & Co, builder, 1911 (number 18); James Jerdan 1896, dormers and oriel window at rear (number 20); Reginald Fairlie, 1912, extension at rear (number 26); University of Edinburgh Department of Works, 1953 internal alterations and additions to numbers 27 and 28. 4- and 5-storey, 3- and 4-bay, mainly rectangular plan classical style houses which form a terrace, (23a and b single storey and basement insertion 1779). The terrace is now a series of university departments, offices and houses. Numbers 16-22 squared snecked pink and cream Craigmillar rubble sandstone with blue whin pinnings; numbers 23, 23a and 23b, 24-27 coursed rubble with snecked ashlar dressings; numbers 28 and 29 Craigleith ashlar. Set on ground sloping north to south and forming the west side of George Square. Numbers 16-22 and 28 architraved doorpieces; numbers 23, 25-27 Roman Doric doorpieces; number 24 Ionic doorpiece; numbers 25-27 raised long and short quoins; number 29 arched openings at ground floor, plain doorpiece with elaborate fanlight; number 23a and b arched openings at ground floor with central Venetian window.

Mainly 12-pane glazing in timber sash and case windows with some large pane glazing. Tall corniced gable stacks with yellow clay cans.

Most interiors were seen in 2015. Many have been altered and connected internally but still retain elements of outstanding Georgian interior schemes, staircases with decorative iron balusters and timber handrails, marble and timber chimneypieces, panelled timber doors, fine decorative cornices and some timber dadoes as well as some good late 19th century elements.

Statement of Special Interest

Numbers 16-29 George Square designed by the architect James Brown in 1766 and built between that year and 1779 is an important surviving component of the square. George Square was the earliest, largest and most ambitious scheme of unified town planning attempted in Edinburgh to date. The classical details of the doorpieces and regulated style of windows give the terrace coherence although there is considerable variation in the materials used in construction and in the height of the terraces. The variation in height necessitated by the slope of the ground is balanced by a certain discipline imposed on them with groupings of houses of similar height and detail, 16-23, 24-25 and 27-29. The concept of terraces with individual houses designed for occupation by one family was relatively new in Edinburgh where tenement living had been the norm and proved an immediate success with the aristocracy and leading citizens. The alterations to this side of the square are mainly at attic level on the façades; at the rear the alterations are largely confined to enlargement of windows and extensions at ground level. Many

late 18th century interior features survive along with good quality later detailing. The terrace is also still an important element in the streetscape and the post-war university campus, which was expanded here from 1960 onward.

The importance of George Square lies in its pioneering design in the Scottish context. In England squares of houses had been built since the Great Fire of London, the first one to have a garden at its centre dating from the 1680s, while squares governed by sets of rules followed in the 1720s. Thereafter squares increased in number and scale both in England and Ireland and became an important feature of Georgian town planning from

the mid-18th century to early 19th century across Britain. Some small scale projects such as Brown Square also designed by James Brown and John Adam's Adam Square (both now demolished) had been built in the early 1760s in Edinburgh but George Square represents a milestone in the development of planning in Edinburgh because of its size and the coherence of its design.

The conception of James Brown's George Square probably predates James Craig's New Town plan by a number of months. The Town Council of Edinburgh resolved to set up a subcommittee to develop the New Town project and to advertise a competition for a plan in January 1766. In May of that year competition entries were received and the results became known in August. However by comparison the first occupant had moved into George Square during 1766 and scheme must therefore have been proposed some months before if not the previous year. Therefore George Square is significant because of its early date as well as the concept of its design and the scale of the project.

It has generally been assumed that during the course of development of the west side of George Square the use of rubble walls with whin pinnings gave way to more regular coursing and droved ashlar suggesting that building began at the north end of this terrace and moved southwards, in fact, this is not borne out by studying the dates at which the buildings were occupied. Although number 16 at the north end of the west side was occupied by 1767, number 29, James Brown's own house, which is of dressed

ashlar, was built and occupied by 1770, thus predating number 20 in the middle of the terrace by five years. Therefore there must have been an element of choice by the client: the early buildings are not all of rubble and later ones of dressed ashlar.

The individual houses in George Square mainly followed the standard Georgian pattern developed in London in the early 18th century, and used extensively by the older John Wood in Bath in the 1750s, three bays wide with the entrance door to one side. This pattern was to become the norm in houses in the New Town – for example in George Street, Heriot Row and Charlotte Square. It is possible that the pattern was introduced by James Brown into Scotland. The earliest houses built in the New Town – Thistle Court is thought to be the earliest or the houses in St Andrew Square which followed in the 1770s - do not use the three bay pattern and it is only slightly later that this was generally adopted. This adds to the significance of the surviving houses in George Square.

George Square was also a pioneer in the concept of a central semi-private garden area as opposed to many earlier British and Continental examples which had communal areas suitable for public gatherings and entertainments. James Brown clearly intended the gardens to be ornamental pleasure grounds, which were to be kept 'in good order and in an ornate manner' as indicated in his rules. It was not until 1813 that animals were removed from the railed off central area and gardens established. That year the proprietors organised for the Commissioners of George Square District to employ a person to prepare a plan and estimate the expense of laying out the ground after which John Hay, gardener, was employed to carry out the improvements. Robert Kirkwood's map of 1817 shows planting around the edges and around a central circular feature with paths leading to the four sides of the square.

Numbers 16-29 George Square have been altered at various different times and several have been connected internally to enable horizontal circulation. However some fine late 18th century details are still in place as well as some added in the 19th century. Number 16 has good surviving plasterwork in the hall and principal public rooms on the ground floor; number 17 has an apsidal end to the dining room at the front, possibly unique in the surviving terraces in the square. Number 18 has good Victorian plasterwork in the principal ground floor room. Number 27 has a particularly well detailed interior dating from the 18th century (for example in the staircase) with 19th century alterations (for example the insertion of the buffet niche in the former dining room at the rear).

James Brown (1729-1807) was the second son of a William Brown of Lindsaylands, a Commissioner of Supply. James Brown's older brother was George Brown, an army officer, who became the laird of Elliston and Lindsaylands on his father's death in 1757 and was Receiver-General of Excise in Scotland. The square was named after him. As the son of a landed gentleman, James Brown may have had a scholarly rather than a practical training. After developing Brown Square in the early 1760s, he purchased the lands of Ross House in 1761 and drew up plans for George Square and the surrounding area. Brown developed the areas around George Square in the 1780s and was involved in various projects such as the Riding School and the development of South Bridge. He was clearly held in considerable esteem by the city fathers as he was one of the trustees engaged to ensure that the Act of Parliament for building South Bridge and the wide range of improvements connected with this were carried out.

Statutory listing address and listed building record revised in 2016 as part of the University of Edinburgh Estates Listing Review 2015-16.

Previously listed separately as George Square 16 and 17 (LB28809); George Square 18 (LB28810); George Square 19 (LB47583); George Square 20 (LB47584) George Square 21 (LB28813); George Square 22 (LB28814); George Square 23 (LB28816); George Square 23a and 23b (LB28815); George Square 24 (LB28817); George Square 25 (LB28818); George Square 26 (LB28819); George Square 27 (LB28820); George Square 28 (LB28821); George Square 29 (LB28822).

References

Bibliography

CANMORE ID (http://canmore.org.uk): 117068 (Nos 16-17); 117069 (No

18); 117070 (No 19); 117071 (No 20); 117072 (No 21); 117073 (No 22);

117082 (No 23); 122535 (Nos 23a and 23b); 117081 (No 24); 117083 (No

25); 122667 (No 26); 122668 (No 27); 122669 (No 28); 122670 (No 29).

Maps

Ainslie, J (1780) Map of Central Edinburgh. Edinburgh: John Ainslie Ainslie, J (1804) Old and New Town of Edinburgh and Leith with proposed docks. Edinburgh: John Ainslie

Kirkwood, R (1817) This Plan of the City of Edinburgh and its Environs. Edinburgh: Kirkwood and Sons.

Archives

Edinburgh City Archives, Dean of Guild plans: nos 16 & 17, 13 April 1882 (for W Bowman Macleod); no 18, 16 March 1911 (for Dr Robert John Johnston); no 20, 7 May 1896 (for John Gibson); no 21, 3 April 1890 (for

Robert Anderson); no 26, 12 September 1912; nos 27 and 28 21 August 1953 (University of Edinburgh)

Newspapers

The Edinburgh Advertiser 6 March 1764

Caledonian Mercury 2 January 1771

Caledonian Mercury 5 February 1772

Caledonian Mercury 5 April 1773

Scots Magazine 1 June 1785

Printed sources

Arnot, H (1779) History of Edinburgh. Edinburgh and London: Printed for W Creech and J Murray.

Forman, S G (1947) The Future of an 18th Century Square: George Square, Edinburgh. Country Life, 10th October 1947, pp732-733

Tait, M and Gray, W G (1948) George Square, Annals of an Edinburgh Locality 1766-1926 from Authentic Records. Book of the Old Edinburgh Club XXVI (1946-47)

Youngson, A J (1966) The Making of Classical Edinburgh. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.

Fenton, C (2002) A Century of Change in George Square 1876-1976.

Book of the Old Edinburgh Club n.s. volume 5, pp35-81

Mowat, I R M (2002) Adam Square: an Edinburgh Architectural First.

Book of the Old Edinburgh Club n.s. volume 5, pp93-101

Kealy, L et al. (2006) The Georgian Squares of Dublin. Dublin: Four Courts Press

Websites

Dictionary of Scottish Architects http://www.scottisharchitects.org.uk/architect_full.php?id=404322 [accessed 1 September 2015]

http://www.londongardenstrust.org/history [accessed 1 September 2015]

About Designations

Listed Buildings

Listing is the way that a building or structure of special architectural or historic interest is recognised by law through the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) (Scotland) Act 1997.

We list buildings of special architectural or historic interest using the criteria published in the Historic Environment Scotland Policy Statement.

The statutory listing address is the legal part of the listing. The information in the listed building record gives an indication of the special architectural or historic interest of the listed building(s). It is not a definitive historical account or a complete description of the building(s). The format of the listed building record has changed over time. Earlier records may be brief and some information will not have been recorded.

Listing covers both the exterior and the interior. Listing can cover structures not mentioned which are part of the curtilage of the building, such as boundary walls, gates, gatepiers, ancillary buildings etc. The planning authority is responsible for advising on what is covered by the listing including the curtilage of a listed building. For information about curtilage see www.historicenvironment.scot. Since 1 October 2015 we have been able to exclude items from a listing. 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 Historic Environment Scotland Act 2014. 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 current legislation.

If you want to alter, extend or demolish a listed building you need to contact your planning authority to see if you need listed building consent. The planning authority is the main point of contact for all applications for listed building consent.

Find out more about listing and our other designations at www.historicenvironment.scot. You can contact us on 0131 668 8716 or at designations@hes.scot.

Images ()

16-23 George Square, exterior of front elevation of terraced row of houses on overcast day
24-29 George Square, exterior of front elevation of terraced row of houses on overcast day

Map

300016434 Public Portal Map

Printed: 11/12/2016 04:07