Circa 1630, 4-storey and attic High Street tenement with late 15th century core (see Notes). Circa 1530, long narrow 3-storey range to rear stepped to slope and bounded by Trunk's Close and Hope's Court. Circa 1910 shopfront (see Notes) to ground floor; forestair to left with prominent moulded and corniced early 19th century architrave; timber jettied and gabled attic outshot to left. Front and rear ranges random rubble-built (see Notes). Irregular fenestration; dressed margins, some raised; principal floors with relieving arches. Crowstepped E gable. Circa 1580 painted timber ceiling in principal chamber of rear range (see Notes).
S (HIGH STREET TENEMENT) ELEVATION: stop-chamfered roll-moulded surround to left at top of forestairs containing boarded and iron-studded oak door; 17th century panelled oak door to right with central rectangular carved armorial panel (possibly later addition), elaborate iron door furniture and spyhole. Large 1st and 2nd floor windows (relieving arches to centre and left paired windows); small irregular stair windows to left; lightly corbelled semi-dormer breaking eaves with lowered cill breaking string course. Attic bay with long, horizontal 6-part window (see Notes).
W AND E (HIGH STREET TENEMENT) ELEVATIONS: single-bay E elevation; triangular-pedimented wallhead dormer breaking eaves; crowstepped gable; early 20th century rendered connecting corridor. Heavily corbelled features to W at Trunk's Close; curve of stair visible in wall to pend; 2 blocked doorways.
W (REAR RANGE) ELEVATION: massive corbelling, stair treads visible; timber boarded door and window.
E (REAR RANGE) ELEVATION: lower, 16th century wing with segmental-arched doorway to left (replaced stone lintel); much larger blocked segmental arch to right. Regularly-spaced row of 5 windows above at 1st floor; 3 semi-dormers above.
N (REAR RANGE) ELEVATION: partially freestanding 17th century truncated crowstepped gable; segmental archway; blocked window openings above.
Timber sash and case multi-pane glazing. Grey slate roofs; corniced end stacks; clay cans. Cast-iron rainwater goods.
INTERIOR: 1st floor room to S with pine panelling and cornice to plain plastered ceiling; late 18th century timber chimneypiece; 2nd floor principal room to S with replica roll-moulded chimneypiece in E wall with Delft tiled slips, pine surround and overmantel, with flanking 17th century fluted pilasters with Ionic capitals (see Notes); second fireplace in N wall; mid 17th century plaster ceiling moulded with ribs and terms, floral motifs, cherubs' heads and a heraldic device of a cinquefoil flanked by a crescent and crown. Turnpike stair to attic level with deep window recesses; timber beamed ceilings and thickly plastered walls; timber panelled doors, window architraves and shutters; plain stone chimneypiece in rear room. Timber stair leading to full depth attic room: barrel-vaulted part-painted timber ceiling (part to S plain, replaced); deeply recessed window to rear left; advanced chimneybreast located in W gable wall with plain stone chimneypiece and Delft tiled hearth, Coalbrookdale stove within; mid 16th century oak linenfold panelled door to E. Steep timber stair behind narrow door to eaves space at SE: modern Velux window facing N; timber beams. Backland: 1st floor board and beam painted ceiling, circa 1580 (see Notes), restored 2010.
Statement of Special Interest
Moubray House is a rare and early survival of a tenement in one of the most historically significant streets in the country. It has important interior features which contribute to its special architectural and historic interest.
Andrew Moubray (created burgess 1451, died 1499) built the original house in 1477 and around 1530 his son, also called Andrew, a wright, built a new tenement at the rear of the site on the backland. The long, narrow form of the plot, bounded by Trunk's Close to the west and Hope's Court to the east, is typical of the medieval burgage plots distinctive of the Old Town in Edinburgh. The narrow but tall High Street frontage of Moubray House (the foreland) provided the only opportunity to allude to the status of the inhabitants and the present rubble-built frontage, dating from circa 1630, was originally harled. Evidence of this rendered surface can be seen in many illustrations and early photographs in Smith's text on the adjoining John Knox House (listed separately). The original 15th century frontage would have been constructed of timber galleries jettied out over the ground floor bay. Later rebuilding in stone brought the line of the building further forward into the High Street.
Moubray House is comparable with Gladstone's Land (listed separately) in the Lawnmarket in terms of period, construction and interior decoration (see Gifford et al pp195-6). These grand tenements located on the main thoroughfare of the city are rare survivals of their type, many of which were demolished during periods of improvement and rationalisation of building forms during the 18th and 19th centuries. Their interiors were richly decorated, reflecting the status of the owners.
The interior of Moubray House, although inevitably altered to a degree, contains a fine plastered ceiling in the principal chamber dating from circa 1630. A piece of plasterwork bearing this date and the arms of Pringle of Galashiels was found inserted above the north fireplace. MacGibbon and Ross provide an illustration of this room as it was in the late 19th century. The drawing shows that the room was once divided by a partition (since removed) and thus explains the location of a second smaller chimneypiece in the north wall. Gifford et al suggest the fluted timber pilasters flanking the fireplace on the east wall were placed here from the room below. The plaster ceiling displays imagery typical of the period, similar to that found on late 16th/early 17th century painted ceilings (such as in John Knox House and Gladstone's Land) including winged cherubs and terms, and always a plethora of exotic fruit and flowers. Traces of paint on the timber barrelled ceiling at attic level depict architectural motifs and fruit forms. On the ceiling in the principal chamber of the backland, behind the High Street shop and store, there is a painted ceiling dating from circa 1580. Decorated in the Scottish Renaissance style the room was originally divided into two, with contemporary but distinct decoration. The rooms have since been converted to one room and the ceiling, sensitively restored in 2010, comprises thirteen compartments divided by beams. The painted decoration includes scrollwork, human heads and trompe l'oeil work
Various illustrious associations with the house include that of the artist George Jamesone (1588-1644), known as the Scottish Rubens, who once lived and worked in the house. A metal plaque commemorating Jamesone, by Belle M Kingour, 1964, is at 1st floor level. In 1710, Daniel Defoe was editing the Edinburgh Courant from the building and the shop below was once the premises of the publisher Archibald Constable (1774-1827). The Cockburn Association acquired Moubray House in 1910 and the vaulted basement of the backland, converted by Benjamin Tindall Architects in 1990, is still occupied by them together with the Cockburn Conservation Trust. Also in 1910, the shopfront on the High Street was created by William Hay, later the longest-serving curator of John Knox House, for his 'Old Edinburgh Arts and Crafts' shop. This shopfront, which can be seen in an early 20th century photograph (NMRS Ref. C 67201) of Queen Mary visiting the premises, remains well-preserved today.
In the late 1970s a detailed survey of the jettied timber outshot was carried out by the National Monument Record Scotland and the architect Nicholas Groves-Raines. This revealed the original fenestration, in the form of 3 pairs of metal-hinged timber-panelled shutters, along the length of the gable. The outshot had been considerably altered in its later history and 19th century illustrations and photographs depict a large rectangular sash and case window with small-pane glazing to the centre with the surrounding wall rendered. The present timber structure by Groves-Raines is a re-interpretation of the original and adheres to the corresponding materials and forms.
List description updated 2012.