1622, restored and rebuilt, George Shaw Aitken, 1896-7. Asymmetrical 3-storey and attic house (now museum) with 17th century Scottish details; ball-finialled bell-cast-roof to engaged octagonal corner stair-tower to SE. Random rubble with ashlar dressings. Broad bracketed eaves. Long and short quoins.
S ELEVATION: 2 windows to ground, 1st and 2nd floors to centre: glazed door to bracketed balcony with decorative wrought-iron railings to 3rd floor. Corbelled out above 1st floor to left (chamfered corner); carved panel (see Notes) below hoodmoulded 3rd floor window; initials (SR) thistles and roses and coronet in semicircular panels to finialed gable.
OCTAGONAL CORNER TOWER TO SE: 2-leaf studded timber boarded door with decorative iron hinges in roll-moulded surround; carved lintel (see Notes); small window lighting stair above; corbelled out at 3rd floor; string course and small moulded cornice over timber boarded door in chamfered surround to moulded semicircular stone-balustraded balcony, flanked by small windows. Irregular windows lighting stair to NE.
E ELEVATION: 4 paired windows with wrought-iron grilles to ground floor. Vertically arranged tripartite gabled windows (lighting double height hall) in left and centre bays (pediment of that to left engaged in tower). Tall shouldered wallhead stacks in 2nd bay from left and to right. Segmental-arched carved panel (see Notes) in 2nd bay from left. 2 windowed gable to right; small window in ashlar gablet to outer right. 3 dormers in roof.
S ELEVATION: single crowstepped gabled bay. Segmental-arched window to ground; mullioned bipartite to 1st floor; quadrapartite windows set back behind decorative wrought-iron railings to 3rd and 4th floors, in segmental-arched opening to 3rd, round-arched to 4th floors.
W ELEVATION: lead-roofed rubble lean-to at ground with door in ashlar surround to S. paired small windows and corbelled out finialled gable above; canted bay to left (link to NE block of James Court) with small-pane glazed timber windows to 3rd floor. Decorative brattishing to roof.
INTERIOR: turnpike stair with impressed initials (SR), thistles and roses. False ceiling conceals vaulted cellar. Decorative carved timber pedimented architrave to door at 1st floor. Double height hall: tall windows with timber shutters; curved timber gallery to W with decorative timber balustrade; timber-compartmented ceiling with carved initials, thistles, roses and holly; wrought-iron chandelier; original chimneypiece (stone canopy restored by Shaw) with moulded jambs and columns with swept pedestals and capitals. 18th century chimneypiece in N room to 1st floor.
Predominantly 12-pane glazing in timber sash and case windows. Graded greenish slates; terracotta ridge tiles. Grey cast-iron down pipes with initials (SR) on hoppers. Corniced ashlar wallhead stacks with tall circular cans.
Statement of Special Interest
Built for Sir Walter Gray of Pittendrum in 1622. Lintel over door dated 1622 and inscribed FEARE THE LORD AND DEPART FROM EVILL, with the initials WG and GS, for William Gray and Geida (or Egidia) Smith, his wife. Previously known as Lady Gray's House. The house was acquired in 1719 by Elizabeth, Dowager Countess of Stair. Acquired in 1895 by the Earl of Rosebery, a descendant of the original owner, at the instigation of Patrick Geddes; restored by him (Dean of Guild plans show the extent of re-building) and presented to the City for use as a museum in 1907. Carved panel with clasped hands to SW dated 1622 and 1897; carved panel to E dated 1622 and 1897 with initials (SR) and arms of Lord Rosebery, reads 'Lady Stair's House erected in the year 1622, restored by Lord Rosebery in the year 1897.' 18th century additions to W, N and S demolished (at City's insistence). Illustrated in its previous condition and 'in the process of alteration' by Bruce Home in OLD HOUSES IN EDINBURGH. The lower part of the tower, including the door and lintel, and the general form of the wallhead stacks and gabled dormers to E are original. Now houses Writers' Museum, commemorating principally the work of Burns, Scott and Stevenson. There is also a watercolour of the interior by Shaw.