Listed Building

The only legal part of the listing is the address/name of site. Addresses and building names may have changed since the date of listing – see ‘About Listed Buildings’ below for more information.


Status: Designated


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Date Added
Supplementary Information Updated
Local Authority
Planning Authority
NT 25550 73603
325550, 673603


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.



Dean of Guild 9th July 1896. BUILDER 18th July 1896. Bruce J Home OLD HOUSES IN EDINBURGH (circa 1910). BOOK OF THE OLD EDINBURGH CLUB (1910) vol III pp 243-52. RCAHMS INVENTORY (1951) No 15 pp 78-80. Gifford, McWilliam and Walker EDINBURGH (1984) p 196-197.

About 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 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.

The only legal part of the listing is the address/name of site. Addresses and building names may have changed since the date of listing and if a number or name is missing from a listing address it may still be listed. Listing covers both the exterior and the interior and any object or structure fixed to the building. Listing can also cover structures not physically attached but 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. 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 advises on the need for listed building consent and they also decide what a listing covers. 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 You can contact us on 0131 668 8716 or at


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Printed: 22/04/2019 01:21