Circa 1590 and 1726, with later alterations and additions, including George Smith, circa 1840, Stuart Henbest Capper, 1890 and 1893, George Shaw Aitken 1895 and John Wilson Paterson, 1958-9 and 1964 (see Notes). 5-storey and attic 8-bay tenement with remains of 2 16th century 3-storey L-plan blocks to rear, forming Riddle's Close.
N (LAWNMARKET) ELEVATION: squared rubble with polished dressings. Later pilastraded shops to ground; broad red sandstone consoled cornice and rusticated round-arched entrance to pend (GS Aitken, 1895, see Notes) to left. Regularly fenestrated above, small windows to outer right. 3 curvilinear-gabled 2-window wallhead dormers (circular panels in outer dormers) to attic.
RIDDLE'S COURT: rear elevation of Lawnmarket block: projecting octagonal stair tower to right with timber boarded door in bolection-moulded surround with inscribed date (1726); harled exterior to modern flats with deck-access balconies to centre; irregularly fenestrated rubble bays to left. N elevation of 3-storey 16th century wing to S: moulded string courses between ground and 1st and between 1st and 2nd floors. Advanced section to left (jamb of demolished 16th century wing, see Notes) irregularly fenestrated, with timber pentice-roofed external stair (Henbest Capper, 1893). Timber boarded door in roll-moulded surround in splayed corner of re-entrant angle, corbelled out above. Barrel-vaulted pend to Riddle's Close to right, with inscription by Capper (see Notes) over. Timber boarded door to outer right.
RIDDLE'S CLOSE: harled rubble with ashlar dressings. 3-storey 3-bay S-facing elevation: moulded string courses between ground and 1st floor and between 1st and 2nd floors. Round-arched pend from Riddle's Court to left; timber boarded door with small-pane fanlight to centre; small window to right. Regularly fenestrated above. 2-storey 2-bay W-facing elevation: moulded string course stepping up over ground floor windows; steeply gabled dormerheaded windows breaking eaves at 1st floor; wallhead stack with cannon spout to outer right. 3-storey 3-bay N-facing elevation with finialled and pedimented 2-window dormer to attic to right and splayed corner to outer right: moulded string courses to right between ground and 1st floors (treated as bracketed cornice to doors) and between 1st and 2nd floors; small windows to 1st and 2nd floors to outer left (remains of stone hood to former hoist above 1st floor window); 2-leaf timber boarded door to left; timber boarded doors in roll-moulded surrounds to centre and right, and in splayed corner to outer right; paired windows to 1st and 2nd floors to right. 3-storey 2-bay E-facing elevation: irregularly fenestrated; moulded string course between ground and 1st floors; date (1587) over 2nd floor window to left; metal wall plates to upper right.
INTERIOR: SE room: panelled walls; marble chimneypiece; compartmented early/mid 17th century plaster ceiling with curved shapes, squares and circles framing thistles, roses, acorns, fleur-de lys and lions. SW room: panelled walls and bolection-moulded chimneypiece; elaborate compartmented painted ceiling by Thomas Bonnar (restored MM Pryor, 1996 for City of Edinburgh Council); inscription reads 'Restored as acquired S Mitchell and Wilson 1890, SH Capper 1892, GS Aitken 1895, Architects; Ceiling Thomas Bonnar 1897.' NW room: timber panelled walls; corniced mantle to chimneypiece; segmental-arched recess to N; plaster ceiling dated 1648 with plasterwork crown, lions, thistles and roses.
S (VICTORIA TERRACE) ELEVATION: 3-storey and attic 5-bay elevation with crowsteppped dormerheaded windows (that to centre formerly apex stack) breaking eaves at 3rd floor, arcaded to ground floor. Coursed ashlar. Deep cornice to ground floor. Hoodmoulded round-arched openings to arcade; timber panelled doors alternate with windows; scrolled console above doorway at centre. Lugged architraves to windows at 1st and 2nd floors; keyblocked to 1st floor.
18-pane glazing in timber sash and case windows to Lawnmarket block; 12-pane glazing in timber sash and case windows to Riddle's Close and Victoria Terrace. Graded grey slates. Tall brick ridge stack to Lawnmarket; vestiges of rubble stacks to Riddle's Close. Cast-iron down pipe with decorative hopper to Victoria Terrace.
Statement of Special Interest
The 18th century block (originally T-plan) facing the Lawnmarket was built by Captain George Riddel, wright. In this block was the first Edinburgh residence of David Hume. The theme of curvilinear gabled wallhead dormers continues on neighbouring tenements. The rear wing of this block was demolished in the late 19th century, leaving the octagonal stair tower isolated. The Dean of Guild plans by GS Aitken show alterations, including the red sandstone pend entrance, done at this time. The remainder was restored as flats in 1958 by John Wilson Paterson for Edinburgh Corporation. To the rear are the remains of 2 L-plan houses built by Baillie John MacMorran circa 1590. James VI and Anne of Denmark were entertained in Baillie MacMorran's house in 1598. The N wing of the E house (illustrated by MacGibbon and Ross) was demolished in the late 19th century, and the S wing forms the N section of Riddle's Close. S Henbest Capper and GS Aitken reconstructed Riddle's Close and Court for Patrick Geddes (who owned the buildings) as University Hall in 1892-3. VIVENDO DISCIMUS (by living we learn), the inscription on the arched pend to Riddle's Close, was the motto of Geddes' University Hall. It was again reconstructed as education rooms for Edinburgh Corporation by J Wilson Paterson in 1964. The rear of Riddle's Close (5 and 6 Victoria Terrace) was rebuilt by George Smith circa 1840 as the Edinburgh Mechanics' Subscription Library. The Mechanic's Library was established in 1825. Contributors to the Library at its inception included Sir James Hall, and the publishers Archibald Constable, William Blackwood, and John Murray. Victoria Street and Terrace were part of Thomas Hamilton's plan for the new Southern and Western Approaches to the city; George Smith replaced Hamilton as architect to the Improvement Trust in 1834.