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- Category: A
- Group Category Details: A
- (see Notes)
- Date Added: 14/12/1970
- Local Authority: Edinburgh
- Planning Authority: Edinburgh
- Burgh: Edinburgh
National Grid Reference
- NGR: NT 24338 73632
- Coordinates: 324338, 673632
John Lessels 1855-6 (Melville Crescent splayed elevation) linking to earlier Robert Brown end terrace blocks of 1814 fronting 42 Melville Street and 17 Walker Street. All 3-storey and basement unified façade of townhouses with main-door and common stair flats behind; oversailing platts. Later attic addition to No. 42 Melville Street. Basement area to street including some vaulted cellars and retaining walls. Sandstone ashlar, channelled at ground floor. Banded base course; banded cill and string courses at 1st floor; banded cill course at 2nd floor. Stepped parapets with balustrades in between (balustrades missing to Melville Crescent elevation.) Doorways in round arched surrounds with fanlight and narrow sidelights. Round arched recessed surrounds to ground floor. Decorative cast-iron arches with lamp holder to Melville Street.
W (MELVILLE CRESCENT) ELEVATION: symmetrical 9 bays. Advanced and pilastered central 3 bays and single end bays with architraved bracketed and corniced 1st floor windows.
NW (MELVILLE STREET) AND E (WALKER STREET) ELEVATIONS: symmetrical 5 bays. Advanced flanking bays and recessed centre. Sandstone ashlar vermiculated to basement. Blind fanlight to Melville Street elevation. Architraved, bracketed and corniced surrounds at 1st floor; architraved, bracketed and pedimented surround to centre.
Predominantly plate glass in timber sash and case. Double pitch M-section roof; grey slates. Corniced ashlar gable end and ridge stacks with modern clay cans. Cast-iron railings on ashlar coping stone edging basement recess. Cast-iron rainwater goods.
INTERIOR: interior typified by highly decorative classical scheme with detailed cornicing, converted for later office and residential use (2008).
ARCHED LAMP HOLDERS: large ornate cast-iron arches above entrance platt to Melville street with lampholder to centre; some with glass bell-jar shades. Coiled cast-iron serpent lamp snuffers to each side of archway.
Statement of Special Interest
7, 8, 9 Melville Crescent forms an A group with 1 - 6 and 10, 11, 12 Melville Crescent, Melville Memorial and the whole of Melville Street (see separate listings). Melville Crescent is a fine example of late Georgian street urban architecture and planning, serving as the centrepiece of the early 19th century Walker Estate development. It still forms a significant and imposing diagonal square. The splayed corners also serve to articulate the intersection with Walker Street, and give a sense of space and drama to the two streets. It is a key feature of the whole of the Western New Town plan and articulates the space in a well-ordered understated classical design. Melville Crescent contained the highest class residential housing in the whole scheme. It was executed by John Lessels to a grand design.
John Lessels retained much of the original 1814 design for the crescent by Robert Brown. The OS survey of 1852 also shows an alternative street layout with a circular garden in the centre of the square. Brown was experienced in town planning, and he had already designed several other urban schemes, including between 1810 and 1830 laying out streets in Portobello on land belonging to the Marques of Abercorn. His other notable works include Newington and St.Leonard's church (now The Queen's Hall) and the rearrangement of the interiors for Yester House on behalf of the Marques of Tweeddale. Robert Brown worked on a number of smaller projects in the New Town but the cohesive planning of the Walker estate is amongst one of the best examples of his work.
John Lessels secured the control over the Walker Estate in 1850, only 4 years after he had set up practice on his own in 1846. He later went on to work for the City Improvement Trust in Edinburgh, and gained a wide experience of residential design with further designs in both the old and new towns of Edinburgh as well as some large commissions such as significant alterations to George Watson's Hospital.
(List description revised 2009 as part of re-survey.)
John Wood, Plan of the City of Edinburgh, including all the latest and intended improvements (1823); Ordnance Survey, Sheet 34 Edinburgh and Environs, (1852); Ordnance Survey, Large Scale Town Plan, (1893 - 94); J Gifford, C McWilliam, D M Walker, The Buildings of Scotland: Edinburgh (1988) p. 375; Youngson, The Making of Classical Edinburgh, (1988) p. 216; West End Community Trust, Edinburgh's West End, A Short History, (1984).
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