William Playfair, designed 1825 (redesigned 1831; see Notes), built 1831-1833. Part of long terrace of 34 classical 3-bay (4-bay to basement) townhouses; originally 2-storey, basement and attic elevations (many have additional later 3rd storeys; the 3rd storey to 1 Regent Terrace was an element of Playfair's 1831 design) punctuated by 2 18-bay, 3-storey pavilions with 3-bay advanced sections to each end (Nos 11-16 and 23-28) and with 12-bay, 3-storey section to the western end (Nos 1-4); terrace stepped down at intervals to follow slope of road. Droved ashlar to basement; polished ashlar to upper floors; predominantly coursed squared rubble with dressed margins to rear elevation; rendered side elevation. To principal elevation: base course; dividing band between basement and ground floor; dividing band and cornice between ground and 1st floors; to 1st floor, continuous cast-iron trellis balcony with Greek key border; band above 1st floor windows (excluding pavilions); main cornice dividing 1st and 2nd floors; eaves cornice; blocking course. Doorpieces of fluted attached Greek Doric columns. Regular fenestration to principal elevation; architraved windows to ground, 1st and 2nd floors; panelled aprons to ground floor windows; predominantly regular fenestration to rear elevation.
SE (PRINCIPAL) ELEVATION: 3-storey and basement elevation. To basement, timber panelled door with 4-light fanlight to 2nd bay from left, windows to remaining bays. To ground floor, to left bay, steps and platt overarching basement recess leading to 2-leaf timber-panelled door with letterbox fanlight.
SW (SIDE) ELEVATION: advanced bay to centre with tripartite blind window with small central opening to 1st floor and 3 windows to 2nd floor. Band course and cornice dividing ground and 1st floor, on return from front elevation to right bay only.
NW (REAR) ELEVATION: 2-bay elevation with 2-storey piend-roofed mutual (with No 2) outshoot to left bay. Eaves course.
GLAZING etc: predominantly plate glass; to principal elevation, 12-pane glazing to basement; glazing predominantly in timber sash and case windows. Part piended, part M-roof with central valley; graded grey slate; stone skews and skewputts. To E, ashlar wallhead stack; to W, rendered corniced mutual ridge stack; predominantly circular cans.
RAILINGS AND BOUNDARY WALLS: to front, edging basement recess and platt, stone coping surmounted by cast-iron railings with dog bars, spear-head finials and distinctive circled border. To rear, forming boundary of garden, random rubble walls with predominantly flat coping.
Statement of Special Interest
Part of the Calton A-Group.
Playfair had originally planned a double sized townhouse to terminate the western end of Regent Terrace. However, in 1831 he drew up new plans for the division of the plot into two smaller houses, 1 and 2 Regent Terrace. From 1945 to 1968 1 Regent Terrace was used as classrooms by the adjacent Royal High School.
Regent Terrace forms part of the showpiece of Playfair's Eastern New Town (or Calton) scheme, and as such is an important example of the work of one of Scotland's leading early 19th century architects. Playfair was one of the major driving forces of the Greek Revival in Edinburgh at this time, and his public commissions such as the National Monument, the Royal Institution and the National Gallery (see separate listings) gave strength to Edinburgh's reputation as the Athens of the North. The Calton Scheme was one of his few domestic commissions, and the variety of designs, different for each street, demonstrates Playfair's expertise with the Grecian style and his characteristic punctilious attention to detail. The railings and balconies are important as their design features distinctive elements which Playfair repeated in large areas of the Calton scheme.
The origins of the Eastern New Town, which was to occupy the east end of Calton Hill and lands to the north of it on the ground between Easter Road and Leith Walk, lie in a 'joint plan for building' which three principal feuars (Heriot's Hospital, Trinity Hospital and Mr Allan of Hillside) entered into in 1811. In 1812 a competition was advertised for plans for laying out the grounds in question. Thirty-two plans were received, displayed and reported on by a variety of people, including eight architects. Eventually, it was decided that none of the plans was suitable. However, it was a more general report by William Stark (who died shortly after submitting it) which caught the attention of the Commissioners and formed the basis of the final scheme. Stark's central argument stressed the importance of planning around the natural contours and features of the land rather than imposing formal, symmetrical street plans upon it. After several years of little or no progress, in 1818 the Commissioners finally selected William Henry Playfair, Stark's former pupil, to plan a scheme following his master's Picturesque ideals.
The resulting scheme, presented to the Commissioners in 1819, preserved the view of and from Calton Hill by the creation of a limited triangular development of the three single-sided terraces (to make the most of the spectacular views), Royal, Regent and Carlton, on the hill itself. These looked over a huge radial street pattern, centred on the gardens of Hillside Crescent, on the land to the north. The feuing of these lower lands started well, with Elm Row, Leopold Place, Windsor Street and the west side of Hillside Crescent being built fairly swiftly. Regent Terrace was feued in 1824 and building began the next year. However, demand for the feus in other street of the scheme faltered severely, due to the growing popularity of new properties being built to the west of the New Town. This had a particularly bad effect on Royal Terrace, where construction stopped for 20 years, leaving 2 large gaps in the Terrace and a further 3 unbuilt feus to the west end. The fate of the whole Calton scheme was sealed in 1838, when it was decided that feuars should pay poor-rates to both Edinburgh and Leith. This virtually halted development for the next thirty years. The result of all these problems was that very little of Playfair's original scheme was ever built. When building resumed in the 1880s, some of Playfair's original street lines were adhered to, as was the case with Hillside Crescent, and in others such as Brunton Place, Brunswick Street, Hillside Street (originally to be a longer street called Hopeton Street), and Wellington Street (also curtailed). However, due to piecemeal residential, industrial and transport developments immediately to the north, it would have been impossible to further follow Playfair's original layout, even if this had been considered desirable.
Wood's Map, 1823. OS Map, 1853, 1877, 1896. MINUTES OF MEETINGS OF THE COMMITTEE FOR FEUING THE GROUNDS OF CALTON HILL 1811-1822, Edinburgh City Council Archives. W H Playfair, DRAWINGS, Edinburgh University Library, 1790-1857. A J Youngson, THE MAKING OF CLASSICAL EDINBURGH, (1966) pp148-156. I Lindsay, GEORGIAN EDINBURGH, (1973) pp54-55. A. Mitchell, THE PEOPLE OF CALTON HILL, (1993), p67. Gifford, McWilliam and Walker, EDINBURGH, (1994), p444-446. H Colvin, DICTIONARY OF BRITISH ARCHITECTS, (1995), p766. J Lowrey, THE URBAN DESIGN OF EDINBURGH'S CALTON HILL in THE NEW TOWN PHENOMENON - ST ANDREWS STUDIES IN THE HISTORY OF SCOTTISH DESIGN AND ARCHITECTURE AND DESIGN, (2000), pp1-12.
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Printed: 27/05/2018 13:02