William H Playfair, designed 1822. Classical range of terraced houses with Greek Doric doorpieces of fluted engaged columns supporting entablature; 2-storey and basement, 39-bay principal elevation (3 bays per house). Polished ashlar (painted to No 5, 7, 27 and 29; doorpieces predominantly painted); droved ashlar to basement (painted to No 5, 7, 13, 25, 27, and 29); squared coursed rubble, with dressed margins to rear. Base course; cill band to ground floor; cill band to 1st floor; continuous wrought iron balcony (trellis pattern with Greek key border) with scrolled brackets to 1st floor; eaves cornice; blocking course. Regular fenestration; sunk panelled aprons to ground floor; predominantly painted architraves (some in poor condition) to ground and 1st floors (not painted to No 15, 19, and 23).
NW (PRINCIPAL) ELEVATION: steps leading down to sunk basement area from left; to basements, timber-panelled doors, predominantly with 3-light letterbox fanlight (4-light to Nos 5 and 7; plate glass to Nos 15 and 25) to centre bay to basement; window to left and right bays; area under platt blocked in by wall at Nos 9, 15, 19, 27 and 29). To right bay to ground floor, steps and platt overarching basement recess leading to timber-panelled door (2-leaf timber-panelled door to Nos 11, 13, and 19; 2-leaf timber panelled and glazed doors to Nos 5, 7and 21; with letterbox fanlight (with triple circle glazing pattern to Nos 7, and 25.
SE (REAR) ELEVATION: eaves course; some dormer-headed windows breaking eaves.
GLAZING etc: predominantly plate glass; 12-pane glazing to Nos 11, 19 and 25 and to basements of Nos 15, 21, 23, 27 and 29; 4-pane glazing to No 7 and ground floor to No 5; plate glass top pane with paired casements below to 1st floor of No 5; glazing predominantly in timber sash and case windows. M-roof with valley; graded grey slate. 5 corniced rendered mutual ridge stacks preceded by linked individual ashlar octagonal flues; 1 corniced ashlar mutual ridge stack preceded by linked individual ashlar octagonal flues; 5 corniced, rendered mutual ridge stacks; predominantly circular cans.
RAILINGS: edging basement recess and platt, cast-iron railings with spear-head and pine cone finials, spear-headed dog bars and circle patterned top border.
INTERIORS: 5 Windsor Street: to ground floor; to lobby, round-headed niche to right, screen of 2 fluted Greek Doric columns in anta between lobby and stair hall, compartmented ceiling, good plasterwork; to former dining room, timber chimneypiece carved with scenes from the Merry Wives of Windsor, good plasterwork; to 1st floor: to front room (S), good plasterwork; to rear room (S), bowed inner wall; to stairs and stair hall: stone stairs with cast-iron balusters, oval cupola opening (original cupola replaced) in sail-vaulted ceiling, good plasterwork to ceiling and landings. 17 Windsor Street: to ground floor; to lobby, (subdivided by modern glazed screen), geometric and encaustic tiled floor, Anagylpta-style wall covering, round-headed niche to right, compartmented ceiling, good plasterwork; to former dining room, non-original marble chimneypiece; to rear room (N), bowed interior wall, good plasterwork; to 1st floor: former drawing room subdivided, with excellent plasterwork and corniced doorpiece; rear rooms with simple plasterwork; to stairs and stair hall; stone stairs with cast-iron balusters, oval cupola in sail-vaulted ceiling, Anagypta-style wall covering below dado rail, good plasterwork.
Statement of Special Interest
Part of the Calton A-Group.
Originally built as private townhouses, 5-29 Windsor Street is now in use as a mixture of hotels, office and residential accommodation.
5-29 Windsor Street forms part 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 as the North. The Calton Scheme was one of his few domestic commissions, and the variety of designs, different for each street, demonstrate Playfair's expertise with the Grecian style and his characteristic punctilious attention to detail. The railings are important as their design features distinctive elements which Playfair repeated in large areas of the Calton scheme.
The origins of this 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, who in his early years had been associated with Stark, to plan a scheme following Stark'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 development of three single sided terraces 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. However, demand for the feus faltered severely, due to the growing popularity of new properties being built to the west of the New Town. The fate of the 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.