Listed Building

The only legal part of the listing under the Planning (Listing Buildings and Conservation Areas) (Scotland) Act 1997 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. The further details below the 'Address/Name of Site' are provided for information purposes only.

Address/Name of Site

2 St Mary’s Street and 274-278 (Even Numbers) Canongate, EdinburghLB30166

Status: Designated


There are no additional online documents for this record.


Group Category Details
100000020 - See Notes
Date Added
Last Date Amended
Local Authority
Planning Authority
NT 26168 73694
326168, 673694


David Cousin & John Lessels, dated 1869. 5-storey, crow-stepped, Scots Baronial tenement on prominent corner site with altered commercial premises to ground. Snecked rubble with ashlar margins, raised to stair windows. Moulded cornice to ground and 4th storey, some string courses. Slightly advanced stairtower to far right at 2 St Mary's Street with polygonal louvred turret top. Pedimented dormerheads, one to St Mary's Street with datestone above (see Notes). Recessed doorways to some shops.

FURTHER DESCRIPTION: 2-bay canted corner with corbelled crow-stepped gable and 2-storey canted oriel windows to 3rd & 4th storeys. 1st storey windows with cornices and decorative strapwork above.

Roll-moulded doorway to stairtower with 4-panel timber entrance door and carved memorial plaque above (see Notes).

Predominantly 12-pane timber sash and case windows to upper storeys, plate glass to ground. Grey slates. Gable and ridge stacks.

Statement of Special Interest

B Group with Nos 4-68 St Mary's Street. This is a distinctive, well-detailed corner tenement which was the first building to be erected after the City Improvement Act of 1867. The corner detailing, with strapwork to the windows at the 1st storey and the oriel window above add significant character to the streetscape.

The stair tower is defined externally by a series of differently shaped windows and raised margins and with an unusual louvred turret at the apex. A datestone to the gable at St Mary's Street is carved 1869 and the is a monogram with intertwined initials, DC AND JL above. There is a carved memorial tablet above the close entrance with 'THIS IS THE FIRST BUILDING ERECTED UNDER THE IMPROVEMENT ACT OF 1867. THE RIGHT HONOURABLE WILLIAM CHAMBERS OF GLENORMISTON LORD PROVOST'.

St Mary Street was formed as part of the first wave of sanitary improvements within the Old Town of Edinburgh. Living conditions in the Old Town declined during the course of the early 19th century as the wealthier residents moved to the more salubrious New Town. By 1850, the area had one of the worst slums in Europe. The Town Council decided to begin a Sanitary Improvement Scheme and instituted the 1867 Edinburgh Improvement Act. This involved the large-scale clearance, on health grounds, of 34 selected areas of the Old Town, including the Eastern section of the old St Mary's Wynd. There was no immediate requirement to build any new houses as part of the scheme until a new agency, the Edinburgh City Improvement Trust, was set up and began a programme of new house building over a 20 year period.

St Mary's, Blackfriars and Jeffrey Streets were part of the initial wave of building and were intended for workers and artisans - not for the residents who had previously lived in the area, who were too poor to afford the rents.

John Lessels (1809-1883) came from a family of builder-architects. With a successful practice in Edinburgh, he became friendly with David Cousin, the City Architect. As a result of the friendship, Lessels was appointed joint architect to the City Improvement Trust in 1866 and the proposals for St Mary Street were presented later that year.

List description revised as part of Edinburgh Holyrood Ward resurvey 2007-08.

Statutory address updated (2015). Previously listed as '2 St Mary's Street and 274-278 (even nos) Canongate'.



Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland: CANMORE ID 155706

2nd Edition Ordnance Survey Map, (1876-7).

John Gifford, Colin McWilliam and David Walker, The Buildings of Scotland, Edinburgh, 1984. p233.

L Rosenburg & J Johnson, Conservative Surgery in Old Edinburgh, 1880-1940 in B Edwards & P Jenkins (eds) Edinburgh, The Making of A Capital City, 2005, p131.

About Listed Buildings

Historic Environment Scotland is responsible for designating sites and places at the national level. These designations are Scheduled monuments, Listed buildings, Inventory of gardens and designed landscapes and Inventory of historic battlefields.

We make recommendations to the Scottish Government about historic marine protected areas, and the Scottish Ministers decide whether to designate.

Listing is the process that identifies, designates and provides statutory protection for buildings of special architectural or historic interest as set out in the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) (Scotland) Act 1997.

We list buildings which are found to be of special architectural or historic interest using the selection guidance published in Designation Policy and Selection Guidance (2019)

Listed building records provide an indication of the special architectural or historic interest of the listed building which has been identified by its statutory address. The description and additional information provided are supplementary and have no legal weight.

These records are not definitive historical accounts or a complete description of the building(s). If part of a building is not described it does not mean it is not listed. 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 legal part of the listing is the address/name of site which is known as the statutory address. Other than the name or address of a listed building, further details are provided for information purposes only. Historic Environment Scotland does not accept any liability for any loss or damage suffered as a consequence of inaccuracies in the information provided. Addresses and building names may have changed since the date of listing. Even if a number or name is missing from a listing address it will still be listed. Listing covers both the exterior and the interior and any object or structure fixed to the building. Listing also applies to buildings or structures not physically attached but which are part of the curtilage (or land) of the listed building as long as they were erected before 1 July 1948.

While Historic Environment Scotland is responsible for designating listed buildings, the planning authority is responsible for determining what is covered by the listing, including what is listed through curtilage. However, for listed buildings designated or for listings amended from 1 October 2015, legal exclusions to the listing may apply.

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 1997 Act. 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 subsequent legislation.

Listed building consent is required for changes to a listed building which affect its character as a building of special architectural or historic interest. The relevant planning authority is the point of contact for applications for listed building consent.

Find out more about listing and our other designations at You can contact us on 0131 668 8914 or at


Northwest elevation, 2 St Mary’s Street and 274-278 (Even Numbers) Canongate, Edinburgh

Printed: 23/01/2022 14:28