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


Status: Designated


There are no additional online documents for this record.


Group Category Details
100000020 - See Notes
Date Added
Local Authority
Planning Authority
NT 26175 73678
326175, 673678


D Cousin & J Lessels, 1869. 3-storey and attic row of gabled, crowstepped, Scots Baronial tenements with shops to ground, incorporating former St Mary's Hall (Nos 16-28, upper storeys) and single-storey, 2-bay, balustraded shop adjoining to left (No 4). Snecked rubble with ashlar margins. Cornice to 2nd storey. Circular corbelled turret at N with pepperpot roof. Pedimented dormers with ball finials breaking wallhead. Some attic windows with strapwork window-heads. 4-panel timber entrance doors with fanlights above.

FURTHER DESCRIPTION: former hall with corniced, shallow segmental-arched doorway with corbelled oriel bay window above. Polygonal stair turret to S. Tripartite and bipartite mullioned and transomed windows to 1st storey.

No 10 with symmetrical timber and glass shop front. Timber fascia, mullions and transoms, deep lobby with recessed glass and timber entrance door. Large plate glass windows, curved at lobby corners. Iron gate to lobby.

Other shops with timber fascias, mullions and transoms; some with stone surrounds.

Predominantly 12-pane timber sash and case windows to upper storeys at flats, diamond-pane pattern to windows to hall. Grey slates. Gable and ridge stacks.

INTERIOR: (partially seen 2007. Hall; comprehensively modernised. Some simple decorative plasterwork, spiral stair.

Statement of Special Interest

B Group with No 2 St Mary's Street and 274-278 Canongate and 30-68 St Mary's Street.

This is a distinctive run of tenement buildings, incorporating a former hall and containing a number of good quality shopfronts. It is a good example of the fashionable Scots Baronial style used for tenements erected in the city as part of the Edinburgh Improvement Scheme. Forming a significant portion of the Eastern side of St Mary's Street, this row, together with Nos 30-68 St Mary's Street (see separate listing) determines the character of the street. The Scots Baronial detailing is of high quality, especially at the corners and at the attic level. The shop front at No 10 is particularly unusual with its deep entrance way and curved plate glass and is an excellent survivor of its type. The single-storey, balustraded shop at No 4, is balanced by a similarly designed building at No 7 Holyrood Road (see separate listing), which is the termination of the design.

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 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.

St Mary's Halls was built for the nearby St Patrick's Roman Catholic Church (see separate listing). By 1914, it was listed as a cinema called The Star, and this closed in the 1920s. It is currently commercial premises (2007).

John Lesssels (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. No 4 St Mary's Street was previously listed separately.



2nd Edition Ordnance Survey Map (1876-9). 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, pf131. Royal Commission on the Ancient & Historical Monuments of Scotland, Canmore database at (accessed 20-10-07).

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


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Printed: 05/12/2023 06:23