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

The Gatehouse Lodge including Gatepiers, Gates and Boundary Walls, and excluding later additions to south of Gatehouse Lodge, The Royal Observatory, Observatory Road, EdinburghLB44250

Status: Designated

Documents

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Summary

Category
B
Date Added
14/12/1970
Last Date Amended
18/04/2016
Local Authority
Edinburgh
Planning Authority
Edinburgh
Burgh
Edinburgh
NGR
NT 25905 70627
Coordinates
325905, 670627

Description

W W Robertson of HM Office of Works, 1892-4. Single and 2-storey, 2-bay cream sandstone, coursed rubble gate lodge built as part of a group of buildings forming the Royal Observatory on Blackford Hill. In accordance with Section 1 (4A) of the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) (Scotland) Act 1997 the following are excluded from the listing: all later additions to the south of the gatehouse lodge.

The north (entrance) elevation has a central doorway with a 2-leaf panelled door, plate glass fanlight, cornice and pediment with foliate detail. There is an advanced bipartite window to the gabled bay to the outer left and a single window at the 1st floor above.

Plate glass in timber sash and case windows. Grey slate pitched and piended roofs with coped wallhead stacks.

The interior of the lodge was seen in 2015 and is modernised to form office space.

There is a pedestrian gateway adjoining the lodge to the north with a lugged architrave, cornice and panel carved "Royal Observatory" and an ornately decorated wrought iron gate. A pair of banded gatepiers are surmounted by cast iron lamps and carved heraldic panels inscribed "VR", dentilled cornice and pedimental caps to piers; decorative foliate pattern lamp standards with crown finials; pair of highly decorative wrought iron gates with "RO".

A high coped rubble boundary wall surrounds the Observatory and all outbuildings with cast iron railings to the north boundary.

Statement of Special Interest

The Edinburgh Royal Observatory site was designed and built from 1892-4 as an outstanding and unique group of buildings within a walled compound forming the new Royal Observatory on Blackford Hill. The main observatory building was designed as a highly detailed bespoke design for a nationally important scientific facility and the site continues to be in the same use. The gate lodge building complements the main observatory and other associated buildings and is accordingly highly detailed and constructed of high quality materials; the gates and gatepiers are highly decorative examples of their type.

The Royal Observatory and its associated complex of buildings were built on Blackford Hill in Edinburgh from 1892-4 and the complex first appears on the 2nd Edition Ordnance Survey Map of Edinburghshire, (surveyed 1894, published 1897).

The new observatory was built following a donation of astronomical instruments and literature to the City of Edinburgh from the 26th Earl of Crawford from his private observatory on the family's estate at Dunecht, Aberdeenshire. Since 1822 the Edinburgh Royal Observatory had been housed in the Observatory Building on Calton Hill however by 1888 its efficiency had been affected by inadequate buildings, outmoded instruments and by what had become an unsuitable site.

In 1888 a Royal Commission recommended that the Edinburgh Observatory should cease to be a National Scottish Institution and that its buildings should be handed over to the University. It was this threat to the future of the Observatory that prompted the Earl of Crawford to offer his gift of the instruments and astronomical library from his own personal estate on the condition that the Government build a new building on the Blackford Hill site and maintain it to ensure a future for the Royal Observatory in Edinburgh. The publicly funded site was designed to act as a public monument to astronomy as well as a state-of-the-art research centre for the time.

The resulting brief for the architect W W Robertson (1845-1907) was to create a building to adequately house the technical instruments and library whilst also designing the group of buildings to a high level of detail and design quality befitting the buildings' status as a public monument for the city of Edinburgh. The carved stone Zodiacal designs to the main observatory building are finely detailed and the stone towers with their copper domes are both practical and highly decorative. The multi- period site continues to be in use for the purpose for which it was built and is a nationally important for astronomical research and study in the UK and is now (2105) occupied by the Scientific Technologies Facilities Council and the University of Edinburgh. The telescopes were designed and built by Grubb Parsons of Newcastle: to the east tower is a 36 inch telescope (referring to the size of its main mirror) built in 1928, which, when installed in 1930, was the largest operating telescope in Britain; to the west is a Schmidt telescope built in 1930 but bought by the Observatory in 1951.

The architect Walter Wood Robertson (1845-1907) was born in Elie in Fife and studied architecture at Edinburgh College of Art. In his early career he spent time articled to the offices of both Peddie and Kinnear and Brown and Wardrop before spending some time working in London. Robertson is best remembered for his large

Post Office commissions at Perth, Greenock and Dundee executed from 1897-1898, however the observatory site, completed a few years earlier, is also one of his most prominent commissions.

Statutory address and listed building record revised in 2016. Previously listed as 'Observatory Road, Blackford Hill, The Royal Observatory, Gate Lodge, Gates, Gatepiers and Boundary Walls'.

In accordance with Section 1 (4A) of the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) (Scotland) Act 1997 the following are excluded from the listing: all later additions to the south of the gatehouse lodge.

References

Bibliography

Canmore

http://canmore.org.uk/site/75955/edinburgh-blackford-hill- observatory-road-the-royal-observatory CANMORE ID 75955

Maps

2nd Edition Ordnance Survey Map of 1894 Edinburghshire, Sheet III SE

Printed sources

Gifford, J. McWilliam, C. Walker, D (1992) Buildings of Scotland, Edinburgh: Penguin p486.

Online sources

Dictionary of Scottish Architects: http://www.scottisharchitects.org.uk/architect_full.php?id=201227 [accessed 26/10/2015]

Royal Observatory of Edinburgh: http://www.roe.ac.uk/roe/history.html

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 www.historicenvironment.scot/advice-and-support. You can contact us on 0131 668 8914 or at designations@hes.scot.

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Printed: 25/01/2022 14:46