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.


Date Added
Local Authority
Planning Authority
NT 25847 73524
325847, 673524


Circa 1900. City Engineers Department. Three 4-storey blocks set on sloping ground, originally containing 105 separate 'workmen's dwellings'. Cement rendered brick with cement dressings to openings; projecting cills and discontinuous base and string courses; vernacular detailing with crow-stepped gables, dormers, piended roofs, and projecting eaves.

LOWER SQUARE: two L-plan blocks forming U-plan with flight of stairs to Upper Square between. Projecting 4-storey towers of canted windows to outer corners and flanking stairs. Common stairs in re-entrant corners, leading to concrete decks with iron supporting columns and railings.

UPPER SQUARE: 4-storey rectangular block to Upper Square. Projecting outer bays with piended roofs and distinctive ogee shaped gable dormers breaking wallheads. Common stairs slightly left of centre leading to concrete decks giving access to each floor. Irregular arrangement of doors and windows to left and right of stair.

Timber sash and case windows, predominantly 4 and 6-pane upper sashes, plate glass lower sashes. Harled and coped ridge stacks with predominantly red clay cans. Grey slate.

Statement of Special Interest

The Tron Square housing development is distinctive for the use of vernacular detailing which places the buildings comfortably in the old town. The scheme is one of the earliest to make use of deck access to flats on upper stories to remain in Edinburgh. Only Rosemount Buildings (1860) and Patriot Hall (1859) (see separate listings) were earlier.

The construction of Tron Square stems from the 1893 urban sanitary improvement scheme, which aimed to remove the most unsanitary housing while respecting the historic character of the old town. This was achieved by making use of smaller scale redevelopments instead of the more comprehensive redevelopments which characterised the improvements undertaken in the 1860s. Although influenced by the 'conservative surgery' approach pioneered by Sir Patrick Geddes in the 1880s there is no evidence directly linking Geddes to this scheme. The political backing for the schemes came from Lord Provost James Alexander Russell, who had been trained in medicine and public health.

The site of Tron Square, on ground sloping down from the High Street to the Cowgate, previously contained rows of tenements which were considered both dangerous and unhygienic, being officially designated an 'unhealthy area' by the Medical Officer of Health Dr Henry Littlejohn. The subsequent construction of Tron Square demonstrates the prevailing concern that workmen's housing should provide light and air, and be, above all, sanitary. As well as large open spaces each property also had access to communal sinks and the minimum requirement of a WC for each dwelling or shared between two.

A significant aspect of the scheme is the use of local government funding. Initially it had not been intended to provide any additional municipal housing. However it was deemed necessary for the council to intervene to deal with the acute shortage of accommodation at the cheaper end of the market, caused by other street improvements and the extension of Waverley Station. Tron Square was the largest of this first group of municipal housing schemes.



Dean of Guild Records, petition and plans dated 11 May 1899. Minutes of the City of Edinburgh Council, Meeting of 23rd May 1899. J N Tarn, Working Class Housing in 19th Century Britain, (1971), esp. Ch 7. M Withey, An Inventory of Buildings Erected in Glasgow by the City Improvement Trust and the City Improvement Department 1866-1910, (2002). L Rosenburg and J Johnson 'Conservative Surgery in Old Edinburgh, 1880-1940' in B Edwards and P Jenkins, Edinburgh; The Making of a Capital City, (2005), pp 131-150. Further information courtesy of Louis Rosenberg (2006). Further information courtesy of resident. (2006).

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: 02/06/2023 19:24