The monument comprises a tower of the Flodden Wall and a section of the Telfer Wall, the remains of parts of two of Edinburgh's late medieval town walls, dating to circa 1513 and 1630 respectively. The tower lies on the E side of the Vennel at NT 2534 7322, and the section of the Telfer Wall adjoins the tower and runs SE down the E side of Heriot Place from NT 2535 7322 to NT 2545 7308. The monument was originally scheduled in 1970, but is being re-scheduled in order to clarify the extent of the scheduled area and to relate it to a modern map.
The construction of the Flodden Wall is traditionally linked to the fear of English invasion following the defeat of the Scottish army at Flodden in 1513. However, it is thought that the threat of invasion gave added impetus to a project that was already underway to enclose the expanded burgh, as some ports on the line of the Wall existed at least eight years before the Battle of Flodden. Construction work on the Wall was carried out in several phases until around 1560. Documentary evidence testifies that: the Flodden Wall had six main ports; it included towers at strategic points; it was crenellated; and that the stone used in its rubble construction was quarried locally. The Wall was clearly defensive in intent, but it also defined the legal limit of the medieval burgh in the early 16th century, and would have controlled the passage of people, goods and animals into and out of the burgh, thereby serving to secure the payment of custom dues and prevent the spread of disease.
The Telfer Wall was constructed circa 1628-36 to enclose land that had been acquired by the town council, including the land now occupied by George Heriot's School and land to the S and SE of Greyfriars Churchyard. The Telfer Wall, named after its mason, John Tailfer or Tailefer, was essentially an extension of the Flodden Wall. The Telfer Wall was also built of a local sandstone, but the blocks used in its random rubble construction are of a different colour and tend to be larger than those used in the Flodden Wall.
The scheduling includes the only surviving upstanding tower of the Flodden Wall. The tower is almost square in plan, which is somewhat of an anomaly as the tower in the Wall at Drummond Street was recorded as being round, and all contemporary depictions of the Flodden Wall show the towers as round. The walls of the tower are about 1.2m thick and stand 5-6m high, with restored crenellations at the top. The S and W walls of the tower are complete, whereas the N wall is incomplete where it was at one time incorporated into a school laundry building. One gunloop is preserved in the N wall, two are preserved in the W wall, and one survives in the S wall of the tower. A double window was inserted in the S wall by the town council in 1876, as testified by the inscription above it; this window is now infilled with stone. A metal handrail is set into the W wall and there is a modern metal plaque, reading 'Flodden Wall', fixed into the masonry of the S wall of the tower.
The section of the Telfer Wall adjoins the S side of the Flodden Wall tower, about 1m or so higher than the top of the tower crenellations, and runs SE along the E side of Heriot Place, forming the W boundary wall of George Heriot's School. The Telfer Wall is also crenellated, and was consolidated in the 1980s. Several modern drain pipes run through the Telfer Wall, near the tower. There is an old doorway with classical detailing, complete with a wooden door, in the Wall; there is also an old archway with wooden gates a little to the S of the doorway.
Around 95m S of the tower, the Telfer Wall drops some 3m in height and the wall here is thinner and topped by flat cope-stones. This section has been rebuilt using the stone of a demolished stretch of the Telfer Wall, and has another doorway through it, complete with metal sliding doors. The height of this section of the Wall decreases again further to the S and the wall continues to the S end of Heriot Place.
There are two modern metal plaques, reading 'Telfer Wall', fixed into the masonry of the wall at either end of Heriot Place.
The area to be scheduled is linear in plan to include the Telfer Wall, which measures some 175m long by 1.2-1.7m wide (maximum), and the tower of the Flodden Wall, which measures 8.3m maximum from NW-SE, has a total wall length of 17.2m and is up to 1.2m thick, all as marked in red on the accompanying map. The Vennel steps, pavement, all upstanding buildings adjacent to the Telfer Wall and the Flodden Wall tower, handrails, modern drain pipes, and the modern wooden door, gates and metal sliding doors are specifically excluded from scheduling to allow for their routine maintenance.
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