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

City Chambers, 245-249 High Street (even numbers), 253 High Street, 323 High Street, 329 High Street, 2 Warriston's Close and 14 Cockburn Street, EdinburghLB17597

Status: Designated


There are no additional online documents for this record.


Group Category Details
100000019 - See Notes
Date Added
Last Date Amended
Local Authority
Planning Authority
NT 25763 73668
325763, 673668


John Adam and John Fergus, 1754-61, with later alterations and additions including Robert Morham, 1898-1904 and Ebenezer J MacRae, 1930-4. Four storey (ten storeys to rear) U-plan council building with open arcaded screen to High Street flanked by 13-bay wings. Craigleith stone ashlar, channelled to ground to principal elevations (except right wing to High street). Dividing band between ground and first floors; cill band to first and second floors; eaves cornice and blocking course. Gibbs surrounds to first floor windows; corniced architraves to second.

South elevation to courtyard: seven-bay arcaded loggia to ground floor with balustraded parapet. Three bays to centre slightly advanced; urn finials to pedimented tetrastyle centrepiece with fluted Corinthian columns; foliate sculpture and City arms to tympanum.

East and west elevations to courtyard: Nine bays. Tripartite openings with fanlights to ground floor (see Notes).

North (rear) elevation: advanced two-bay sections to left and centre; regularly fenestrated. Projecting wing to right (Robert Morham, 1901-4) with Edwardian Baroque detailing including oeuil-de-boeuf windows, pedimented aedicule, sculpture group and balustraded parapet to upper storeys.

Arcaded screen to High Street: flat-roofed groin-vaulted seven-arched ashlar screen, channelled to High Street elevation, with urn-topped balustraded parapet. Armorial pediment with sculpture group and date (1903). War memorial beneath centre arch.

South elevation to High Street: 13-bay elevations to right and left (outer ten bays by EJ MacRae, 1930-4). Advanced piend-roofed three-bay outer pavilions, those to left with fanlights over tripartite openings to centre at ground floor; those to left with consoled segmental pediments to doors, consoled triangular pediment to door to centre.

Interior: timber-panelled lobby and stair hall (largely re-fitted 1936-8); scale and platt stair with turned balusters and moulded handrail. Old Council Room (formerly Board Room of Customs House): Corinthian-columned screen (former ante-chamber); timber- panelled walls with dentilled cornice and coved ceiling; doorways with carved friezes and broken pediments; three niches, that to centre with bronze statue in Roman armour (see Notes); black marble chimneypiece with consoled, carved timber surround and pedimented overmantle with clock and painting (Edinburgh Castle, 1886). first floor committee-room New Council Room (Robert Morham, 1901-4): timber-panelled rectangular-plan room with Ionic pilasters and ends screened by Ionic columns; coffered dome with rosettes and stained glass cupola; timber balustraded public gallery and armorial chimneypiece. Dining Room: paired fluted Ionic pilasters and wall paintings of historical scenes by William Hole (1903-9).

Predominantly plate glass in timber sash and case windows. Corniced ashlar stacks with circular cans. Cast iron down pipes with decorative hoppers. Grey slates.

Statement of Special Interest

Part of an 'A' Group with Nos. 2-11 Parliament Square, Advocates Library, Signet Library, Parliament Hall, 1 Parliament Square, St Giles High Kirk, Charles II Statue, Lothian Chambers, City Chambers, Alexander and Bucephalus Statue, Queensberry Memorial and Market Cross.

The first executed part of the great civic improvement scheme initiated by Lord Provost George Drummond; some ruinous tenements were cleared, and the foundation stone was laid by Drummond on 13th September 1753. The site included four Closes - Mary King's, Stewart's, Pearson's and Allan's. Mary King's Close was partly overlaid in 1753-61, and further by the northwest extension in 1901, but 17th and early 18th century sections of the Close survive under the building.

Competitive plans and estimates were obtained from John Adam and 'the Gentlemen of St Mary's Chapel' - overseen by John Fergus. In 1754 the building contract was awarded to the latter, and Adam's design was amended by Fergus. The building was to comprise a Merchants' Exchange, Customs House, dwelling houses, shops and coffee houses. An older building used by the Writers to the Signet had to be incorporated into the northwest corner. It was remodelled and re-faced in 1898-9. The present screen, re-built in 1900-1 by Robert Morham, replaces the original, which had a central entrance arch flanked by three arches containing small shops; the screen was re-faced in 1980-1 and the urns renewed by Dick Reid.

In 1810-11, after the expiry of the lease of the Customs House and the demolition of the Tolbooth, the Council decided to occupy those parts of the building which they then owned; the remaining properties were reacquired between 1849 and 1893.

Significant alterations were carried out by David Cousin in the 1850's, by Robert Morham after 1875, in 1898-9 and in 1901-4. The east and west wings to High street (which involved the demolition of flanking tenements) were built by Ebenezer MacRae in the 1930's.

Armorial stained glass in the northwest rooms by Margaret Chilton and Marjorie Kemp (1932). Timothy Clifford suggests a French origin for the bronze sculpture in the Old Council Room (Pearson, p.14). The statue of Alexander and Bucephalus (Sir John Steell, modelled 1832 and cast 1883) in the courtyard is listed separately (see LB27855).

Statutory address revised in 2018. Previously listed as '253 High Street, 2 Warriston's Close and 14 Cockburn Street, City Chambers'.



Printed Sources

Shepherd, T.H. (1829) Modern Athens.

Gifford, J., McWilliam, C. and Walker, D. (1984) The Buildings of Scotland: Edinburgh. pp 176-8.

Fraser, A.G. (1989) The Building Of Old College.

Pearson, F (1991) Virtue and Vision: Sculpture and Scotland. p.14.

Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland (1951) An Inventory of the Ancient and Historical Monuments of the City of Edinburgh. Nos 22 and 23.

Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland (1996) Tolbooths and Townhouses. pp 86-7.

Youngson, A.J. (1966) The Making Of Classical Edinburgh. pp 52-9.

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: 25/09/2023 06:51