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
Supplementary Information Updated
Local Authority
Planning Authority
NT 26042 74676
326042, 674676


Hugh Cairncross, 1807. Classical palace-front tenement block with main door and common stair flats; symmetrical 3-storey, basement and attic, 17-bay principal elevation with pedimented centre section to Gayfield Square. Smooth V-jointed rustication to ground floor, droved ashlar to basement and upper floors (droved ashlar to ground floor to side elevation; coursed rubble with dressed margins to rear). Dividing band between basement and ground floor and between ground and 1st floor; cill course to 1st floor (front elevation only) and 2nd floor; eaves cornice and blocking course (front only). Regular fenestration.

SE (PRINCIPAL) ELEVATION: slightly advanced 3-bay pavilions to centre, outer left and outer right. Timber-panelled doors with rectangular fanlights to (from left) 3rd, 5th, 8th, 13th, 14th and 15th bays; umbrella glazing to all fanlights, except to 5th bay (3-light glazing) and 14th bay (6-pane glazing); separate steps and platt over-arching basement recess to each doorway. Cast iron balconettes to ground and 1st floor to outer 4 bays to left, and to bays 6 to 13 (inclusive) to 2nd floor. Blind oculus to central pediment. To roof, 3 flat-roofed dormers to left; 2 flat- roofed tripartite dormers to centre and centre left; right; 4 piend-roofed dormers to right (dormers possibly later additions).

SW (SIDE) ELEVATION: 4-storey, 3-bay elevation with coursed rubble base course. Blind windows to right bay and upper floors of left bay. Cast iron balconette to 1st floor centre window.

NW (REAR) ELEVATION: cast iron balconettes to several upper floor windows.

GLAZING etc: 12-pane glazing in timber sash and case windows; 8-pane glazing in timber sash and case windows to outer lights of tripartite dormer to left; 4-pane glazing in timber sash and case windows to outer lights of tripartite dormer to right. Timber fascias and grey slate haffits to dormers; grey slate roof to piended dormers. M-roof with valley gutter; graded grey slate; stone skews and skewputts. 4 corniced coursed rubble (with droved dressings) ridge stacks; corniced coursed rubble (with droved dressings) gablehead stacks to left and right; 2 corniced, rendered wallhead stacks to rear; circular cans to all stacks.

RAILINGS: spear-head and urn finialled cast iron railings set in stone copes edging basement recess; plain railings edging steps and platts.

Statement of Special Interest

This palace-front terraced tenement block is a good example of early 19th century tenement design in Edinburgh. It also has streetscape and historical value as an element of the Gayfield estate development. It also has significance as one of the few extant buildings designed by Cairncross, formerly a pupil or assistant of Robert Adam, for whom he was clerk of works at several prestigious projects including Culzean Castle and Old College, Edinburgh University. 12-17 Gayfield Square forms part of the Gayfield Estate, so named because it stands on the former grounds of Gayfield House (East London Street; 1763-5, still extant; separately listed Category A). These lands were feued by the solicitor James Jollie from 1785. Building began on either side of the drive to the house, with James Begg's magnificent tenement building to the NE and villas to the SW. These developments began to establish the form Gayfield Square, which forms the heart of the estate. It was part of Jollie's plan from the beginning that this should be so; in January 1783 he advertised that the Gayfield grounds were to be feued for building purposes 'according to a plan.' His advertisment promised prospective feuars 'remarkably pleasant' rustic situation and 'uncommonly beautiful views' in addition to 'the privilege of the area of the square'. Sasines record that '..the area of Gayfield Place [is] to remain an open space for all time coming.'

By the first few years of the 19th century, Jollie had employed Cairncross to prepare plans and elevations for buildings on plots yet to be feued on the NW and NE sides of Gayfield Place, and also possibly for Union Place. John Fraser, a builder, bought and built on all the feus on this NW site.



Sasines, S.R.O. I. Lindsay, GEORGIAN EDINBURGH, (1973), pp58-59. Gifford, McWilliam and Walker, EDINBURGH, (1991) p 428. H.Colvin, DICTIONARY OF BRITISH ARCHITECTS, (1995), p206.

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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