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 26024 74569
326024, 674569


James Tweedie, Edinburgh City Architect's Department, with George Robb as assistant, 1930. 2-storey, 4-bay classical former public wash house on sloping site with single-storey bay to south and integral, tall, red-brick chimney to south elevation (now printmakers studio, 2010). Squared and snecked rock-faced sandstone with ashlar margins, rendered to rear. Raised cills, eaves course.

FURTHER DESCRIPTION: off-centre, advanced classical key-stoned doorway with projecting cornice and with 6-panel, 2-leaf timber entrance door and part-glazed interior door. Flanking bi-partite windows to ground and further tri-partite window to far right.

Large hall to rear with full length louvred roof lantern and round-arched upper floor window. Tall, octagonal chimney on square-plan base at S elevation.

INTERIOR: (seen 2010). Original layout largely intact. Stair with simple iron balusters and timber handrail. Timber flooring to upper storey. Some part glazed internal screens. Round-arched division to ground. Basement with internal brick divisions.

Large white glazed-brick tiled hall to rear with some original lettering indicating the drying horse area.

Predominantly 8-over 8-pane timber sash and case windows to street elevation. Piended roof with grey slates.

Statement of Special Interest

This little altered former public wash house is a rare survivor of a once common building type. The building sits within an area of predominantly Georgian style buildings and effort has been made with the architectural design to harmonize this essentially industrial building with its surroundings. In this it echoes other inter-war city centre infill developments by Edinburgh's City Architect Ebenezer MacRae. Many of the internal features within the building remain including lettering within the main hall and the small office spaces. The chimney has been set back and the building as a whole adds to the streetscape of this part of Edinburgh.

This was a densely populated area in the 1930s and the wash house would have been a necessity for many of the families who lived here. They provided a social centre as well as a place for washing and, like most of Edinburgh's washhouses, this one was provided with a crèche upstairs.

The first public wash house was opened in Edinburgh in South Gray's Close in November 1892, following the Edinburgh Municipal and Police Act of 1879. The Act allowed for the 'purchase, feu, lease or other acquisition of lands' for baths, washhouses, gymnasiums, bleaching and drying greens'. The Act was also responsible for various other municipal and sanitary improvements championed by Sir Henry Duncan Littlejohn, Edinburgh's first Medical Officer of Health. This Act encouraged the provision of washhouses in overcrowded urban areas in an effort to improve the sanitary conditions and health of residents. That there was still a need for this well into the 20th century can be seen in the fact that the last public washhouse was opened in Murdoch Terrace, Dalry as late as 1934.

Union Street, built to replace a smaller facility in Greenside Lane that had closed in 1928, cost £15,200 and was opened by Lord Provost Thomson on 15th March 1933. It was built by William Black of Edinburgh with Aimers Mclean of Galashiels providing the laundry engineering works. The building was first provided with 58 washing tubs, 58 drying horses and nine hydro-extractors. It finally closed in 1977 with the last three Edinburgh washhouses, Portobello, Murdoch Terrace and Causewayside closing on 1st October 1982. Of the fourteen public washhouse buildings built in Edinburgh only Union Street and Portobello now remain, with the former washhouses at Abbeyhill and McLeod Street, Gorgie, demolished in 2014 and 2015 respectively.

The Union Street building is currently in use as the Edinburgh Printmakers Workshop (2015) who are due to vacate the building and move to Fountainbridge in 2018.

James Archibald Tweedie and George Clark Robb were assistants to City Architect Ebenezer James MacRae in the Edinburgh City Architect's Department in the 1930s.

Listed building record revised in 2015.



Ordnance Survey, (Revised 1931, Published 1933) Midlothian Sheet 111.8. 25 Inches to the mile map. Southampton: Ordnance Survey.

Report on Union Street Washhouse by City Architects Office, Dated 7 March 1933.

Article on opening of the washhouse, The Scotsman, 16 March 1933

Edinburgh City Archives, Dean of Guild Plans and working drawings.

Further information courtesy of tenant (2010)

Robb, S. (2014) The Public Washhouses of Edinburgh. Book of the Old Edinburgh Club, Vol 10.

Dictionary of Scottish Architects, James Tweedie , (accessed 08/10/2015).

Dictionary of Scottish Architects, George Clark Robb, (accessed 08/10/2015)

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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