History in Structure

Abbey Court House, Holyrood Abbey, Holyrood Palace, Edinburgh

A Category A Listed Building in Edinburgh, Edinburgh

More Photos »
Approximate Location Map
Large Map »


Latitude: 55.9527 / 55°57'9"N

Longitude: -3.1736 / 3°10'24"W

OS Eastings: 326814

OS Northings: 673918

OS Grid: NT268739

Mapcode National: GBR 8SF.NM

Mapcode Global: WH6SM.7M0Y

Plus Code: 9C7RXR3G+3H

Entry Name: Abbey Court House, Holyrood Abbey, Holyrood Palace, Edinburgh

Listing Name: Holyroodhouse, Abbey Court House

Listing Date: 14 December 1970

Category: A

Source: Historic Scotland

Source ID: 365447

Historic Scotland Designation Reference: LB28027

Building Class: Cultural

ID on this website: 200365447

Location: Edinburgh

County: Edinburgh

Town: Edinburgh

Electoral Ward: City Centre

Traditional County: Midlothian

Tagged with: Building

Find accommodation in


Mostly Robert Reid, 1822-3 and Robert Matheson, 1857, incorporating some 16th century fabric. 2-storey, 4-bay crowstepped former courthouse with circular corbelled stairtower with conical roof at NE corner, situated on S side of entrance to Palace forecourt. Random rubble, droved and ashlar margins. Tower with flattened ogee-arch entrance with timber, metal-studded door.

N elevation with 4-bay pointed-arch blind arcading (see Notes). Off-centre boarded timber door with moulded door surround. Large in-set panel with painted Arms of James V to right.

Predominantly 12-pane timber sash and case windows. Grey slates. Coped gable and ridge stacks.

INTERIOR: (seen 2007). Stone turnpike stair at entrance to NE . Some rooms with moulded stone fire surrounds.

Statement of Interest

The ground beneath the Palace of Holyroodhouse and nearby structures (including Croft-an-Righ House, the buildings on the N side of Abbey Strand and the buildings around Mews Court) is scheduled under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979 for its archaeological importance. The upstanding remains of Holyrood Abbey and Queen Mary's Bath are also scheduled monuments. Significant upstanding and below-ground archaeological remains may survive as part of and in addition to the structures and features described above.

Situated at the main entrance to Holyroodhouse from the Canongate, the Abbey Court House is an important component of the outbuildings of Holyroodhouse and is particularly interesting for the retention of the blind arcading of the original 16th century gatehouse on the North wall. It also forms part of the wider stable complex of buildings associated with the Holyroodhouse.

The current Abbey Courthouse, restored in 1958 when the old prison was refurbished into the Bailie's Room, is the current home of the High Constables of Holyrood, who guard the Queen when she visits Holyroodhouse. The Constables in their current form were founded in the late 18th century, although their origins are much earlier than this. The building also served as the Abbey Court. The Abbey Court held jurisdiction within the grounds of Holyrood Abbey, and mainly dealt with civil maters relating to minor debts and petty squabbles. It ceased as a Court of Law in 1880. Originally held in rooms in the Palace, the Court moved to the guardroom in 1746, which had the advantage of having a built-in prison. The guardroom was replaced by the current building in 1857. Robert Matheson (c1807-1877), the Clerk of Works for Scotland, carried out a programme of gradual improvements to the Palace, the Park and the Abbey Precincts at the request of Queen Victoria. These improvements included designing Lodges for the entrances to the Park and the fountain in the forecourt, as well as improving the buildings in the Abbey Courtyard.

In 1128, David I built an Augustinian Abbey at Holyrood. This flourished, and when the Royal Court was subsequently in Edinburgh many Royal Guests chose to stay in the guesthouse of the abbey rather than the Castle. In 1501, James IV built a Palace on the site of the Abbey guesthouse and a gatehouse was constructed. This gatehouse was a 2-storey building with a rib-vaulted pend and a tower at its SE corner. The building was destroyed in 1743, but fragments can be found in the stairtower of the current Court House, and also on the North wall, where the arcading from the original gatehouse is clearly visible.

Part of A-group comprising: Palace of Holyroodhouse; 28 and 30 Croft-An-Righ (Croft-An-Righ House); Abbey Strand Eastern Building; Abbey Strand Western Building; Queen Mary's Bath House; North Garden Sundial; Palace Forecourt Fountain; Abbey Court House; Gatehouse and Former Guard Rooms; Palace Coach House; Stables; Queen's Gallery (see separate listings).

References from previous list description: Inv 87. General Report on works executed at Holyrood 1836, SRO.

List description revised as part of the Edinburgh Holyrood Ward resurvey 2007-08.

Category changed from B to A and list description updated 2013.

External Links

External links are from the relevant listing authority and, where applicable, Wikidata. Wikidata IDs may be related buildings as well as this specific building. If you want to add or update a link, you will need to do so by editing the Wikidata entry.

Recommended Books

Other nearby listed buildings

BritishListedBuildings.co.uk is an independent online resource and is not associated with any government department. All government data published here is used under licence. Please do not contact BritishListedBuildings.co.uk for any queries related to any individual listed building, planning permission related to listed buildings or the listing process itself.

British Listed Buildings is a Good Stuff website.