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Latitude: 55.9596 / 55°57'34"N
Longitude: -3.1857 / 3°11'8"W
OS Eastings: 326073
OS Northings: 674701
OS Grid: NT260747
Mapcode National: GBR 8QC.64
Mapcode Global: WH6SM.1G9M
Plus Code: 9C7RXR57+RP
Entry Name: 17 Gayfield Square, Edinburgh
Listing Name: 12-17a (Inclusive Nos) Gayfield Square Including Railings
Listing Date: 19 April 1966
Source: Historic Scotland
Source ID: 367390
Historic Scotland Designation Reference: LB28805
Building Class: Cultural
Electoral Ward: City Centre
Traditional County: Midlothian
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.
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.
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