History in Structure

1 Royal Terrace, Edinburgh

A Category A Listed Building in Edinburgh, Edinburgh

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Latitude: 55.9568 / 55°57'24"N

Longitude: -3.181 / 3°10'51"W

OS Eastings: 326357

OS Northings: 674381

OS Grid: NT263743

Mapcode National: GBR 8RD.44

Mapcode Global: WH6SM.3JHT

Plus Code: 9C7RXR49+PH

Entry Name: 1 Royal Terrace, Edinburgh

Listing Name: 1 and 2 Royal Terrace Including Railings and Boundary Walls

Listing Date: 16 December 1965

Last Amended: 14 December 1970

Category: A

Source: Historic Scotland

Source ID: 369933

Historic Scotland Designation Reference: LB29681

Building Class: Cultural

ID on this website: 200369933

Location: Edinburgh

County: Edinburgh

Town: Edinburgh

Electoral Ward: City Centre

Traditional County: Midlothian

Tagged with: Terrace house Cultural heritage ensemble

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William Playfair, designed 1820-4; No 1 and No 2 built circa 1857. Part of extremely long 121-bay palace front terrace of townhouses with arched and rusticated ground floor; to centre, 3-storey section punctuated by three 3-storey and attic Corinthian colonnaded pavilions; to left and right flanking 3-storey balustraded sections leading to 3-storey sections with 3-storey and attic Ionic colonnaded pavilions; 2-storey balustraded sections to outer left and right; basements to all houses. Droved ashlar to basement; V-chamfered rustication to ground floor; polished ashlar to upper floors; predominantly coursed squared rubble with dressed margins to rear elevations. To principal elevations: base course; dividing band between basement and ground floor; impost course to ground floor; dividing band between ground and 1st floors; to 1st floor, narrow band course broken by window to each bay. Regular fenestration to principal elevations; predominantly regular fenestration to rear elevations; to ground floor, round-headed openings in round-headed overarches.

N (PRINCIPAL) ELEVATION: 2-storey, basement and attic, 6-bay elevation (3 bays to each original town-house). To basement, segmentally-headed window to 3rd and 6th bays from right, timber door with 4-light fanlight in segmentally-headed opening to 2nd and 5th bays from right; to 1st and 4th bays from right, area under platt blocked in, with bipartite window; wall dividing basement areas between 4th and 5th bays. To ground floor, to 1st and 4th bays from right, steps and platts overarching basement recess, leading to timber-panelled door with flanking margin lights and segmental fanlight; windows to remaining bays. Cast-iron balconnettes to windows to 4th, 5th and 6th bays from right; unbroken band course above windows. Eaves cornice; balustraded parapet. To roof, dormer window to each bay.

W (SIDE) ELEVATION: blank elevation but for single window at ground level to right; base course; band course ; eaves cornice; to right, eaves level jumps to 1 storey higher.

S (REAR) ELEVATION: 6-bay elevation (3 bays to each original house); full height advanced bays with chamfered corners to 2nd and 5th bays from right.

GLAZING etc: to principal elevation, predominantly 12-pane glazing to basement; plate-glass glazing to ground floor; 6-pane glazing (2-pane top sash, 4-pane lower sash) to 1st floor; all in timber sash and case windows; attic windows not visible; to rear elevation, predominantly 6-pane glazing (2-pane top sash, 4-pane lower sash) in timber sash and case windows; to 2nd (attic) floor, 12-pane glazing to 1st and 4th bays; 16-pane glazing to 3rd and 6th bays, all in timber sash and case windows. M-roof with central valleys; piended section to W side; mansard to front elevation; graded grey slate. To centre and left, mutual corniced ashlar ridge stack surmounted by linked octagonal flues; to side elevation, wallhead stack; predominantly circular cans.

RAILINGS AND BOUNDARY WALLS: to front, edging basement recesses and platts, stone coping surmounted by cast-iron railings with dog bars, spear-head finials and distinctive circled border. To rear, forming boundary of gardens, random rubble walling with flat coping; S end once had railings, now missing.

INTERIOR: slappings in dividing wall between No 1 and No 2 to ground floor. To ground floor, both lobby ceilings compartmented with good ornate plasterwork; panelled, pilastered and corniced doorpiece between lobby and inner hall to No 2. To No 1: to ground floor, former dining room, good ornate cornice, black marble chimneypiece, 2 corniced doorpieces; to 1st floor, rear W room, good ornate cornicing; classical grey marble chimneypiece. To No 2: to ground floor, former dining room, good ornate cornicing. To both No 1 and No 2, ornate cast-iron balusters to stairs.

Statement of Interest

Part of the Calton A-Group.

Currently (2003) in use as office accommodation.

The plate glass and 6-pane glazing in timber sash and case windows are consisistent with the date of construction of 1 and 2 Royal Terrace.

Royal Terrace forms part of the showpiece of Playfair's Eastern New Town (or Calton) scheme, and as such is an important example of the work of one of Scotland's leading early 19th century architects. Playfair was one of the major driving forces of the Greek Revival in Edinburgh at this time, and his public commissions such as the National Monument, the Royal Institution and the National Gallery (see separate listings) gave strength to Edinburgh's reputation as the Athens of the North. The Calton Scheme was one of his few domestic commissions, and the variety of designs, different for each street, demonstrates Playfair's expertise with the Grecian style and his characteristic punctilious attention to detail. The railings are important as their design features distinctive elements which Playfair repeated in large areas of the Calton scheme. The massive scale of Royal Terrace, in conjunction with Playfair's characteristic attention to detail (for instance the decision to site houses on one side of the Terrace only, in order to capitalise on the spectacular views), make this one of his most impressive schemes. When designing Royal Terrace, Playfair also rejected the conventional palace front with its distinctive central pavilion; he instead chose a more subtle distribution of pavilions, creating a discreet accumulation of emphasis towards the centre of the terrace through the use of attic storeys and Ionic and Corinthian Orders.

The origins of the Eastern New Town, which was to occupy the east end of Calton Hill and lands to the north of it on the ground between Easter Road and Leith Walk, lie in a 'joint plan for building' which three principal feuars (Heriot's Hospital, Trinity Hospital and Mr Allan of Hillside) entered into in 1811. In 1812 a competition was advertised for plans for laying out the grounds in question. Thirty-two plans were received, displayed and reported on by a variety of people, including eight architects. Eventually, it was decided that none of the plans was suitable. However, it was a more general report by William Stark (who died shortly after submitting it) which caught the attention of the Commissioners and formed the basis of the final scheme. Stark's central argument stressed the importance of planning around the natural contours and features of the land rather than imposing formal, symmetrical street plans upon it. After several years of little or no progress, in 1818 the Commissioners finally selected William Henry Playfair, Stark's former pupil, to plan a scheme following his master's Picturesque ideals.

The resulting scheme, presented to the Commissioners in 1819, preserved the view of and from Calton Hill by the creation of a limited triangular development of three single-sided terraces on the hill itself. These looked over a huge radial street pattern, centred on the gardens of Hillside Crescent, on the land to the north. The feuing of these lower lands started well, with Elm Row, Leopold Place, Windsor Street and the west side of Hillside Crescent being built fairly swiftly. However, demand for the feus faltered severely, due to the growing popularity of new properties being built to the west of the New Town. This had a particularly bad effect on Royal Terrace, where construction stopped for 20 years, leaving 2 large gaps in the Terrace and a further 3 unbuilt feus to the west end. The fate of the whole Calton scheme was sealed in 1838, when it was decided that feuars should pay poor-rates to both Edinburgh and Leith. This virtually halted development for the next thirty years. The result of all these problems was that very little of Playfair's original scheme was ever built. When building resumed in the 1880s, some of Playfair's original street lines were adhered to, as was the case with Hillside Crescent, and in others such as Brunton Place, Brunswick Street, Hillside Street (originally to be a longer street called Hopeton Street), and Wellington Street (also curtailed). However, due to piecemeal residential, industrial and transport developments immediately to the north, it would have been impossible to further follow Playfair's original layout, even if this had been considered desirable.


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