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Latitude: 55.9598 / 55°57'35"N
Longitude: -3.1853 / 3°11'7"W
OS Eastings: 326095
OS Northings: 674719
OS Grid: NT260747
Mapcode National: GBR 8QC.82
Mapcode Global: WH6SM.1GGH
Entry Name: 21-23 (Inclusive Nos) Gayfield Square Including Railings
Listing Date: 19 April 1966
Source: Historic Scotland
Source ID: 396711
Historic Scotland Designation Reference: LB49148
Building Class: Cultural
Electoral Ward: City Centre
Traditional County: Midlothian
Hugh Cairncross, 1808. Symmetrical terraced double tenement block; 4-storey and basement, 7-bay elevation to Gayfield Square. Droved ashlar (coursed, squared rubble with droved margins to basement; coursed rubble with dressed margins to rear). Dividing band between basement and ground floor; eaves course. Regular fenestration.
SE (PRINCIPAL) ELEVATION: to 3 central bays to ground floor, individual steps and platt overarching basement recess, leading to doorway; timber-panelled doors with rectangular fanlights with 3-light glazing to central bay and umbrella glazing to flanking bays. Cast iron balconettes to 3rd floor windows (excluding centre bay).
NW (REAR) ELEVATION: 6-bay elevation; 3-bay section to right slightly recessed; small square windows to 5th bay from left (excluding 2nd floor opening).
GLAZING etc: 12-pane glazing in timber sash and case windows (4-pane glazing to smaller windows to rear elevation). M-roof with valley gutter; grey slate; stone skews and skewputts. To outer left and right, mutual ridge stacks; 2 ridge stacks to centre; all stacks corniced, coursed rubble with droved dressings and circular cans.
RAILINGS: spear-head and urn finialled cast iron railings set in stone copes edging basement recess; plain railings edging steps and platts.
This double 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. The relative simplicity of detailing, compared to the adjoining terrace and tenement block to the left (also by Cairncross; separately listed), is reflective of the building's position on the road running out of the square, which causes it to be hidden from view when looking at the square from Leith Walk. The modern building to the right replaces a contemporaneous building of 5 absolutely plain storeys which fell into disrepair and was demolished in the 1970s. 21-23 Gayfield Square 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 the Old Quad, Edinburgh University.
21-23 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. There is some evidence to suggest that John Fraser, a builder, bought and built on all the feus on this NW side.
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