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Latitude: 55.9551 / 55°57'18"N
Longitude: -3.176 / 3°10'33"W
OS Eastings: 326666
OS Northings: 674183
OS Grid: NT266741
Mapcode National: GBR 8SD.5R
Mapcode Global: WH6SM.5LV4
Plus Code: 9C7RXR4F+2H
Entry Name: 20 Regent Terrace, Edinburgh
Listing Name: 20 Regent Terrace Including Railings and Boundary Walls
Listing Date: 16 December 1965
Source: Historic Scotland
Source ID: 397404
Historic Scotland Designation Reference: LB49783
Building Class: Cultural
Electoral Ward: City Centre
Traditional County: Midlothian
William Playfair, designed 1825, built 1826-1833. Part of long terrace of 34 classical 3-bay townhouses; originally 2-storey, attic and basement elevations (many have additional later 3rd storeys; 20 Regent Terrace retains its original 2-storey and attic elevation) punctuated by 2 18-bay, 3-storey pavilions with 3-bay advanced sections to each end (Nos 11-16 and 23-28) and with 12-bay, 3-storey section to the western end (Nos 1-4); terrace stepped down at intervals to follow slope of road. Painted droved ashlar to basement; polished ashlar to upper floors; predominantly coursed squared rubble with dressed margins to rear elevation. To principal elevation: base course; dividing band between basement and ground floor; dividing band and cornice between ground and 1st floors; to 1st floor, continuous cast-iron trellis balcony with Greek key border; band course above 1st floor windows; eaves cornice; blocking course. Doorpiece of fluted attached Greek Doric columns. Regular fenestration to principal elevation; architraved windows to ground and 1st floors; panelled aprons to ground floor windows; predominantly regular fenestration to rear elevation.
SE (PRINCIPAL) ELEVATION: 2-storey, attic and basement elevation. To basement, to centre bay, timber-panelled door with 3-light fanlight in segmentally-headed opening; window to left and right bays. To ground floor, to right bay, steps and platt overarching basement recess leading to 2-leaf timber-panelled door with triple-circle glazed letterbox fanlight. 2 canted dormer windows to attic floor.
NW (REAR) ELEVATION: 2-bay elevation. Eaves course.
GLAZING etc: predominantly 12-pane glazing; 16-lying-pane glazing to 1st floor to front elevation; plate glass to attic to attic floor to front elevation; 16-pane glazing to right bay to rear elevation; glazing predominantly in timber sash and case windows. M-roof with central valley and mansard profile to front; graded grey slate; stone skews and skewputts. To E and W, to mutual ridge stacks preceded by individual octagonal flues to front; predominantly circular cans. To front, cast-iron down-pipe and hopper.
RAILINGS AND BOUNDARY WALLS: to front, edging basement recess and platt, stone coping surmounted by cast-iron railings with dog bars, spear-head finials and distinctive circled border; to left of platt, wrought-iron lamp standard. To rear, forming boundary of garden, random rubble walls with predominantly flat coping.
INTERIOR: to basement: laundry room retaining copper and 3 large sinks, wine cellar, service bells. To ground floor: to lobby, 19th century imitation marble painted walls, pilastered timber and glazed screen and 2-leaf doors, good plasterwork, compartmented ceiling; to former dining room, classical black marble chimneypiece, gas brackets flanking chimneypiece, good plasterwork; to rear room (W), white marble chimneypiece, simple cornice; to rear room (E), simple cornice. To 1st floor: L-shaped former drawing room, grey marble chimneypiece, good plasterwork; to rear room (W), good plasterwork, replacement painted stone chimneypiece and grate brought from basement. To 2nd floor, reeded architraves to some doors, to front room (W), painted cast-iron chimneypiece; to rear room (W), painted stone chimneypiece, deep cavetto cornice; to rear room (E), remains of original wallpaper in cupboard under sink. Stone cantilevered stairs with ornate cast-iron balusters; replacement cast-iron tray rest; good simple plasterwork to stair ceiling and landings; rectangular cupola in compartmented ceiling.
Part of the Calton A-Group.
Regent 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 and balconies are important as their design features distinctive elements which Playfair repeated in large areas of the Calton scheme.
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 the three single-sided terraces (to make the most of the spectacular views), Royal, Regent and Carlton, 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. Regent Terrace was feued in 1824 and building began the next year. In 1831, nearly all the houses were complete, and by 1833, all were inhabited except No 14. However, demand for the feus in other street of the scheme 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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