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Latitude: 55.9556 / 55°57'20"N
Longitude: -3.1747 / 3°10'29"W
OS Eastings: 326748
OS Northings: 674240
OS Grid: NT267742
Mapcode National: GBR 8SD.FL
Mapcode Global: WH6SM.6KHQ
Entry Name: 31 Regent Terrace Including Railings and Boundary Walls
Listing Date: 16 December 1965
Source: Historic Scotland
Source ID: 397418
Historic Scotland Designation Reference: LB49796
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; 31 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. 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 and basement elevation. To basement, to centre bay, timber-panelled door with letterbox fanlight; window to left bay; to right, area beneath platt blocked in by wall with 2 windows. To ground floor, to right bay, steps and platt overarching basement recess leading to timber-panelled and glazed door with letterbox fanlight.
NW (REAR) ELEVATION: 2-bay, 3-storey elevation. Eaves course.
GLAZING etc: predominantly plate glass; 12-pane glazing to basement to front 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, mutual ridge stacks preceded by individual octagonal flues to front; predominantly circular cans.
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 rear, forming boundary of garden, random rubble walls with predominantly flat coping.
INTERIOR: to ground floor: to lobby, good plasterwork, compartmented ceiling, timber-panelled and glazed screen and 2-leaf door; to former dining room, 20th century deep cavetto cornice and stone chimneypiece; to rear room (W), simple plasterwork, timber chimneypiece (possibly not original). To 1st floor: to former drawing room, compartmented ceiling, good plasterwork including to ceiling, classical marble chimneypiece with cherub carvings; 20th century pilastered and corniced architrave to bookcase; to rear room (W), painted classical stone chimneypiece, good plasterwork; to rear room (E), good plasterwork. Stone cantilevered stairs with cast-iron balusters; oval cupola with deep cavetto surround; good plasterwork to stairwell ceiling and landings.
Part of the Calton A-Group.
The original feuar of 31 Regent Terrace was the architect / builder Lewis Alexander Wallace.
During the middle part of the 20th century, 31 Regent Terrace was owned by the architect Sir Robert Matthew (founder of the international architectural practice Robert Matthew Johnson Marshall). Matthew made some alterations to the house, particularly the former dining room, during his time there.
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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