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Latitude: 55.949 / 55°56'56"N
Longitude: -3.189 / 3°11'20"W
OS Eastings: 325847
OS Northings: 673524
OS Grid: NT258735
Mapcode National: GBR 8PG.JY
Mapcode Global: WH6SL.ZQMS
Plus Code: 9C7RWRX6+JC
Entry Name: 1-6 (Inclusive Nos) Tron Square (Lower And Upper)
Listing Name: 1-17 (Inclusive Nos) Tron Square (Lower and Upper)
Listing Date: 10 December 2006
Source: Historic Scotland
Source ID: 399295
Historic Scotland Designation Reference: LB50778
Building Class: Cultural
Electoral Ward: City Centre
Traditional County: Midlothian
Circa 1900. City Engineers Department. Three 4-storey blocks set on sloping ground, originally containing 105 separate 'workmen's dwellings'. Cement rendered brick with cement dressings to openings; projecting cills and discontinuous base and string courses; vernacular detailing with crow-stepped gables, dormers, piended roofs, and projecting eaves.
LOWER SQUARE: two L-plan blocks forming U-plan with flight of stairs to Upper Square between. Projecting 4-storey towers of canted windows to outer corners and flanking stairs. Common stairs in re-entrant corners, leading to concrete decks with iron supporting columns and railings.
UPPER SQUARE: 4-storey rectangular block to Upper Square. Projecting outer bays with piended roofs and distinctive ogee shaped gable dormers breaking wallheads. Common stairs slightly left of centre leading to concrete decks giving access to each floor. Irregular arrangement of doors and windows to left and right of stair.
Timber sash and case windows, predominantly 4 and 6-pane upper sashes, plate glass lower sashes. Harled and coped ridge stacks with predominantly red clay cans. Grey slate.
The Tron Square housing development is distinctive for the use of vernacular detailing which places the buildings comfortably in the old town. The scheme is one of the earliest to make use of deck access to flats on upper stories to remain in Edinburgh. Only Rosemount Buildings (1860) and Patriot Hall (1859) (see separate listings) were earlier.
The construction of Tron Square stems from the 1893 urban sanitary improvement scheme, which aimed to remove the most unsanitary housing while respecting the historic character of the old town. This was achieved by making use of smaller scale redevelopments instead of the more comprehensive redevelopments which characterised the improvements undertaken in the 1860s. Although influenced by the 'conservative surgery' approach pioneered by Sir Patrick Geddes in the 1880s there is no evidence directly linking Geddes to this scheme. The political backing for the schemes came from Lord Provost James Alexander Russell, who had been trained in medicine and public health.
The site of Tron Square, on ground sloping down from the High Street to the Cowgate, previously contained rows of tenements which were considered both dangerous and unhygienic, being officially designated an 'unhealthy area' by the Medical Officer of Health Dr Henry Littlejohn. The subsequent construction of Tron Square demonstrates the prevailing concern that workmen's housing should provide light and air, and be, above all, sanitary. As well as large open spaces each property also had access to communal sinks and the minimum requirement of a WC for each dwelling or shared between two.
A significant aspect of the scheme is the use of local government funding. Initially it had not been intended to provide any additional municipal housing. However it was deemed necessary for the council to intervene to deal with the acute shortage of accommodation at the cheaper end of the market, caused by other street improvements and the extension of Waverley Station. Tron Square was the largest of this first group of municipal housing schemes.
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