History in Structure

Edinburgh Printmakers, 23 Union Street

A Category C Listed Building in Edinburgh, Edinburgh

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Latitude: 55.9584 / 55°57'30"N

Longitude: -3.1864 / 3°11'11"W

OS Eastings: 326024

OS Northings: 674569

OS Grid: NT260745

Mapcode National: GBR 8QC.1K

Mapcode Global: WH6SM.0HYK

Plus Code: 9C7RXR57+9C

Entry Name: Edinburgh Printmakers, 23 Union Street

Listing Name: 23 Union Street, Edinburgh Printmakers

Listing Date: 10 December 2010

Category: C

Source: Historic Scotland

Source ID: 400543

Historic Scotland Designation Reference: LB51647

Building Class: Cultural

ID on this website: 200400543

Location: Edinburgh

County: Edinburgh

Town: Edinburgh

Electoral Ward: City Centre

Traditional County: Midlothian

Tagged with: Architectural structure

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James Tweedie, Edinburgh City Architect's Department, with George Robb as assistant, 1930. 2-storey, 4-bay classical former public wash house on sloping site with single-storey bay to south and integral, tall, red-brick chimney to south elevation (now printmakers studio, 2010). Squared and snecked rock-faced sandstone with ashlar margins, rendered to rear. Raised cills, eaves course.

FURTHER DESCRIPTION: off-centre, advanced classical key-stoned doorway with projecting cornice and with 6-panel, 2-leaf timber entrance door and part-glazed interior door. Flanking bi-partite windows to ground and further tri-partite window to far right.

Large hall to rear with full length louvred roof lantern and round-arched upper floor window. Tall, octagonal chimney on square-plan base at S elevation.

INTERIOR: (seen 2010). Original layout largely intact. Stair with simple iron balusters and timber handrail. Timber flooring to upper storey. Some part glazed internal screens. Round-arched division to ground. Basement with internal brick divisions.

Large white glazed-brick tiled hall to rear with some original lettering indicating the drying horse area.

Predominantly 8-over 8-pane timber sash and case windows to street elevation. Piended roof with grey slates.

Statement of Interest

This little altered former public wash house is a rare survivor of a once common building type. The building sits within an area of predominantly Georgian style buildings and effort has been made with the architectural design to harmonize this essentially industrial building with its surroundings. In this it echoes other inter-war city centre infill developments by Edinburgh's City Architect Ebenezer MacRae. Many of the internal features within the building remain including lettering within the main hall and the small office spaces. The chimney has been set back and the building as a whole adds to the streetscape of this part of Edinburgh.

This was a densely populated area in the 1930s and the wash house would have been a necessity for many of the families who lived here. They provided a social centre as well as a place for washing and, like most of Edinburgh's washhouses, this one was provided with a crèche upstairs.

The first public wash house was opened in Edinburgh in South Gray's Close in November 1892, following the Edinburgh Municipal and Police Act of 1879. The Act allowed for the 'purchase, feu, lease or other acquisition of lands' for baths, washhouses, gymnasiums, bleaching and drying greens'. The Act was also responsible for various other municipal and sanitary improvements championed by Sir Henry Duncan Littlejohn, Edinburgh's first Medical Officer of Health. This Act encouraged the provision of washhouses in overcrowded urban areas in an effort to improve the sanitary conditions and health of residents. That there was still a need for this well into the 20th century can be seen in the fact that the last public washhouse was opened in Murdoch Terrace, Dalry as late as 1934.

Union Street, built to replace a smaller facility in Greenside Lane that had closed in 1928, cost £15,200 and was opened by Lord Provost Thomson on 15th March 1933. It was built by William Black of Edinburgh with Aimers Mclean of Galashiels providing the laundry engineering works. The building was first provided with 58 washing tubs, 58 drying horses and nine hydro-extractors. It finally closed in 1977 with the last three Edinburgh washhouses, Portobello, Murdoch Terrace and Causewayside closing on 1st October 1982. Of the fourteen public washhouse buildings built in Edinburgh only Union Street and Portobello now remain, with the former washhouses at Abbeyhill and McLeod Street, Gorgie, demolished in 2014 and 2015 respectively.

The Union Street building is currently in use as the Edinburgh Printmakers Workshop (2015) who are due to vacate the building and move to Fountainbridge in 2018.

James Archibald Tweedie and George Clark Robb were assistants to City Architect Ebenezer James MacRae in the Edinburgh City Architect's Department in the 1930s.

Listed building record revised in 2015.

External Links

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