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RCAHMS County Inventory: The City of Edinburgh

Date 1912 - 1947

Event ID 1086869

Category Project

Type Project


Individual articles from the ‘Inventory of the Ancient and Historical Monuments of the City of Edinburgh’, published by RCAHMS in 1951, were entered into Canmore in May 2020. Where the articles exceeded c.1,500 words in length, only the introductory paragraphs were reproduced. Readers should consult the original text to clarify matters of detail, and to access the related material in the introduction and appendices, glossary and a section on armorial matters. The entire volume, in PDF format, can be downloaded as Digital File WP 003950 ( See Fox, C, 1952, Antiq. J. v.32, pp.94-5, for a contemporary review.

The thirteenth report (RCAHMS 1950, xxvii-xxix) is reproduced here to provide a further measure of the context and scope of the survey, which extended over some 35 years:

"We, Your Majesty's Commissioners, appointed to make an Inventory of the Ancient and Historical Monuments and Constructions connected with or illustrative of the contemporary culture, civilisation, and conditions of life of the people in Scotland from the earliest times to the year 1707, and to specify those which seem most worthy of preservation, humbly present to Your Majesty this our Thirteenth Report. The Inventory deals with the City of Edinburgh, its suburban districts and the port of Leith. Taking advantage of the discretion accorded to us by Your Majesty's Royal Warrant of 1st December, 1938, we have included in the Inventory not only the monuments that are of earlier date than 1707 but also a certain number of buildings erected between 1707 and 1815. The Inventory having gone to the press before the issue of Your Majesty's Royal Warrant of January 1st, 1948, advantage could not be taken of the discretion afforded by it for the inclusion of buildings of still later date. In respect of buildings erected after 1707 we have thought it proper to cover the whole area of the City as defined by the Edinburgh Corporation Order of 1933, while in respect of the earlier monuments it has only been necessary to deal with the area excluded from the Inventory of Midlothian, as noted in our Tenth Report. Appended to the Report is a list of those monuments which, in our opinion, are most worthy of preservation.

We tender to Your Majesty our respectful thanks for the gracious message that accompanied Your Majesty's acceptance of the volumes embodying our Twelfth Report with the Inventory of the Monuments of Orkney and Shetland.

We desire to acknowledge the welcome assistance given us by Mr. C. A. Malcolm, M.A., Ph.D., who supplied us with a wealth of historical matter for use in both the introduction and the text, and who also most kindly contributed the notes on vanished buildings that have been incorporated in the Inventory; by Sir Francis J. Grant, K.C.V.O., LL.D., W.S., formerly the Lord Lyon King of Arms, who has personally revised all the heraldic matter; by Mr. H. W. Meikle, C.B.E., LL.D., D.Litt., formerly Librarian of the National Library of Scotland, Mr. W. Angus, LL.D., Keeper of the Registers of Scotland, Mr. H. M. Paton, formerly of Your Majesty's Register House, Miss M. Wood, D.Litt., City Archivist, and the late Professor R. K. Hannay, LL.D., H.R.S.A., particularly in connection with the tombstones in Greyfriars Churchyard; by successive Secretaries of Your Majesty's Office of Works and of the Ministry of Works in Edinburgh and their staffs, especially by making the Ministry's photographs available for use as illustrations; by Mr. J. S. Richardson, LL.D., formerly one of Your Majesty's Inspectors of Ancient Monuments; by Mr. Stanley Cursiter, C.B.E.,RS.A., formerly Director of the National Gallery of Scotland, who kindly contributed a description of the Trinity College altar-piece; by the late Mr. C. Boog-Watson, the late Mr. John Russell, and Sir Frank C. Mears, P.R.S.A., LL.D., F.R.I.B.A., who placed their wide knowledge of old Edinburgh at our disposal; by Mr. E. J. Macrae, F.R.I.B.A., who, as City Architect, lent plans and supplied information about existing and vanished structures; and by the late the Most Honourable the Marquess of Bute, K.T., and a large number of other proprietors and householders who likewise supplied information about individual buildings and gave practical assistance to the Commission's officers in the course of the survey.

We desire to point out that the survey on which this Inventory is based was spread over a period of many years, and that the late war has still further delayed its publication. It consequently represents the work of a body of Commissioners of whom only two now remain, but we have not seen in this fact any ground for undertaking a revision of the previously accepted text. Except as otherwise stated, the descriptions represent the monuments. as they stood in 1941, and the usual notes recording dates of visit have accordingly been omitted; the more important buildings, however, were checked again in 1947.

Most of the City's principal monuments are now in public hands, and are therefore unlikely to suffer further damage as the result of neglect. Experience suggests, however, that other structures may be expected to deteriorate progressively unless their preservation is made a matter of policy; while in any comprehensive scheme of urban reconstruction buildings of both categories are liable to be demolished unless definite plans are made for their retention and incorporation in the new streets. It is hoped that this may be done in the case of all buildings which possess first-rate artistic merit, or which constitute important examples of the architectural styles and methods of their times.

The war brought special risks to ancient monuments in all parts of Scotland, not only through enemy action but through the field-training of troops, and we endeavoured to forestall such damage by preparing emergency records. Under this programme some two thousand three hundred photographs were taken of buildings situated in counties not yet covered by Inventories, and six hundred and thirty-six monuments were visited and recorded in military training areas. We have to thank Professor Childe, who was then a member of the Commission, for having done the---bulk of this latter work himself. In 1943 and 1944 the services of the Secretary were made available to the National Buildings Record of England to make photographic records of historic buildings in Northumberland, Cumberland and Durham, as a result of which some three thousand four hundred photographs were secured for the Record's collection.

In conclusion we desire to record our deep regret for the death of our late Chairman, Sir George Macdonald, K.C.B., LL.D., D.Litt., F.B.A., whose untiring work for the Commission continued until the last days of his life; of Professor T. H. Bryce, M.D., F.RS., the last member of the Commission' as originally formed in 1908; of Mr. James Curle, LL.D., W.S., for long our valued adviser on medieval as well as on Roman matters; of Mr. James Morris, F.RLB.A.; and of Sir lain Colquhoun of Luss, Bart., K.T., D.S.G., LL.D., who had previously resigned under pressure of other work. We also regret the resignation of Sir John Maxwell Stirling Maxwell, Bart., K.T.,LL.D., F.S.A., our Chairman since 1940; and of Professor V. G. Childe, D. Litt.,D.Sc., F.B.A., F.S.A., who found field-work in Scotland impossible after his departure to take up the Directorship of the Institute of Archaeology in the University of London. The vacancies so caused have been successively filled by Professor V. H. Galbraith, M.A., D.Litt., F.B.A., Mr. W. Mackay Mackenzie, M.A., D.Litt., H.RS.A., Mr. I. A. Richmond, LL.D., F.B.A., V.-P.S.A., Professor S. Piggott, B.Litt., F.S.A., Mr. W. Douglas Simpson, M.A., D.Litt., F.S.A. and the Right Honourable the Earl of Wemyss and March, the last-named having also been appointed Chairman. We record with satisfaction that three, members of the staff, Mr. C. S. T. Calder, A.R.I.A.S., Mr. K. A. Steer, M.A., Ph.D., F.S.A., and Mr. R W. Feachem, M.A., F.S.A., F.R.G.S., served during the late war in Your Majesty's Armed Forces, and we congratulate Mr. Steer on the mention in despatches that he received.


Edinburgh, June 19th, 1950"


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