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Standing Building Recording

Date October 1998 - November 1998

Event ID 999811

Category Recording

Type Standing Building Recording


NT 267 738 During analysis and record of this 80-room mansion (NMRS NT 27 SE 588) as part of the development of the Scottish Parliament Holyrood site, the following phases of work have been completed:

Evaluation (October - November 1998)

An initial assessment of the fabric was undertaken, including controlled removal of exterior harl, internal plaster and flooring in selected areas. This exercise established the complex nature of the surviving fabric. In conjunction with historical research, a basic evolutionary sequence was established:

Period 1: c 1667-70. A T-plan structure originally erected by Margaret Douglas of Balmakelly as a 'Grand Lodging'. Material from demolished tenements was reused throughout the construction. This building was depicted by John Slezer whose view of Edinburgh has now been redated to c 1670-80 on the evidence from the house. The original Canongate entrance arrangement was identified in the present cellar space. It was discovered that original floor structures survived throughout much of the building on three levels. The substantial kitchen arches were also revealed. Inconsistencies were noted with the Slezer view, which suggested that there had been a further bay at the E end of the principal range.

Period 2: c 1679-81. Modifications for Lord Hatton, Treasurer Depute of Scotland, by the architect James Smith. This included a 'bartizan' or belvedere tower constructed over the principal stairwell. The remains of this feature were discovered within the roof space.

Period 3: c 1695-1700. Remodelling by James, 2nd Duke of Queensberry, also by James Smith. This work involved the addition of a major wing to the W, closet towers at either end of the S, garden frontage and the substantial remodelling of the N, Canongate frontage. The latter involved the infilling and vaulting over of the court, the erection of a porch, now a full storey above the original entrance, and the remodelling of the gable of the original jamb of the 1660s building to match that of the new W wing - works characterised by the use of rusticated quoining, reflecting the rusticated masonry of the new porch. Within the SE closet tower the surviving remains of a coved plaster ceiling were discovered above a false ceiling - the only decorative plasterwork to have survived within the building.

Period 4: c 1803-11. Following the stripping of the structure of decorative fittings in 1801-03, the Board of Ordnance extended Queensberry House by the removal of the pre-existing roof-scape and the raising of the roof space to a new full storey. The W wing stair was extended to the full height of the structure and a new central stair inserted, necessitating the sub-division of one of the rooms of the principal apartment.

Interior survey (October 1999 - March 2000)

A record was made of the interior (jointly with Headland Archaeology and SUAT: see above). A drawn survey of all walls and floor structures was made at 1:20, with full context record, following comprehensive removal of Period 4 wall and ceiling plaster and more recent modifications. Photographic record by the RCAHMS.

A wealth of data was revealed, providing a comprehensive understanding of the plan form and general arrangement of rooms at each period. Considerable evidence was exposed for the original roof form, particularly the remains of early gables and chimneys encased by later construction.

Exterior survey (June - July 2000)

A full survey of the exterior was carried out (jointly with the RCAHMS) following the removal of cementitious harl from most areas. This exercise revealed further details of the original roof form including in situ Period 1 and 3 cornices, Period 1 skew stones, and other features. It was discovered that the majority of the dressed stonework from the demolished Period 1-3 roof-scape had been built into the Phase 4 masonry of the upper storey. Further features included evidence for a wooden balcony and an (empty) armorial panel on the S frontage. From the exterior survey it was concluded that there probably had never been an additional bay on the E end of the principal range. Evidence was found to suggest design changes during the Phase 3 remodelling, including the heightening of the two closet towers during construction.

Commissioned studies

A series of separately commissioned studies have also been undertaken:

1 Paint investigation: record of surviving evidence for early colour schemes.

2 Roofing materials: overview of the evidence for roofing materials within Queensberry House.

3 Pictorial evidence.

4 Evidence for the belvedere: general review of the physical, documentary and pictorial evidence, with suggested reconstructions.

5 Dendrochronology: initial evaluation. (AOC Archaeology)

Reports will be lodged with the NMRS.

Sponsors: Historic Scotland, Scottish Parliament.

T Addyman 2000

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