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Edinburgh, George Iv Bridge

Railings (19th Century), Road Bridge (19th Century)

Site Name Edinburgh, George Iv Bridge

Classification Railings (19th Century), Road Bridge (19th Century)

Alternative Name(s) Western Approaches, Spittal Street

Canmore ID 113440

Site Number NT27SE 829

NGR NT 25660 73437

Datum OSGB36 - NGR


Ordnance Survey licence number 100057073. All rights reserved.
Canmore Disclaimer. © Copyright and database right 2019.

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Digital Images

Administrative Areas

  • Council Edinburgh, City Of
  • Parish Edinburgh (Edinburgh, City Of)
  • Former Region Lothian
  • Former District City Of Edinburgh
  • Former County Midlothian

Archaeology Notes

ARCHITECT: R Thornton 1868


4 pages of text giving details of The Hope House - filed under "THE HOPE HOUSE, COWGATE";

1 page with "Sketch of lintel from the Eastern doorawy of Hope House" -filed under "GEORGE IV BRIDGE, EDINBURGH PUBLIC LIBRARY";

1 page with drawing of "Lintel from the Western doorway of Hope House, Cowgate" -filed under "GEORGE IV BRIDGE, EDINBURGH PUBLIC LIBRARY"

This bridge spans the Cowgate between the High Street (to the N) and the junction with Chambers Street (to the S).

The location assigned to this record identifies the approximate midpoint of the structure. The available map evidence suggests that it extends from NT c. 25695 73327 to NT c. 25617 73570.

Information from RCAHMS (RJCM), 15 May 2006.

See also under individual buildings in Canmore.


Construction (1827 - 1836)

Aerial Photography (1993)

Project (2007)

This project was undertaken to input site information listed in 'Civil engineering heritage: Scotland - Lowlands and Borders' by R Paxton and J Shipway, 2007.

Publication Account (2007)

The George IV Bridge was another development-led bridge project similar to that already described for South Bridge, also over the Cowgate valley, but stemming from the 1827 Edinburgh Improvement Act. Thomas Hamilton, as architect to the Improvement Commissioners, designed the development to provide a broad picturesque ‘Southern Approach’ to the Old Town. The foundation stone was laid in August 1827 and the bridge was to take nine years to complete.

The ten spans vary from 29 ft to 34 ft and are constructed of masonry with semicircular arches which are mainly hidden except for those over the Cowgate and Merchant Street. The Cowgate passes about 50 ft below the roadway of the bridge and its arch is the tallest with about 36 ft headroom. It has three open groined arches supported on octagonal pillars, the timber centring for which was being set up in March 1831. The contractor for the bridge was George Lorimer and the contract sum £17 950. Work was well under way in 1831 and the bridge was passable in 1834 although the alignment from the bridge to High Street had not been settled.

The project encountered financial and management problems which caused delay and difficulties, particularly

between Hamilton and Jardine, who investigated the accuracy of Hamilton’s statements and estimates for a

town committee. Hamilton resigned in 1834. George Smith took over as architect and the bridge was completed

on its present line to the High Street opposite The Mound by 1836, with the support of Jardine and Grainger against the opinions of others including William Cubitt who preferred a more westerly line involving demolition of the old Midlothian Council building. The new approach considerably improved the accessibility of the city centre to and from the south.

R Paxton and S Shipway 2007

Reproduced from 'Civil Engineering heritage: Scotland - Lowlands and Borders' with kind permission of Thomas Telford Publishers.


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