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Edinburgh, 127 - 129 High Street

Public House (Period Unassigned)

Site Name Edinburgh, 127 - 129 High Street

Classification Public House (Period Unassigned)

Alternative Name(s) North Gray's Close; Bishop's Close; Royal Mile Bar

Canmore ID 113526

Site Number NT27SE 858

NGR NT 25984 73692

Datum OSGB36 - NGR


Ordnance Survey licence number 100057073. All rights reserved.
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Administrative Areas

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

Archaeology Notes

NT27SE 858 25984 73692

NT 2600 7370 An analytical assessment was undertaken of the standing buildings occupying the 123-133 High Street frontage, and the structures lining Bishop's Close and North Grey's Close behind to the N, the whole site consisting of three tenements. This revealed that, while incorporating early remains, the two W tenements had been substantially reconstructed at the beginning of the 19th century, including a single pedimented frontage, while the E tenement retained a frontage that dates to c 1700. All had been substantially reduced in height following fire damage. The relative alignments of the cellarage and pends to the closes suggested that the frontage had been successively extended into the High Street in two stages.

North Grey's Close contained the only substantial surviving remains of back tenement structures, in this case well preserved and including the substantial ruin known as Bishop Sydserff's House. The North Grey's Close W frontage, including these structures, was recorded in detail, as was a ground plan of Sydserff's. General architectural analysis identified at least three phases within this group of structures including two, possibly three, within Bishop Sydserff's House itself, the last associated with a datestone of 1581. It is possible that these constructions came in the wake of the destruction of parts of the city in the mid-16th century.

A 1m wide evaluation trench was excavated across the width of the central sub-division of Bishop Sydserff's House in order to examine ground conditions therein. Below a series of 19th-century earthfast floor joists and associated make-up, natural subsoil was exposed within the majority of the trench. Only at the N end were construction deposits encountered, producing a small quantity of medieval East Coast Red Ware. It appears that the construction of the existing structure, which was heavily terraced into the natural slope of the hill, had obliterated all earlier townscape remains in this area.

Sponsor: Cockburn Conservation Trust.

T Addyman 2001

Architecture Notes

PLANS: Dick Peddie & McKay alts

J R McKay 1937

Bishop's Close is shown on Ainslie 1780. It takes its name from Thomas Sydserff, appointed minister in the burgh in 1610 and ordained a bishop (initially of Brechin) in 1634. He rebuilt a land in the close which he inherited from at least three generations of the family; but the connection possibly went much further back, for a William de Sydeserf was an officer of the "dusane" or council in 1403. The close was also Edward Nisbet's Close, for the owner of a back land in the close, who succeeded his late father William Nisbet, as a burgess in 1596. It was also James Nisbet's Close, perhaps for James, son of a former provost Henry Nisbet, who was bailie in 1608; and it was Patrick Nisbet's Close, for a member of the family as yet unidentified, unless he was Sir Patrick Nisbet of Southbank, who died some time before 1653. Thirdly the close was also called Lindsay's or Alexander Lindsay's Close, relating to a tenement east of Bishop's land, at one time owned by a John Lindsay of Covingtoun and passing it to a Robert Lindsay. These two may have been the father and son of the same names who are mentioned in RMS (Register of the Great Seal of Scotland, Vols I-XI) 1599 with reference to a grant of some earlier date and it is possible that the son was the Robert Lindesay recorded in Town Council Minutes 1555 as member of town council. Alexander Lindsay, a tailor, was a burgess in 1593. The same family may have been connected with a Lindsay's Close in Castlehill. (from Stuart Harris, "Place Names of Edinburgh", 1996, pages 94-5)


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