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Edinburgh, 39, 41, 43 North Castle Street

Flat(S) (18th Century), House(S) (18th Century), Office (20th Century)

Site Name Edinburgh, 39, 41, 43 North Castle Street

Classification Flat(S) (18th Century), House(S) (18th Century), Office (20th Century)

Canmore ID 113930

Site Number NT27SW 453

NGR NT 24953 73981

Datum OSGB36 - NGR

Permalink http://canmore.org.uk/site/113930

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

Architecture Notes

NT27SW 453 24953 73981

Sir Walter Scott lived at no.39 from 1802-1826.

Activities

Publication Account (1951)

Castle Street, with some representative houses.

Castle Street was in the first instance purely residential, although offices began to appear at its northern and shops at its southern end when Princes Street, which adjoins it on the S., became the fashionable shopping centre of the town. In its early days the street consisted for the most part of main door houses with flats above, only a few buildings, such as Numbers 28, 40, 48 and 52, being self-contained terrace-houses. As these are generally similar to houses in adjoining parts of the New Town, and as most of the flatted houses do not differ essentially from others in the neighbourhood, neither of these classes requires particular description. In North Castle Street, however, there are six blocks of a different type-four on the E side, Numbers 39-43, 45-49, 51-55 and 57-61, and two on the W side, Numbers 42-46, and 54-58. Each accommodates two main door houses, consisting of basement, street and first floors with two double flats above, and has a round bay at either end of its facade (Figs. 371-2 [SC 1161558-9]). The blocks are not identical. There are minor differences in the fashion of the entrances; the northernmost on the E. side, Numbers 57-61, has a blind balustrade below the first-floor windows; while the southernmost on the same side, Numbers 39-43, is wider than the others and is the most elaborate of all, the central part of its facade being "palace-form" (Fig. 371). The southern of its two main door houses, which was erected in 1793 by Robert Wright and James McKain, masons in Edinburgh, is of special interest as having been the home of Sir Walter Scott from 1802 until 1826.* It appears that the feu-charter of this property was granted in 1795 by the Town to the Rev. Mr. James Brown,** minister of Newbattle; from whom Sir Walter purchased the house in 1802; he left it on March 15, 1826 (1).

The facade of the block is of ashlar, rusticated on the basement floor, channel-jointed at street level, and polished above. Each storey is defined by a belt and the first floor is emphasised by the continuation of the sill course of its windows without interruption across the front. The central part of the front is advanced, and is adorned with four fluted, composite pilasters which rise from a blind balustrade below the first-floor windows and support an entablature and pediment. The architrave is carried across the whole front.

The entrance to Number 39, situated beside the S. bay, opens into a short vestibule which leads through an archway into the staircase beyond. The staircase gives access to four rooms at this level. The largest of these is the dining-room at the S.W. corner of the building. This has a circled end containing three windows facing W. On the S.is a painted wooden mantelpiece with a semi-shaft at each side, enclosing a marble slip. The walls have dado panelling and an enriched cornice. A doorway at the S.E. corner leads to Sir Walter's study, which has a circled end containing a Venetian window facing E. On the S. is a mantlepiece generally similar to the one in the dining-room. The walls have dado panelling and an enriched cornice. On the N. side of the vestibule is a small waiting-room and behind this is a room at the N.E. corner which may have been enlarged by taking in a cupboard at the W. end. Each of these rooms is lit by a single window, and neither contains anything of special interest.

On the basement floor the house is divided in two by a straight passage running from front to back. This gives access to a room at each corner of the house as well as to store-rooms. The scale and-platt stair which rises from the street floor to the one above has moulded balusters of cast-iron and a mahogany rail. The half-landing is lit by a Venetian window enclosed by fluted pilasters. The first-floor landing, which has an enriched ceiling, gives access to four rooms and a deep cupboard. The front drawing-room, situated at the S.W. corner, has three windows in its circled W. end. At the E. end is a recess, framed by pilasters and an entablature, where folding doors once opened into the back drawing-room. On the S. is a plain marble mantelpiece. The walls have an enriched cornice. At the N.E. corner is a doorway opening into a bedroom over the vestibule and waiting-room. This is lit from the W. by two windows and has a plain marble mantelpiece on the N. The walls have an enriched cornice. Between this room and another bedroom at the SE corner runs the cupboard previously mentioned. The SE room has a single window facing E., and on the N. a fireplace with plain stone jambs. The back drawing-room at the S.W. corner has a circled end containing a Venetian window facing E On the S is a plain mantelpiece of black marble. The walls have an enriched cornice.

The corresponding house, Number 43, at the N end of the block was purchased on completion by Alexander Nairn, a bank accountant. Since then it has been enlarged, in the first place by the building of an extension in the back garden and in the second by the inclusion of the flat above, i.e. the N flat entered from the common stair, Number 41; but for the purpose of this article the properties will be described as though they had remained separate. The entrance to Number 43, situated beside the bay on the N., opens into a vestibule with an enriched ceiling and a graceful fanlight over the glazed doors at the inner end which open into the staircase. The vestibule gives access on the S to a waiting-room lit by a single window facing W and having on the S a fireplace with plain stone jambs surmounted by a wooden frieze and cornice with stucco enrichment. The walls have a dado rail and a moulded cornice. The staircase gives access to three rooms on this floor as well as to the extension behind. The original dining-room at the NW corner of the house has three windows facing W. in the circled end. On the N is a monumental mantelpiece of black marble. The walls have an enriched cornice and a dado rail. The room at the NE, probably the study, has a single window facing E; its shutters conceal a small aumbry in one jamb. A doorway on the left of the window opens into the modern extension and balances the entrance to a press at the N.W. corner. On the N. is a pine mantelpiece with stucco enrichment. The walls have an enriched cornice. The room at the SE corner, which has been extended by including a cupboard on the W, is lit from the E by one window. On the S is a fireplace with plain stone jambs. The walls have an enriched cornice. The service stair leads from the street floor to the basement, where an unusually wide passage divides the house from back to front and gives access to four habitable rooms and several store-rooms. The stair from the street floor to the first floor is of scale-and-platt type with stone steps, a cast-iron balustrade and a mahogany rail. The half-landing is lit from the E by a Venetian window framed by fluted pilasters, but the top of the window is partly covered by a modern wooden extension of the stair, constructed when the N flat of Number 41 was combined with this house. There are four rooms on the first floor of Number 43. The drawing room at the NW corner has three windows in the circled W end. On the N is a good mantelpiece of white marble with a flattened shaft at each side. The walls have dado panelling and an enriched cornice. The room to the SW, which extends over the vestibule and the waiting-room, has two windows facing W. On the S. is a pine mantelpiece with stucco enrichment, enclosing a marble slip. At the SE corner is a deep L-shaped cupboard. The NE room has a single window facing E, and on the N a plain mantelpiece of wood. At the NE corner is a cupboard formed in an extension behind. The walls have a dado rail and an enriched cornice. The SE room, which has a single window facing E, seems to have been enlarged by taking in a cupboard on the W. The fireplace on the S has plain stone jambs. The walls have a dado rail and an enriched cornice.

The second and attic floors of the building are occupied by the two flats which enter from the common stair, Number 41; although the N flat has been placed in direct communication with Number 43 by the provision of an internal stair, it can still be entered, as formerly, from the common stair. On its lower floor this N flat has four rooms. The finishings of the two principal rooms are superior to those in the corresponding rooms of the adjoining dwellings. The drawing-room at the N.W. corner has three windows in the circled W. end. At the opposite end there is a stately arcade of composite pilasters and shafts, constructed of wood and surmounted by a modelled plaster cornice. This arcade probably framed double doors opening into the back drawing-room. On the N is a plain mantel piece of black marble flanked on its left side by a press. The walls have dado panelling and an enriched cornice. The back drawing-room at the NE corner has a three-light window facing E. On the N is a monumental mantelpiece of grey marble. The walls have a heavily enriched cornice. The dining-room, on the S. of the drawing-room, has two windows facing W. The walls have dado panelling, above which there are stiles of pine framing plaster panels, and an enriched plaster cornice. Flanking the entrance are two round headed display-cupboards and above it is a circular panel, probably intended for a borrowed light. At the SE corner of the flat is the kitchen, somewhat smaller than it was originally, off which there is access to a coal cellar beneath the stair which rises to the attic. A pantry has been removed to make way for the modern stair from Number 43. The original internal stair leads to the attic where there are four rooms, none of particular interest, in addition to a lavatory and a lumber room.

The flat in the S half of the building contains four rooms on the lower floor in addition to the staircase and a pantry. The drawing-room, which occupies the SW corner, has a circled W end containing three windows. The mantelpiece on the S is modern. The walls have dado panelling and an enriched cornice. The study on the N of the drawing-room has two windows facing W, and on the N a pine mantelpiece with stucco enrichment. The walls have dado panelling and an enriched cornice. The dining-room at the SE corner has a circled E end containing a Venetian window. The mantelpiece on the S is modern. The walls have dado panelling and an enriched cornice. The kitchen is situated at the NE corner, the pantry between it and the dining-room. From this floor a scale-and-platt stair, lit from the roof by a square cupola, leads to the attic where there are four bedrooms and a bathroom, all of which have been modernised and improved.

RCAHMS 1951, visited c.1941

(1) The Journal of Sir Walter Scott (ed. Douglas), i, p. 155.

*On the front is a tablet, evidently in error, IN THIS HOUSE / SIR WALTER SCOTT / LIVED FROM 1798 TO 1826.

**He also owned the two flats entered from the common stair Number 41.

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