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Edinburgh, 14 - 14a Bristo Place

Hotel (21st Century), Restaurant (21st Century)

Site Name Edinburgh, 14 - 14a Bristo Place

Classification Hotel (21st Century), Restaurant (21st Century)

Alternative Name(s) 2 Forrest Road / 11-14 Bristo Place

Canmore ID 150635

Site Number NT27SE 3981

NGR NT 2577 7319

Datum OSGB36 - NGR


Ordnance Survey licence number 100057073. All rights reserved.
Canmore Disclaimer. © Copyright and database right 2022.

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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


Archaeological Evaluation (January 2007 - June 2007)

NT 2577 7319 Work undertaken between January and June 2007 incorporated a review of historical resources and previous studies. Use of the site began with probable medieval linear development. There was early 17th-century clearance and enclosure by the defensive Telfer Wall, whose line ran just to the NE of the development area, under the present Bristo Place. This was followed by the establishment of the building known as 'Darien House' in the last decade of the 17th century, and the foundation and expansion of the Edinburgh City Poorhouse, which was eventually to fully incorporate the site. Finally, the site was redeveloped after 1870. Excellent map resources permitted accurate digitisation of the architectural evidence for the evolution of the site.

A principal historical finding was a manuscript essay of 1929 by Edinburgh historian Charles Boog Watson, Some notes on the so-called Darien House. The name Darien House was demonstrated to be a misnomer perpetrated by 19th-century historians, and the site was allocated by the city for the foundation of the new Bedlam Hospital in 1698. The resulting structure was designed on classical lines, Scotland's first purpose-built asylum. There are various historic images of this building. The northern part of the Bedlam site was later occupied by the Men's Ward of the Edinburgh City Poorhouse, erected in the mid 19th century (perhaps the 1840s). In spite of partial demolition much of this structure remains. Additional later 19th-century extensions

were made on the Bristo Place frontage, in the form of Council chambers and two shops. The surviving Men's Ward building was the subject of a comprehensive building recording exercise before and during a general strip-out. The latter process revealed a complex sequence of secondary partitioning and modification

as well as evidence for an extensive sequence of stencilled polychrome interior decorative schemes.

Following the demolition of the shops fronting onto Bristo Place and the removal of more modern laboratory buildings in the S part of the site, the resulting open area was subject to archaeological evaluation, the principal concern being to identify the remains of the 1698 Bedlam building that had been demolished in c1870'1. An 'island' of surviving significant archaeology was identified at the S corner of the site; other areas

had been graded down to subsoil. The remains of the Bedlam Building were clearly identified as shallow footing trenches cut into natural, part masonry/rubble filled. These corresponded to the N and W sides of the building and their junction at the NW corner. Occupation and destruction deposits were encountered along the W exterior of the W wall footing. Beneath this area and inside the building were topsoil deposits that pre-dated the 1698 construction. These revealed evidence of having been cultivated soils, including extensive

spade-cutting into the top of the subsoil. Numerous fragments of medieval (white gritty) and some early post-medieval (greyware) pottery were recovered from this soil, including much of a ceramic money-box. Severe abrasion of the ceramics indicated long-term re-working of the soil. The earlier pottery may well be residual from earlier deposits relating to the medieval occupation of the area before the erection of the Telfer wall.

Archive deposited with CECAS, RCAHMS.

Funder: Hotel du Vin Ltd; Curious Group, Architects.


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