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Edinburgh, 64 Canongate, Queensberry House, Gardens

Formal Garden(S) (Period Unassigned)

Site Name Edinburgh, 64 Canongate, Queensberry House, Gardens

Classification Formal Garden(S) (Period Unassigned)

Canmore ID 159503

Site Number NT27SE 32.02

NGR NT 26686 73813

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 32.02 267 738

NT 267 738 An archaeological evaluation was undertaken jointly by Headland Archaeology and SUAT in advance of the redevelopment of the site as the new Scottish Parliament. Features of medieval date were restricted to an extensive backland soil, up to 1.4m in depth, together with a single drystone boundary wall. Early post-medieval activity was evident in the form of cultivation slots and structures relating to the formal gardens of Queensberry House. Tenement development dating to the 18th and 19th centuries was identified fronting onto Reids Close at the W edge of the site.

Sponsor: Historic Scotland

C Moloney 1998

NT 267 738 The excavation of a number of boreholes over the site of the New Parliament for Scotland site was monitored. The boreholes indicated the possible survival of early cultivation horizons, although post-medieval activity had resulted in the removal of earlier features over much of the site.

In the light of previous desk-based assessment and trial trenching, a trial trench was partially excavated in the gardens to the rear of Queensberry House in April and May 1998. The archaeological potential of the site was suggested by documentary and cartographic evidence and the findings of a borehole survey sited a short distance to the S. The available evidence suggested the presence of deep stratified deposits reflecting primarily the evolution of the private formal gardens behind the 17th-century Queensberry House to the early 18th-century army parade ground, culminating in the present arrangement of flower beds, lawn and car parking serving the site's most recent role as a hospital (early 19th century to present).

The present threshold level for the S doorway at Queensberry House appears to be essentially unchanged since the construction of the mansion in the 17th century. However, the trial trenches showed clearly that a considerable degree of infilling over 17th-century garden levels has taken place. This in turn probably reflects the original terraced nature of the 17th-century layout, a consequence of the natural landfall down towards the line of Cowgate/Holyrood Road.

The broad chronology of the development of the garden area behind Queensberry House can be summarised as:

1. c 1679-1750 Formal, compartmentalised beds, probably on three steep and possibly graded terraces. The 17th-century and earlier deposits probably lie over 3m below ground level at the S end of the site and over 2m in the area of the trench.

2. c 1750-1785 Possible formal planting over infilled terraces, creating a large single garden plot. This appears to be the point at which the general ground level was raised significantly for the first time, creating a sloping profile for a large garden, rather than individual beds. This may in turn reflect the occupancy of the house by the Lord Chief Baron of Exchequer, James Montgomery of Stanhope.

3. c 1785-1808 Final formal layout for the garden, this time introducing formal divisions over the informal planting, creating a parterre arrangement. This was probably preceded by further landfill activity, bringing the general level of the garden up by losing the glacis or slope of the Period 2 layout.

4. c 1808-1832 After the sale of the house to the Board of Ordnance in 1803, the parterre garden was eventually cleared and converted to a parade ground.

5. c 1832-present The later history of the site is associated with the service and communal space behind the newly created People's Refuge and later Hospital. The layout as shown on the OS map of 1893 was succeeded by the present arrangement of parking bays around a central lawn, by the simple clearance of partition walls and the importation of new garden soils.

The majority of the deposits encountered are thought to be late 19th or 20th century in date although in some cases the majority of the finds were earlier than this. Given the degree of landfill from the late 18th century, this material is either imported or residual.

Sponsor: Historic Scotland

G Ewart 1998.

NT 267 738 An archaeological excavation was undertaken jointly by Headland Archaeology and SUAT in advance of the redevelopment of the site as the new Scottish Parliament.

The formal gardens of Queensberry House (built in the second half of the 17th century) were identified, laid out on two terraces with a wall revetting the upper terrace adjacent to the house and a set of splayed steps dropping down to the lower terrace. The boundary wall of the Queensberry property was also identified, as were a number of cultivation beds and tree pits associated with the formal garden. The neighbouring property to the W was also identified. This comprised a more modest dwelling identified as Haddington House, the town residence of the Earls of Haddington.

Military occupation (1808-32)

A number of buildings were added during the military occupation. In particular the quartermaster's block was particularly well preserved and was totally excavated. During this phase the terraced gardens of Queensberry House were levelled to form a parade ground.

Sponsor: Historic Scotland

C Moloney and R Coleman 1999


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