Font Size

100% 150% 200%

Background Colour

Default Contrast
Close Reset

All our staffed properties, sites and offices, including the HES Archives and Library, are currently closed, but we’re working on plans to gradually reopen. In the meantime, you can access our services online. Find out more.

Edinburgh, Canongate, Canongate Kilwinning Lodge

Masonic Hall (18th Century)

Site Name Edinburgh, Canongate, Canongate Kilwinning Lodge

Classification Masonic Hall (18th Century)

Alternative Name(s) 23 St John Street

Canmore ID 235935

Site Number NT27SE 4779

NGR NT 26318 73707

Datum OSGB36 - NGR


Ordnance Survey licence number 100057073. All rights reserved.
Canmore Disclaimer. © Copyright and database right 2020.

Toggle Aerial | View on large map

Digital Images


Administrative Areas

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


Publication Account (1951)

109. St. John's Close, 188 Canongate, with 186 and 190 Canongate.

This narrow cul-de-sac on the S. side of the Canongate takes its name from St. John's Cross (infra) which stood in the middle of the street a little farther W. At the head of the Close and shutting it off from the street are two gabled tenements of the 18th century — the, now Number 186 Canongate, and the, Number 190. The first has four storeys, the lowest entered from the street and the upper ones reached from a semi-octagonal stair-tower within the Close. On the street front the two lowest storeys have been combined and modernised, but the second floor has a tier of five windows while the third has two lights in the upper part of the gable. The gable has moulded skews and supports a central chimney-stalk. The picturesque back elevationis gabled, but the lower part is hidden by modern extensions. The upper floors, which are unoccupied, are inaccessible.

The other tenement, Number 190, which contains the entry to St. John's Close beneath its E. end, is a building of the 17th century remodelled in the 18th. Its front, recently reconditioned, is four storeys and an attic in height, and projects sufficiently far in front of the adjoining property on the W.* to give space for one side-window on each floor. On the W. of the entry a modern doorway stands between two reconstructed windows. The first and second floors both have two pairs of windows with back-set margins, while the third floor has only two single windows, rising within the upperpart of the gable and balanced by two blind lights higher up. The gable, which has moulded skews and is surmounted by a central chimney-stalk, rises from a moulded eaves-course; its quoins are back-set, and the W. corner of the lower part is similarly defined. The lowest storey was originally entered from the passage leading to the Close, and those above were reached from an internal newel-stair at the back, itself approached from the Close. The stair entrance is chamfered and its lintel bears an almost illegible inscription I[N YE LOR]D [IS] ONL[Y] / MY SV[PPOR]T followed by a small uncarved panel. Internally the two lowest floors are part of Number 194 Canongate, and are used as store-rooms, while the floors above are unoccupied. In the arrangement of the second floor the stair admits to a small lobby having on each side of it a room lit from the back; these in turn open into two larger rooms facing the sheet. On the third floor the lobby extends across the building and has two rooms on each side. Both arrangements are typical of the 18th century, but the rooms themselves are wholly devoid of interest.

The 17th-century property extending from Number 190 along the W. side of the Close now belongs to Lodge Canongate Kilwinning, and has been so extensively altered that the only interesting feature still visible is a fireplace in the largest of the first floor rooms. This fireplace, although reconstructed to some extent, is mainly of the 17th century; its lintel, supported by corbels at each end, has a quirked edge-roll, above which a sunk panel contains the inscription, probably recut, THE MORW NE SORW BE HEIR, followed by a heart and enclosed at each end by a rose. Beside the fireplace hangs the grotesque metal spout of one of the 17th-century draw-wells of the High Street.

At right angles to this oblong range is the Lodge built by the Craft in the second quarter of the 18th century and more recently extended on three sides. The ground floor has been entirely reconstructed, but the chapel on the floor above has survived practically untouched.

Wilson states (1) that St. John's Cross marked “the ancient eastern boundary of the capital”. This is to be explained by the fact that on the S. side of the main street the burgh of Edinburgh extended beyond the enclosing wall** as far as the position of the Cross, but that the N. side was included in the burgh of Canongate. There is a tradition that when Royalty came up from Holyrood the provost, magistrates and council of Edinburgh stationed themselves on the S. side of the street over against the Cross, while the bailies of the Canongate stood on the N. side.


(1) Memorials, ii, p. 68.

*A projection 9 ft. within the entry to the Close marks the original frontage-line.

**That is to say below St. Mary's Street, which was formerly known as St. Mary's Wynd.

Publication Account (1984)

The masonic Lodge Canongate Kilwinning (No. 2) incorporates a late 17th century wing and circular stair tower. The main block (a windowless lodge room) onto St John Street dates from the late 1730s.

J Gifford, C McWilliam, D Walker, 1984.

Note (October 2013)

There appears to have been some remodelling of the building as it had been extended east between 1877 (Ordnance Survey Town Plan 1:1056 (Edinburgh, surveyed 1876-7, sheet 36)) and 1894 (Ordnance Survey Town Plan 1:1056 (Edinburgh, 1894, sheet III.8.12)).

The incorporated 17th century wing and stair would have been accessed by the now gone St John's Close (Ordnance Survey Town Plan 1:1056 (Edinburgh, surveyed 1876-7, sheet 36).

Information from RCAHMS (MMD) 10 October 2013.


MyCanmore Image Contributions

Contribute an Image

MyCanmore Text Contributions