Font Size

100% 150% 200%

Background Colour

Default Contrast
Close Reset

Edinburgh, Canongate, Canongate Housing, General

Flat(S) (20th Century), Public House (20th Century), Shop(S) (20th Century), Tea Room (20th Century)

Site Name Edinburgh, Canongate, Canongate Housing, General

Classification Flat(S) (20th Century), Public House (20th Century), Shop(S) (20th Century), Tea Room (20th Century)

Alternative Name(s) 65, 67, 69, 71, 97, 99, 101, 103 Canongate; 1, 2, 3 Brown's Close; Jenny Ha's Tavern; Spence Housing; Clarinda's Tea Room

Canmore ID 281994

Site Number NT27SE 5938

NGR NT 26593 73865

Datum OSGB36 - NGR


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

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

Treasured Places (2 August 2007)

Sir Basil Spence, of the architects firm Spence, Glover and Ferguson, designed this modern complex on the Canongate. Completed by 1969, the development consists of three colourful blocks of flats constructed of rubble, concrete and harl, with concrete arcaded canopies at the front and balconies at the rear.

Information from RCAHMS (SC) 2 August 2007

Gifford, J, McWilliam, C and Walker, D, 1984

McKean, C 1992

Sir Basil Spence

Building Notes

In April 1959 Basil Spence & Partners were contracted by the City of Edinburgh Corporation to design a housing development towards the bottom of the Royal Mile. This was at a time when 18th and 19th century slum tenements in the area were being demolished to make way for better housing. Other buildings, such as the Manse in Reid's Court, were being restored.

The practice completed the development in 1969. It consists of three blocks containing one- and two-bedroom flats, two of which face onto the Royal Mile. There are two shops and Jenny Ha's, a public house, at ground level. Behind the development is a boys' club gymnasium, also built by Spence's practice. The blocks are constructed of harled brickwork, stone and concrete, and include segmental concrete vaults that by 1969 had become a Spence trademark.

Archive Details

A correspondence file in the Sir Basil Spence Archive reveals that Spence considered the Canongate job to be 'a wonderful opportunity to get vitality back into the Royal Mile'. It shows the challenges faced by the practice in the two years after they accepted the contract. Letters indicate that a craft centre and a nursery school might have formed part of the development, although these ideas were later abandoned. The architects identified that a good amount of open space on the site was needed so that residents could appreciate the historic views.

The earliest drawings from 1959 show a completely different arrangement of blocks with arched roofs. Drawings from early 1960 start to look more like the completed scheme, although these were modified and developed by the mid-1960s.

Correspondence from 1965 reveals that work on the design had stopped, and that Spence (now London-based) was keen for his Edinburgh office to resurrect the job. Letters from 1968 show disagreements with Scottish & Newcastle Breweries as to the interior design of Jenny Ha's Tavern. Spence thought the pub should be traditional in essence, but also using materials that were in-keeping with the modern look of the blocks. The brewery director thought that a very traditional interior, rather like an old Scottish howff, would attract more beer drinkers.

Archive Summary

The Sir Basil Spence Archive contains one manuscript file, 20 drawings and 12 photographs relating to the Canongate development. The Spence Glover & Ferguson Collection, also held at RCAHMS, includes 87 working drawings, 20 photographs, and 14 colour slides of the development.

This text was written as one of the outputs of the Sir Basil Spence Archive Project, supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund, 2005-08.

Architecture Notes

NT27SE 5938.00 26573 73853

Housing scheme designed by Sir Basil Spence, Glover and Ferguson completed March 1969.

For individual blocks see:

NT27SE 5938.01 97, 99, 101, 103 Canongate

NT27SE 5938.02 65, 67, 69, 71 Canongate

NT27SE 5938.03 65 Canongate, 1, 2, 3 Brown's Close

For the Harry Younger Hall, also designed by Sir Basil Spence, Glover and Ferguson, see NT27SE 5939.

For previous tenements on the site see:

NT27SE 323

NT27SE 324

NT27SE 325

NT27SE 2728

NT27SE 2775

NT27SE 2776

NT27SE 2777


Unexecuted (February 1960)

Design (1960 - 1969)

Photographic Record (1968)

Photographs taken of the construction work and completed flats.


MyCanmore Image Contributions

Contribute an Image

MyCanmore Text Contributions