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Edinburgh Castle, Great Hall

Banqueting Hall (Medieval)

Site Name Edinburgh Castle, Great Hall

Classification Banqueting Hall (Medieval)

Alternative Name(s) Banqueting Hall

Canmore ID 52087

Site Number NT27SE 1.26

NGR NT 25165 73421

Datum OSGB36 - NGR

Permalink http://canmore.org.uk/site/52087

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

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Digital Images

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 1.26 25165 73421.

The Great Hall (NR).

OS 25"map, (1953).

Great Hall: Built in the reign of James IV (15th and 16th century). Considerably restored in 1888, so that much of the building is consequently modern....(RCAHMS 1951). Built at the beginning of the

16th century... (J S Richardson and M Wood 1948).

Visited by OS(JLD) 23 October 1953.

(NT 2518 7342) No additional remarks.

Visited by OS(JLD) 29 December 1953.

As described in previous field report.

Visited by OS(SFS) 10 November 1975.

NT 2518 7342 Archaeological recording of the S-facing exterior elevation of the Great Hall at Edinburgh Castle was undertaken in July and August 1999, while scaffolding was in place as part of roof renovation works. A new elevation was prepared, accurate to within 50mm, and a total of 41 features were recorded. A detailed photographic record was also prepared. In addition, a range of early plans were consulted in order to place recorded features in a phasing scheme, and to identify whether the roof had been raised in the past.

The following successive building phases can be suggested as a preliminary interpretation:

Phase 1 Original features

It is assumed that the two phases of vaulting below the Crown Square level of the Great Hall are original features. No detailed survey was made of these structures, but obvious alterations and additions were observed. However, the presence of two levels of vault beneath the 16th-century hall is likely. As to original elements of the S wall itself, the openings at wall-walk level, and the masonry associated with them, have been assigned to this original period. The original fabric comprises crudely coursed yellow sandstone. Subsequent repointing has obscured the original bonding medium. The original fabric is now well worn, and has been replaced in places (especially in door and window surrounds) by new masonry. Another original feature is the corbel course beneath the wall-head walk. Although the crenellations at roof level have been altered, the basic layout, with a slightly projecting battlement carried on the sandstone corbels, appears to be an original feature. The large weepers within the corbel course are very worn, as are the corbels themselves, and these may also be an original feature.

Phase 2 Possible changes to the fenestration in the later 17th century, and the conversion to a barrack hall

An illustration by Slezer (late 17th century) appears to show a somewhat altered window pattern from that illustrated by Rothiemay a half century previously. It would appear that large windows may have been added at the W end of the S wall, lighting an interior which was, however, no longer open to the roofspace, having been floored out as a barracks during the 1650s. Subsequent changes to the S wall have removed the archaeological evidence of the changes drawn by Slezer.

A bog-house was butted onto the S wall exterior, and a window (perhaps one of those illustrated by Slezer) was narrowed to a doorway at Crown Square level to allow access to the new structure from within the hall. It would appear that the large windows which had formerly lit the open hall were retained for a period, as these openings appear to be illustrated in Tarrant's plans of the mid-18th century. As with Slezer's alterations, later renovations have removed the archaeological evidence for phase 3 features.

Phase 3 Barrack hall windows

At some point following the Tarrant survey, and pre-dating an 1885 illustration, eight new windows were opened in the S wall, some of which reused one of the reveles of an earlier opening. These windows better reflect the internal sub-divisions within the barrack hall. Traces of three of these windows survive today.

Phase 4 The 1889 restoration

The major alteration made during the 1889 restoration was the addition of the four large windows, lighting the once again open hall. Hyppolite Blanc, the architect responsible, also 'reinstated' the battlement walkway at vault level, and added the crenellated walkway at roof level, supported over the original corbels.

Sponsor: Historic Scotland

A Dunn 1999

NT 2520 7345 The Great Hall. Samples from the hammer-beam roof returned a felling date of AD 1509. The opportunity was afforded to archaeologically record the timbers of the roof towards the E end of the structure.

Vaults beneath the Great Hall and Queen Anne Building. A programme of archaeological recording is ongoing within these vaults. The vaults are known to have served as barracks and prison accommodation, and there is some evidence to suggest that they are themselves secondary to the structure, the fabric of which may conceal evidence for an earlier building on this site. Of particular interest is the presence of much 18th-century graffiti on the walls and plasterwork of some of the vaults; this is being archaeologically recorded.

Sponsor: Historic Scotland

A Dunn 2000

Architecture Notes

Architect: Hippolyte J Blanc (restoration)

Activities

Publication Account (1951)

THE GREAT HALL.

In consequence of inequalities in the site the Great Hall is complicated in its arrangement. On the S. and W. the Rock has descended in natural terraces, on which two vaulted storeys have been constructed to form a base for the main building at the level of Crown Square. As might be expected, the lower series of vaults is shallower than the upper one. From the outset two of the lower vaults were set apart as prisons, but the larger vaults above were also utilised at the turn of the 18th and 19th centuries for Dutch and French prisoners of war, some of whom have left their names behind (Fig. 80). The outer wall of the upper vaults is set back from the wall-face below, to leave room for a parapet-walk from which two compartments are entered. Three compartments on each floor are entered by way of a vaulted passage on the W., while two on the upper floor are reached from the E. The windows overlooking the parapet-walk are heavily barred.

The Hall itself, built in the reign of James IV, rests on the upper vaults but covers a smaller area, measuring externally only 95 by 41 ft., and the ancillary rooms have accordingly had to be accommodated in adjoining buildings at either end, both of which have been rebuilt. Thus the chamber of dais occupied a first floor on the E., while the kitchen stood to the W. until it was removed in the 17thcentury. For nearly two hundred years the Hall was used as a barrack and hospital ; two intermediate floors were introduced for these purposes and the general remodelling was so extensive that the restoration of 1888 had to be equally drastic .Much of the building now seen is consequently modern. There is least alteration on the S. side, where only the windows and roof-parapet have been restored. Yet even on the side towards Crown Square there is some evidence of the 16th-century arrangement. For example, one can tell that the original entrance was large and central, and that it was masked in front by a covered passage of wood such as existed at the same time on the opposite wall of St. Mary's Church. The present entrance at the W. end of the N. wall is modern. The interior has been transformed to house a collection of arms and armour, apart from which the only feature of special interest is the fine, open timber roof. This has hammer-beams, carved with human and animal masks, set out on Renaissance corbels carved with such motifs as portraits, said to be those of King James IV and Margaret Tudor; the same king's initials, I R 4, below a crown ; the Royal Arms below a crown ; a cherub's head ; a fleur-de-lys ;thistle and rose slips in a vase ; and a sun in splendour containing the sacred monogram I H S in the centre, surmounted by a cross.

RCAHMS 1951

Standing Building Recording (12 July 1999 - 5 August 1999)

Archaeological recording of the S-facing exterior elevation of the Great Hall at Edinburgh Castle was undertaken in July and August 1999, while scaffolding was in place as part of roof renovation works. A new elevation was prepared, accurate to within 50mm, and a total of 41 features were recorded. A detailed photographic record was also prepared. In addition, a range of early plans were consulted in order to place recorded features in a phasing scheme, and to identify whether the roof had been raised in the past.

The following successive building phases can be suggested as a preliminary interpretation:

Phase 1 Original features

It is assumed that the two phases of vaulting below the Crown Square level of the Great Hall are original features. No detailed survey was made of these structures, but obvious alterations and additions were observed. However, the presence of two levels of vault beneath the 16th-century hall is likely. As to original elements of the S wall itself, the openings at wall-walk level, and the masonry associated with them, have been assigned to this original period. The original fabric comprises crudely coursed yellow sandstone. Subsequent repointing has obscured the original bonding medium. The original fabric is now well worn, and has been replaced in places (especially in door and window surrounds) by new masonry. Another original feature is the corbel course beneath the wall-head walk. Although the crenellations at roof level have been altered, the basic layout, with a slightly projecting battlement carried on the sandstone corbels, appears to be an original feature. The large weepers within the corbel course are very worn, as are the corbels themselves, and these may also be an original feature.

Phase 2 Possible changes to the fenestration in the later 17th century, and the conversion to a barrack hall

An illustration by Slezer (late 17th century) appears to show a somewhat altered window pattern from that illustrated by Rothiemay a half century previously. It would appear that large windows may have been added at the W end of the S wall, lighting an interior which was, however, no longer open to the roofspace, having been floored out as a barracks during the 1650s. Subsequent changes to the S wall have removed the archaeological evidence of the changes drawn by Slezer.

A bog-house was butted onto the S wall exterior, and a window (perhaps one of those illustrated by Slezer) was narrowed to a doorway at Crown Square level to allow access to the new structure from within the hall. It would appear that the large windows which had formerly lit the open hall were retained for a period, as these openings appear to be illustrated in Tarrant's plans of the mid-18th century. As with Slezer's alterations, later renovations have removed the archaeological evidence for phase 3 features.

Phase 3 Barrack hall windows

At some point following the Tarrant survey, and pre-dating an 1885 illustration, eight new windows were opened in the S wall, some of which reused one of the reveles of an earlier opening. These windows better reflect the internal sub-divisions within the barrack hall. Traces of three of these windows survive today.

Phase 4 The 1889 restoration

The major alteration made during the 1889 restoration was the addition of the four large windows, lighting the once again open hall. Hyppolite Blanc, the architect responsible, also 'reinstated' the battlement walkway at vault level, and added the crenellated walkway at roof level, supported over the original corbels.

Sponsor: Historic Scotland

A Dunn 1999

Kirkdale Archaeology

Excavation (16 March 2000 - August 2000)

A building recording exercise was carried out within the narrow passageway between the Great Hall and Queen Anne Building at Edinburgh Castle. The evidence gleaned from the recording of exposed fabric, coupled with evidence from the most recent excavations, and from the recording of the S wall exteriors of both the Great Hall and Queen Anne Buildings, has allowed for an interpretation of the development of this area of the castle. It has long been known that the vaults beneath the Great Hall and Queen Anne Building predate the structures which currently overly them. However, the recent recording work has highlighted the possibility that pre 16th-century (i.e. pre Great Hall) structures survive in part at Crown Square level, in the form of the S end of the W wall of the passageway.

A trench was excavated within the S room of the Queen Anne Building, over two stages of work. A blocked door had been noted in the E wall of this room, and the excavation was to be against this wall, in an attempt to locate its' threshold, and thus assist in reopening the door.

Sponsor: Historic Scotland

A Dunn 2000

Kirkdale Archaeology

References

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