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Edinburgh, 312, 314, 316, 318 And 320 Lawnmarket, Fisher's Close

Library (20th Century), Tenement (18th Century)

Site Name Edinburgh, 312, 314, 316, 318 And 320 Lawnmarket, Fisher's Close

Classification Library (20th Century), Tenement (18th Century)

Alternative Name(s) Carnegie Library; National Library Of Scotland; Scottish Central Library For Students; The Great Tenement

Canmore ID 52288

Site Number NT27SE 268

NGR NT 25566 73549

Datum OSGB36 - NGR


Ordnance Survey licence number 100057073. All rights reserved.
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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 268 25566 73549

Built 1752 for Thomas Fisher. Five-storey and attic; 6-storey wing with semi-octagonal stair tower of 1699 built by Thomas Fisher on the W side of Fisher's Close. Restored 1950-3 as Carnegie Library by James Shearer of Dunfermline. Ground floor with broken pediment doorpiece is restoration: interior steel-framed and completely new.

RCAHMS 1951.

Architecture Notes

Fisher's Close was evidently named for a Thomas Fisher, who formed Fisher's Land at its head by rebuilding an earlier tenement, once owned by Thomas Cant of St Giles Grange. It is possible that the rebuilding was by the Thomas Fisher who was prominent in town affairs 1589-1609, but there is nothing to connect him with this side of the Lawnmarket. No Fisher is listed as an owner in this vicinity in 1635. The style of the present building would fit the dates of a later Thomas Fisher, merchant, member of council in 1694 and town chamberlain in 1700, when he was in a position to let a house in Lawnmarket to the newly-elected Lord Provost, Sir Patrick Johnston. The close ran down to the Cowgate and got its other name of Hamilton's Close from James Hamilton, one of the ministers of the town kirks, who was made a burgess on his arrival in Edinburgh in 1647, and purchased a house, originally belonging to the late Thomas Hope of Craighall, at the South end of the close. (from Stuart Harris, "Place Names of Edinburgh", 1996, page 270).


In the National Library of Scotland, Vol.88, No 28, of Watercolour Sketches by Thomas Brown, Advocate, is a view of this Close. Reference: Adv. MSS.34.8.1-3. See under "Water Colour Sketches, Series of, by Thomas Brown, Advocate".

Scottish Central Library for Students founded by Carnegie UK Trust 1921, to promote inter-lending. Reconstituted 1952, taking over responsibility for Scottish Union Catalogue and moving to Lawnmarket. Merged with National Library of Scotland May 1974. No. 320 now occupied by National Library administration staff. Facilities refurbished by Lee Boyd Partnership 1994-6.

D Smith 1989; RIAS 1996

Non-Guardianship Sites Plan Collection, DC23534- DC23541, 1946 & 1948.

(Undated) information in NMRS.


Publication Account (1951)

18. 312-328 Lawnmarket.

[see also NT27SE 270]

The two neighbouring lands, each of five storeys and an attic, which stand on the S. side of the Lawnmarket in front of Riddle's Court are unusually good specimens of early Georgian housing of the better class, fashioned out of two earlier buildings. Each distinguished by three gablets with curvilinear pediments towards the street, they are more or less T-shaped on plan and generally similar, but the W. one, which was built by Captain George Riddell, wright, in 1726,* has a rubble front relieved by a single string-course and back-set dressings of freestone, while the front of its neighbour, rebuilt in 1752 by Thomas Fisher, merchant, is of ashlar without string-courses. The ground floor in both cases has been remodelled as shops, but it still includes two original passages leading S., one admitting to Fisher's Close and the other to Riddle's Court. The newel stairs that give access to the flats in the upper storeys project into the Close and the Court respectively. Both the stair-entrances have moulded doorways, the W. one bearing the date 1726. The fronts have eight large windows on each of the principal floors, but each storey of the W. building has, in addition, a small window lighting a closet within the W. gable. The attic floors are lit from a pair of windows in each of the gab lets, circular ventilators surmounting the W. lights. In both tenements there has been some internal rearrangement. In the W. tenement only a few of the rooms are panelled and retain the original marble mantelpieces, but every flat in the E. tenement shows traces of panelling while several of the original moulded stone fireplaces remain in use. This latter tenement generally has finishings of a rather earlier type than the other.


*Exercising its rights under an Act of 1663, which empowered burghs to seize, after due warning, houses fronting on their High Streets which had lain ruinous for three years, and to sell them at a price fixed by valuation the Town sold this property to Riddell for 10,000 perks in June 1726. In 1733 the place was described as 'Riddell's Land lately built by George Riddell, bound on the east by Fisher's Land and its close.

Project (1997)

The Public Monuments and Sculpture Association ( set up a National Recording Project in 1997 with the aim of making a survey of public monuments and sculpture in Britain ranging from medieval monuments to the most contemporary works. Information from the Edinburgh project was added to the RCAHMS database in October 2010 and again in 2012.

The PMSA (Public Monuments and Sculpture Association) Edinburgh Sculpture Project has been supported by Eastern Photocolour, Edinburgh College of Art, the Edinburgh World Heritage Trust, Historic Scotland, the Hope Scott Trust, The Old Edinburgh Club, the Pilgrim Trust, the RCAHMS, and the Scottish Archive Network.

Field Visit (19 August 2002)

Shield with a white saltire, with two blue lions combatant grasping a tower in the centre, and four blue open books on the arms of the cross. Above the saltire is a gold mascle [a perforated lozenge], below the saltire is a white three-towered castle on a rock (both on a pink background). To the right of the saltire is a white hand bell, to the left is a white fleur-de-lis (both on a blue background). The whole is an integral part of a rectangular architectural panel surmounted by a free-standing stylised thistle.

Built as the Carnegie Trust's Scottish Central Library

Inspected By : D. King

Inscriptions : Either side below shield (raised gothic letters painted blue):



Signatures : None

Design period : 1964

Information from Public Monuments and Sculpture Association (PMSA Work Ref : EDIN0843)


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