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Edinburgh, 125 High Street, North Gray's Close

Dwelling (16th Century)

Site Name Edinburgh, 125 High Street, North Gray's Close

Classification Dwelling (16th Century)

Canmore ID 52317

Site Number NT27SE 293

NGR NT 25994 73686

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 293 25994 73686

Shells of late 16th-century and later buildings, a long row on the W side of North Gray's Close, stepped to the steep slope. Reduced in height and roofless. Roll-moulded double doorway with a panel dated 1581; also late 17th/early 18th-century openings.

RCAHMS 1951.

NT 2600 7370 An analytical assessment was undertaken of the standing buildings occupying the 123-133 High Street frontage, and the structures lining Bishop's Close and North Grey's Close behind to the N, the whole site consisting of three tenements. This revealed that, while incorporating early remains, the two W tenements had been substantially reconstructed at the beginning of the 19th century, including a single pedimented frontage, while the E tenement retained a frontage that dates to c 1700. All had been substantially reduced in height following fire damage. The relative alignments of the cellarage and pends to the closes suggested that the frontage had been successively extended into the High Street in two stages.

North Grey's Close contained the only substantial surviving remains of back tenement structures, in this case well preserved and including the substantial ruin known as Bishop Sydserff's House. The North Grey's Close W frontage, including these structures, was recorded in detail, as was a ground plan of Sydserff's. General architectural analysis identified at least three phases within this group of structures including two, possibly three, within Bishop Sydserff's House itself, the last associated with a datestone of 1581. It is possible that these constructions came in the wake of the destruction of parts of the city in the mid-16th century.

A 1m wide evaluation trench was excavated across the width of the central sub-division of Bishop Sydserff's House in order to examine ground conditions therein. Below a series of 19th-century earthfast floor joists and associated make-up, natural subsoil was exposed within the majority of the trench. Only at the N end were construction deposits encountered, producing a small quantity of medieval East Coast Red Ware. It appears that the construction of the existing structure, which was heavily terraced into the natural slope of the hill, had obliterated all earlier townscape remains in this area.

Sponsor: Cockburn Conservation Trust.

T Addyman 2001

Architecture Notes

North Gray's Close is Gray's Close in the Hammermen's records 1521 and on Edgar 1742, for the use of North and South to distinguish between the two Gray's Closes began only in about 1779, and the names are otherwise unconnected. The name of the North close is probably from Alexander Gray, burgess and one of the "greit dusane (i.e. council) and deikins" who met in 1480. His property stretched, possibly from the High Street, down to the yard or garden of the College of the Holy Trinity, now part of Waverley Station, at the foot of the close. By 1521 he had been succeeded by his son Robert. (from Stuart Harris, "Place Names of Edinburgh", 1996, pages 306-7)

Site Management (20 February 1992)

Long row of ruinous buildings; stepped to steep slope. Rectangular plan; roofless and reduced in height; random rubble with ashlar margins; roll-moulded blocked double doorway dated 1581; also late 17th/early 18th century openings with ashlar margins and stone lintels.

The building plots conform to the mediaeval town plan and, although in a derelict state, are a rare survival. There is a strong link between Thomas Sydserf (1581-1663), successively bishop of Brechin, Galloway and Orkney, and this building or at least the land extending from the High Street. The date of 1581 carved on the facade corresponds to his year of birth and perhaps this is where the association lies. Bishop Sydserf is also said to have resided at Bishop's Land, the substantial dwelling fronting the High Street and certainly a more prominent position for someone of his standing. 2 North Gray's Close was remodelled in the 18th century and again later in the 19th. The structure is now overgrown and filled with detritus. (Historic Scotland)


Publication Account (1951)

31. North Gray's Close, 125 High Street.

The building that stands at the head of the Close, fronting the street, is modern; but on the W. side there remains a range of building, for the most part condemned property, which dates from the late 16th century but was remodelled in the 18th a swell as more recently. It is six storeys in height where best preserved, and the masonry is rubble. The windows are either chamfered, stop-chamfered, or rounded at the arris. Four of the doorways have or had architraves with quirked edge-roll mouldings surmounted by simply-moulded cornices. One of them bears, on its lintel, the date 1581enclosed within a little panel.

RCAHMS 1951.


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