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Edinburgh, 356 Castlehill, Cannonball House

School (20th Century), Tenement (17th Century)

Site Name Edinburgh, 356 Castlehill, Cannonball House

Classification School (20th Century), Tenement (17th Century)

Alternative Name(s) 2 Castle Wynd North; Castlehill School

Canmore ID 52345

Site Number NT27SE 318

NGR NT 25395 73505

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

Architecture Notes

NT27SE 318 25395 73505

NT27SE 635.00 25408 73503 Castlehill School

Originally early 17th century, reconstructed late 17th and mid 18th centuries. Two-storey laigh floor and attic to street; short lower S wing dated 1630. Restored as part of adjoining school; new E gable 1913, J A Carfrae.

RCAHMS 1951.

ARCHITECT: John Alexander Carfrae-restoration as extension to Castlehill School


Publication Account (1951)

Cannonball House, Castle Hill

This much-altered 17th-century tenement, which takes its name from an iron shot embedded in its W gable*, stands at the corner of Castle Wynd North on a site which in the 16th century was occupied by a chapel [NT27SE 319]. In 1913 it was incorporated in the adjoining Castle Hill School [NT27SE 635], the interior being gutted and reconstructed as classrooms and offices. Its earliest part is the oblong block, three storeys and an attic in height, which faces the street; this was extended 4 ft. 9 in. eastwards in the 18th century and was also raised in height to support the easternmost of the three gablets then added to the superstructure as well as the stone gutters provided at the same time to collect the roof water. The masonry throughout is of rubble with ashlar dressings and shows obvious signs of renewal and alteration. For example, one window on the first floor, to be identified by its moulded jambs and lintel, has been enlarged by the insertion of two courses on each side, while all the other windows facing to the front have been rebuilt. In the W gable however, three windows can be dated to the 17th century, the other five being comparatively modern. The E gable has been rebuilt, its S side being obscured by additions. A short flight of steps, enclosed on each side by a parapet wall with a curved and moulded cope, leads to the entrance, which is on the first floor at the W end of the front. The doorway has a moulded architrave; the lintel bears a central shield, the device on which is illegible. On either side of the shield runs an inscription NOSCE [TEIPSUM] (‘Know Thyself’). This lintel was originally above another door in the same building.

In 1629-30 the building was acquired by Alexander Mure, a skinner and burgess of Edinburgh, who added a low wing on the S in extension of the W gable, placing his initials and those of his wife, Margaret Neillems, with the date 1630, upon the pediment of the dormer facing W. This dormer is the only unaltered window on this side of the extension, but those in the crow-stepped gables seem to be untouched. All the lower windows were protected by shutters, sliding in stone ledges or guides which are still extant, a provision that was also to be seen formerly in other houses in this neighbourhood. The proximity of the Castle and the consequent risk of gunfire may have necessitated a more substantial cover than the usual form of shutter afforded.

In a subsequent alteration made within the same century the re-entrant angle between the main block and the wing was filled in, the E end of the addition being continued S in a second low wing which ran parallel with Mure’s extension and contained in its lower part a passage or pend which gave access to the low ground to the S. The arch at the outer end of this passage springs from moulded encorbelments. The only features of special interest inside the house are two early 18th century mantelpieces of marble, one of which encloses a 17th century bolection-moulded fireplace of stone.


*None of the explanations given for this feature is convincing. The ball was probably inserted at the whim of some past occupant.

Watching Brief (25 October 2013 - 25 November 2013)

AOC Archaeology Group was commissioned by Thomas and Adamson, on behalf of their client to undertake an archaeological and structural watching brief at Cannonball House, Castle Hill, Edinburgh, in advance of and during renovation works at this large A Listed building at the top of the Royal Mile. The frontage of Cannonball House dates to the late 16th century with a later wing to the rear completed in 1630 by Alexander Mure although there have been significant 18th century additions. The interior was significantly altered in the 1930s when the house was incorporated into Castlehill School. The archaeological watching brief recorded four post-medieval wall foundations exposed during the limited ground breaking works which may relate to a previous phase of building on the site, although the

limited scope of the works hinders the interpretation of these features.

Information from Diana Sproat and Jamie Humble (AOC Archaeology Group) 31 March 2014. OASIS ID - aocarcha1-168791


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