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Edinburgh, 57 Lauderdale Street, Bruntisfield House

Drain (Post Medieval), Icehouse (Post Medieval), School (Modern), Tower House (Medieval), Wall (Post Medieval)

Site Name Edinburgh, 57 Lauderdale Street, Bruntisfield House

Classification Drain (Post Medieval), Icehouse (Post Medieval), School (Modern), Tower House (Medieval), Wall (Post Medieval)

Alternative Name(s) Marchmont; Bruntsfield House; James Gillespie's High School; Whitehouse Loan

Canmore ID 52541

Site Number NT27SE 75

NGR NT 25097 72184

Datum OSGB36 - NGR


Ordnance Survey licence number AC0000807262. 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 75.00 25097 72184

Bruntisfield House (NR)

OS 6"map, (1931)

Bruntsfield House: (NT 2509 7218): A 16th century tower-house on the site of an earlier structure. It is Z-shaped in plan, having two rectangular tow ers projecting from diametrically opposite corners of the main oblong block. In 1605 John Fairlie of Braid reconditioned the old fabric and extended the main block eastwa rds, and at the same time rebuilt the E. end of the old S. wall. He also formed a courtyard on the South. (Full architectural description given).... Bruntsfield takes its name from Richard Browne, Kings Sergeant of the Muir, "Browne's Field having become "Bruntsfield. In 1381, Browne resigned the property to Sir Alan de Lander...(RCAHMS 1951).

D MacGibbon and T Ross 1887-92; RCAHMS 1951.

Presented by Charles II to the Landers of Holtoun. Sold to George Warrander in 1695. Acquired by Edinburgh Corporation in 1935 and used as a children's home. At present occupied by James Gillespie's Preparatory School, Bruntisfield House.

Information from revised Name Book 1947.

Bruntisfield House:- As described above. Still in use as a School, and in state of good preservation.

Visited by OS (J D) 29 December 1953.

It is confirmed that the name of this building is Bruntisfield House, not Bruntsfield House.

Visited by OS 4 January 1954; Information from R F Landon, City Architects' Office, Edinburgh

As described in previous field report

Visited by OS (S F S) 2 December 1975.

Architecture Notes

NT27SE 75.00 25097 72184

NT27SE 75.01 Centred NT 25130 72175 School

NT27SE 75.02 NT 25011 72170 School (Primary)

16th Century Z-plan Additions of 1605 and modern times.

OWNER: James Gillespie's School

2 slides in NMRS (missing at time of upgrade, 3.4.1998)

See also:

NT27SE 96 Edinburgh, Lauderdale Street, Bruntsfield House, Grave Slab

NT27SE 440 Edinburgh, Lauderdale Street, Bruntsfield House, Ice-house

NT27SE 2273 Edinburgh, Warrender Park, General

In DC/6631 and DC/6632, Bruntsfield House is the name used for View Park.

See NT27SW 986 Edinburgh, View Park

NMRS Print Room

W Schomberg Scott Photograph Collection, Acc no 1997/39

Exterior view.


Publication Account (1951)

186. Bruntsfield House, Whitehouse Loan.

This property, once part of the Burgh Muir, takes its name from Richard Broune, King's Sergeant of the Muir, "Broune's field" having become "Bruntsfield" by a simple phonetic change. In 1381 Broune resigned the property to Sir Alan de Lauder, whose descendants built the existing mansion in the late 16th century to replace an earlier structure. Standing as it does, screened by venerable trees within high-walled grounds, the house is still secluded although the city has long since overtaken and surrounded it. As first built, it was shaped on plan like the letter Z, as it comprised an oblong main block, measuring about 57 ft. from E. to 26 ft. from N. to S., and two rectangular towers projecting from diametrically opposite corners and measuring respectively 18 ft. by 21 ft. and 34 ft. by 23 ft. All three divisions held three storeys and an attic, the upper ones reached from two turret-stairs corbelled out within the N.W. and S.E. re-entrant angles. This nucleus forms the W. part of the present building. In 1605, two years after he had acquired the property, John Fairlie of Braid reconditioned the old fabric and extended the main block about 39 ft. eastwards, at the same time rebuilding the E. end of the old S. wall and providing an additional stair-turret within the N.E. re-entrant angle. On the S. he also formed a courtyard, the arched entrance to which still exists although it has been considerably enlarged. His great-grandson sold the property in 1695 to George Warrender of Lochend, then a bailie and ultimately Lord Provost of Edinburgh, with whose descendants it remained until it was purchased by the municipality in 1935. In the 19th century the Warrenders remodelled the place internally and also made additions to the S. and N.E. The masonry throughout is rubble, prepared for harling, with exposed dressings which are rounded at the arris. The two original turret-stairs have conoidal corbelling enriched with cable- and billet-ornament. The one on the N. is again corbelled out near the top to support a cap-house, which may in the first instance have been an open bartizan looking out towards Edinburgh Castle. The conical roof of the S. turret has a thistle-shaped finial of stone. The dormer windows have triangular or circled pediments bearing the initials of John Fairlie and his wife Elizabeth Westoun; the same initials, cut singly and combined in monogram, and accompanied by the date 1605, occur in the pediments of the large windows upon the first floor of Fairlie's extension. The original entrance, now built up and covered by a modern vestibule, is in the E. wall of the larger tower; it appears to have been surmounted by a pediment of 1605, over which again was an earlier armorial panel. In the primary arrangement this entrance admitted to a vaulted passage containing a scale-and-platt staircase at its farther end. A doorway on the N. side of the passage opened into the main block, while another on the opposite side gave entry to the original kitchen, which was situated at the S. end of this tower. When the staircase was removed, kitchen and passage were thrown into one although the vaults of both were left, while the wide, arched, kitchen fireplace in the S. gable was also retained. A short vaulted passage on the S. side of the main block gives access to two vaulted cellars on the N., and to a third at the E. end. The last, in its turn, gives access to a fourth vaulted cellar in the basement of the N. tower, and since 1605 it has a1so led to the nearer of two vaulted compartments in Fairlie's extension, evidently a storeroom, through which anew groin-vaulted kitchen was approached. On the first floor there was a single room in the N. tower, while the S. tower contained the stair-head and a room in addition. The main block held two rooms, and the larger, or westernmost, of these still retains its early 18th-century panelling, which is, apart from the bolection-moulded fireplaces in some of the other rooms, the only feature of special interest left in the building. The 17th-century extension contains a single large room on the first floor. On the second floor there was one room in the N. tower, four in the main block, one of which had a close garderobe, and two in the S. tower. The arrangement of the attic floor is generally similar.

TOMBSTONE. A 17th-century grave slab found nearby in Spottiswoode Street has been built into a garden wall on the E. of the house. Measuring 6 ft. 6 in. by 3 ft. 3 in., it bears in its lower half a shield charged with a saltire; this may possibly be for Rose, as at one time the initials M I R and the date 1645 were legible beside the shield (1). In the upper part is a scroll bearing an illegible motto above a weatherworn cherub's head, as well as a skull and cross-bones flanked by two mattocks.

RCAHMS 1951, visited c.1941

(1) Warrender, Walks near Edinburgh, p. 17.

Photographic Survey (February 1964)

Photographic survey by the Scottish National Buildings Record/Ministry of Work in February 1964.

Test Pit Survey (8 August 2011 - 9 August 2011)

Five test-pits with a total of 10m² were excavated adjacent to Bruntsfield House within James Gillespie's High School. Structural remains consisting of two walls and a box drain or culvert were recorded in Test-Pit 3 to the south of the house and a wall with associated paving was recorded in Test-Pit 5 to the east of the house. Undated or modern negative features were recorded in other Test-Pits. No finds were recovered.

CFA Archaeology 2011 (I. Suddaby) OASIS ID: cfaarcha1-106571

Excavation (23 February 2013 - 22 March 2013)

NT 2509 7216 A programme of archaeological work was undertaken, 23 February – 22 March 2013, prior to and during redevelopment of the school. Deposits had been removed almost to bedrock across most of the site, and the area with the highest archaeological potential was a zone of raised ground close to the current school buildings. An excavation focusing on the ridge of higher ground recorded features relating to the 17th-century designed landscape surrounding the tower house of Bruntsfield House. These garden features consisted of a parallel pair of retaining walls, which would have formed a raised path/track and the base of a flowerbed. Set into one of the walls facing Bruntsfield House was a recessed niche or grotto. Preserved below the garden features was an earthen bank, part of an estate or field boundary. Underlying this was the badly truncated remains of a medieval structure comprising two walls along with pits cut into the natural subsoil.

Archive: RCAHMS (intended)

Funder: Services for Communities and The City of Edinburgh Council

Martin Cook, Jamie Humble, Hana Kdolska, AOC Archaeology Group, 2013

(Source: DES)

Excavation (November 2013 - December 2013)

NT 25071 72171 A programme of archaeological work was undertaken, November – December 2013, prior to and during redevelopment of the school. An evaluation had established that the Bruntsfield House ice house would be affected by the proposed development. A subsequent excavation revealed that the ice house survived with minimum truncation and consisted of an almost intact circular sandstone structure, 5.5m in diameter with a corbelled roof and an elongated entrance-way running in from the N. The structure was 4.0m deep and contained a sloping sandstone flag floor with a central iron grate. The ice house had been infilled to roof level with demolition debris.

A later ancillary structure or garden feature, consisting of a flag-stone floor, blocking wall and existing boundary walls was found to be integrated with the entrance of the ice house. The remains of a heavily truncated brick-built well were observed during groundworks. The well had been infilled with demolition material and survived to a visible depth of 2.5m.

Archive: RCAHMS

Funder: Morrison Construction

Martin Cook and Kevin Paton – AOC Archaeology Group

(Source: DES)

Standing Building Recording (11 November 2015)

NT 25064 72149 A historic building survey was carried out, 11 November 2015, of a newly exposed area of the Avenue Wall at James Gillespies High School, prior to its being faced with concrete as part of development work. The exposure of c 0.8m at the base of the stone rubble-faced wall revealed

no features. Cartographic evidence suggests that a small projecting section to the E was added 1897–1909.

Archive: NRHE (intended)

Funder: Morrison Construction Scotland Ltd

Diana Sproat – AOC Archaeology Group

(Source: DES, Volume 17)


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