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Edinburgh, West Coates, Donaldson's School For The Deaf

Prisoner Of War Camp (20th Century), School (19th Century)

Site Name Edinburgh, West Coates, Donaldson's School For The Deaf

Classification Prisoner Of War Camp (20th Century), School (19th Century)

Alternative Name(s) Donaldson's Hospital; Royal Edinburgh Institution For The Deaf And Dumb

Canmore ID 52623

Site Number NT27SW 152

NGR NT 23541 73377

Datum OSGB36 - NGR


Ordnance Survey licence number 100057073. All rights reserved.
Canmore Disclaimer. © Copyright and database right 2019.

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Digital Images

First 100 images shown. See the Collections panel (below) for a link to all digital images.

Administrative Areas

  • Council Edinburgh, City Of
  • Parish Edinburgh (Edinburgh, City Of)
  • Former Region Lothian
  • Former District City Of Edinburgh
  • Former County Midlothian

Architecture Notes

NT27SW 152.00 23541 73377

NT27SW 152.01 23672 73243 East Lodge

NT27SW 152.02 23429 73229 West Lodge

NT27SW 152.03 23583 73503 Swimming Pool

NT27SW 152.04 23598 73470 Auxilliary Classrooms

NT27SW 152.05 23476 73482 Auxilliary Classrooms


Trustees applied to several architects for a design and model for a hospital to accomodate 300 children. Adopted Playfair's design 31.7.1838.

W H Playfair (1842 - 56)

Design submitted 31 July 1838

David Hamilton, Glasgow - provided design and model (1838)

James Gillespie Graham - provided design and model (1838)

Original model for Queen Victoria's Memorial, Buckingham Palace titled 'Motherhood' by Sir Thomas Brock, presented by his son Fred Brock.

Robert Tannahill by D W Stevenson (plaster)


Young and Trench, Edinburgh


Depicted on the coloured 1st edition of the Ordnance Survey (OS) 1:1056 map (Edinburgh and its Environs, 1854, sheet 33)


NMRS Inventory to plans held in Aberdeen Public Library

Typescript (R6(P19))

Lithographs - plates 21 and 21


Edinburgh University Library

Playfair Collection

1842 - 342 sheets (P. 31, 32, 33, 34 and 35)

Chapel (1846) 90 sheets

Quadrangle (1848) 74 sheets

Terrace Walls (1856) 10 sheets

Playfair Collection

66 designs (all 3 sheets)


Scottish Record Office

SRO GD 253/23/8/33 Hope Trust Papers (uncatalogued)

'October 26th 1830 131 George St

Although nothing is more objectionable to me than solicitation on the subject of professional employment still as I perceive you are nominated a Trustee for carrying into effect an extensive Hospital for orphans I cannot refuse myself the opportunity that from the extensive practice I have had in that class of Building it would be highly gratifying to me to be thought worthy of assisting you in so important an undertaking when the proper period arrives for considering this part of your duty

Wm Burn to John Hope, Trustee of Donaldson's.'


Aberdeen Public Library Drawings

Copy of original held in Library - 1 photograph of perspective

Perspective view of design - slide

- newspaper cuttings


Edinburgh Public Library

Documents relating to Donaldson's Hospital (1851) - text


Building Chronicle

J. G. Dunbar, February 1st (1855)

Site Management (3 November 2010)

Quadrangular Elizabethan orphan hospital complex comprising 2-storey ranges between 4-storey square-plan corner towers with angle turrets; additional, central tower to front elevation; octagonal turrets to centre of courtyard elevations; chapel projecting to centre of rear elevation; balustrades and flights of steps to terraces at S, E and W elevations; pair of lodges to West Coates, with boundary wall, piers, railings, gate piers and gates to street. Coursed, polished sandstone ashlar (Binny stone from Bathgate) with polished dressings. Base course; corniced string course between each floor; band of rosettes beneath heavily-projecting cornice; buckle quoins to all exterior angle turrets; window jambs chamfered throughout. Small-pane timber sash and case glazing throughout. Grey slate roof; tall octagonal cans with bevelled faces, heavily moulded at top; cast-iron rainwater goods to rear elevation and to courtyard ranges.

Donaldson's Hospital was the bequest of James Donaldson Esq. of Broughton Hall. In his Will it was stated that: "I leave all my property, heritable and personal, .. to build and found an Hospital for Boys and Girls, to be called Donaldson's Hospital", it was to follow "the plan of the Orphan Hospital and George Watson's Hospital". The school was to be co-educational, admitting 200 boys, who would be trained as "traders", and 200 girls, to be trained as "house servants". When Donaldson died, on 19th October 1830, he left a sum of '210,000 for the School's Trust. Immediately, William Burn approached the Trustees to convey his interest in the project and to remind them of his credentials. However, the Trustees decided to hold a competition for the job and invited William Henry Playfair, Thomas Hamilton and James Gillespie Graham to make designs. This initial invitation was sent on 19th November 1833 but it was not until 31 July 1838 that Playfair was declared the winner; he had submitted a total of 7 different designs to the Trustess. The contractors for the job were Young and Trench, they began their work on site in 1842. The work progressed very slowly, and in 1850 it was opened by Queen Victoria, who was impressed by what she saw. Cockburn described her visit, recording: "The Queen went over his [Playfair's] hospital ... admiring everything". It has even been rumoured that so impressed were Victoria and Albert that they suggested exchanging Holyrood Palace for Donaldson's Hospital. Indeed, R L Stevenson noted that "it has more the appearance of a Royal palace than a building for the reception of children...whose parents are in the humbler walks of life". 9 years after building work had begun, and almost 20 years since the architectural competition, the school was finally able to admit its first pupils in 1851.

Parts of the original imitative oak and ashlar decorative scheme by the leading Edinburgh decorator, D R Hay, survive, as do the furnishings for the Council Room by the joiner Scott. The original Deaf and Dumb Institute (J Gillespie Graham, 1823) was in Henderson Row (now Donaldson Building, Edinburgh Academy). (Historic Scotland)


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