Edinburgh Past And Present - The Edinburgh Website

New Town St James Sq-2010 (5)a


St James Square was designed by James Craig (who also designed the New Town) in 1773. It was built on Multrees Hill between 1775 and 1790 and was a tenement development surrounding a garden. By the mid 20th century the square was in such a bad state of repair it was declared unfit for human habitation. It was demolished in the mid to late 1960s and the St James Shopping Centre opened on the site in 1970. However, 2 of Craig's tenements were left and still stand today. They can be seen on your left as you leave the James Centre facing Multrees Walk and are still known as St James Square.

Old Town Riddles court-2010a


Built around 1590 for John McMorran who was a wealthy Edinburgh magistrate. He lived in the south and west sides of the house. He is famous for being shot by schoolboys during a protest in 1595 (see Stories of Old Edinburgh). The house passed onto his brother after his death. The houses were extended in the 17th century and in 1889 were converted for residential use by Edinburgh University. They are now used as an adult learning centre.

Old Town Bishop sydserfs House-2010a


North Gray's Close is in one of the busiest parts of the Royal Mile, opposite the Radisson Hotel. It is an empty close and near the top lies a ruined house with the date 1581 on the wall. The house was originally 4 storeys high but only 2 remain and you can see part of a turnpike staircase inside. There is little information available on this house from any source I have tried. It was to have been renovated by Richard Murphy architects a few years ago and turned into a shop and cafe but this has been abandoned and is now in the hands of the Cockburn Association.


Reconstructed from an earlier 15th century building in 1630 by Alexander Mure whose initials are set above a window together with his wife's. It was enlarged in the mid 18th century and in 1913 it was altered and became part of Castlehill School next door. Stories are told of the canon ball embedded in the wall being fired from the castle during Bonnie Prince Charlie's arrival in the city in 1745. The reason it is there is to mark the height of the city's first water supply which was piped from Comiston to the reservoir across the road in 1676. In 1681engineers placed the canonball into the wall to mark a height of 329 ft which was slightly lower than the springs at Comiston therefore ensuring the water would travel through pipes by gravity.

Old Town Canonball House-2010a

LADY STAIRS HOUSE – Lady Stairs Close

Built in 1622 for Sir William Gray, an Edinburgh merchant, it was originally called Lady Gray's House and Close. Lady Stair bought the house in 1719 after the death of her husband the 1st Earl of Stair. The house was bought in 1893 by the 5th Earl of Rosebery, a descendant of Lady Stair's husband and extensively altered. He presented the house to to the people of Edinburgh in 1907 and it is now a museum dedicated to Scott, Burns and Stevenson – The Writer's Museum.

Old Town Lady Stairs House2-2010a
Old Town Goospie House-2010a

RAMSAY LODGE – Castlehill

If you look at Ramsay Garden from Princes Street you will see an oval shaped building with balconies in the centre. This is Ramsay Lodge and it was built around 1734, over 150 years earlier than the buildings which surround it. The Edinburgh poet Allan Ramsay had purchased the land in 1733 and built the house as a retirement home. It was known around the town as Goose Pie House, a name that he despised. Today it form part of the prestigious flats of Ramsay Garden, designed by Patrick Geddes and built in the early 1890s.

Mary, Dowager Countess of Home had the house built around 1618 and it was passed to her daughter, the Countess of Moray in 1653. The house remained in the Moray family for over 200 years. Moray House was enlarged by adding the Regent's House next door sometime before 1647 and it was extended again by adding a new house to the south around 1755. It was famous for its extended gardens. Charles I is believed to have stayed at the house in 1633 and in 1648 and 1650 Oliver Cromwell stayed there. The garden summerhouse was used to sign at least a few of the signatures of the union between Scotland and England. Between 1752 and 1791 the house was leased to the British Linen Company who used it for a variety of purposes. The Cowan family took over the lease until 1845 when the10th earl of Moray sold the house to the North British Rail Company. The year after it was bought by the Free Church of Scotland to make it into a school. Many alterations were made in 1848 and it opened as a school the same year. It was extensively renovated in 1970-72 and is now Moray House School of Education and part of Edinburgh University

Old Town Moray HouseB-2010a
Old Town Regent Mortons House-2010a


The home of the Earls of Morton and built by James Douglas the 4th Earl around 1564 but considerably altered around 1600 when another floor was added. A timber galley hung over the front of the building but this was removed sometime after 1857. It opened as a backpackers hostel in 1985 and was the first independent hostel in Edinburgh.