Edinburgh Past And Present - The Edinburgh Website


Built in 1761 by Charles and William Butter at a time when the New Town hadn't extended as far north. William Butter was a builder who had purchased 5 acres of land as there was a demand for country houses with easy access to the city. The grounds extended towards Leith Walk. The first owner, in 1765, was Thomas Lord Erskine and after his death in 1825 it was sold to Lord Leven. By 1790 Gayfield Square was built on the estate followed by East London Street. By the 1880s the house was a veterinary college and in 1904 it was bought by William Cockburn a contractor and manure merchant. After WWI it was a laundry and in the 1970s it was owned by a car repairer who used the basement as a garage. By 1990 it was stripped and derelict. It was saved in 1991 by roofer Trevor Harding who painstakingly restored the house. It was put up for sale in 2003 and it appears to be still in residential use.

Newtown Gayfield House-2010a
New Town Old Coates House-2010 (2)a


One of the few remaining houses in the area that was taken over by the expanding New Town. It was built in 1615 by John Byers, an Edinburgh merchant, who purchased the land in 1610. Around 1704 the Heriot Trust acquired the site from William Walker who gave his name to William and Walker streets. His last surviving daughter, Mary, died in 1870 and bequeathed the estate to the Scottish Episcopal Church to build a Cathedral on the site. St Mary's Cathedral was built next door to the house, special provision being made for its preservation. It housed the Cathedral music school until 1995. It is now offices for charity Waverley Care.

New Town Thistle Court-2010a


Originally called Rose Court this was the first building to be built in the New Town. It was built in 1767 by John Young, a wright, and later builder of Young Street, who was offered a financial incentive in order to encourage people to build in the new area. James Craig, designer of the New Town, laid the first stone in front of large crowds. There are actually 2 buildings facing each other. One is now an electricity sub station and the other is used as offices.

Old Town Bishop Boswells House-2010 (1)a


Although situated in Byers Close it is best seen from neighbouring Advocates Close. Adam Bothwell, Bishop of Orkney, had his house in the close but this house was built about thirty years after his death in 1593. The name has stuck throughout history. The house was actually built for William Dick of Braid who was Lord Provost. Along the top of the building are holes which during renovations in 1977 were found to contain earthen pots that could possibly be there to enhance the quality of sound inside the building. It has now been converted to offices.

Old Town Cross House-2010a


Built in 1643 probably as a nobleman's house it was renovated and adapted in the early 1700s to become Skinner's Hall. An additional wing was added around 1850 when Dr Thomas Guthrie began his famous Industrial School. In 1982 the house was made into apartments.


Named after the first Marquis of Tweeddale after the property was left to him by his grandmother in 1645. It was built in the latter part of the 1500s.
At the end of the 1700s it was sold to the British Linen Bank and it was then the scene of an infamous murder. In 1806 a porter for the bank was found stabbed to death in the close and over £4000 in notes he was bringing from the Leith branch were missing. The murderer was never caught. When the bank moved in 1817, publishers Oliver & Boyd moved in and their sign still sits above the door even though they left in 1973. It has since been converted into flats. There is a small building in the close which is said to be the last remaining sedan chair garage in the city.

Old Town Tweedale House-2010 (1)a
Old Town Croft An Righ House-2010a


Although shrouded in uncertainty, the house appears to have been built in the late 1500s but was extensively remodeled in the 1600s. It is believed to have been the townhouse of William Graham, Earl of Airth who purchased it from the Earl of Linlithgow. It burned to the ground 2 years later. Croft An Righ is Gaelic for Kings Field. In the early 20th century it was a gardeners house possibly for nearby Holyrood Palace but by the mid 20th century the house had been subdivided into 2 flats. It now belongs to Historic Scotland as the regional superintendent's office.


Originally 3 separate timber houses built around 1517, they were joined together and rebuilt in stone in 1570. It takes its name from the first Marquis of Huntly who supposedly lived there but this is doubtful as he only visited the house. It was bought by the Incorporation of Hammermen in 1647 who used it as their headquarters so Hammermen's House would be a more apt name. In the 1800s the house was in a bad state of repair and inhabited by many poor families. It was acquired by Edinburgh council in 1924 and after much rebuilding and renovation, it was opened in 1932 as a museum. A shop next door was added to Huntly House around 1964. It is now called the Edinburgh Museum and contains many artefacts from the city's history such as Greyfriar's Bobby's collar and bowl and the National Covenant. The latin inscriptions on the outside of the house were put there when the house was first rebuilt in an attempt to answer some of the local critics of the house. The ones today are replicas, the originals are inside. It was, at the time, known to locals as the speaking house.

Old Town Huntly House-2010a