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Listed Building

The legal part of the listing is the address/name of site only. All other information in the record is not statutory.


Status: Designated


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  • Category: A
  • Group Category Details: B - (see NOTES)
  • Date Added: 14/07/1966


  • Local Authority: Edinburgh
  • Planning Authority: Edinburgh
  • Burgh: Edinburgh

National Grid Reference

  • NGRNT 21613 69475
  • Coordinates321613, 669475


Richard Crichton, 1801-6, adapted from scheme by Thomas Harrison (see Notes). Alterations WH Playfair, 1840-41; Dick Peddie and Walker Todd, 1928, reconstructed wings, built former gymnasium wing and remodelled interior. 2-storey and basement, 5-bay classical house on sloping site; projecting portico with coupled Ionic columns; lower recessed wings with Venetian windows. Coursed droved Craigleith ashlar with polished dressings. Base course, cill courses, eaves course and blocking course.

SE (PRINCIPAL) ELEVATION: central portico with coupled ionic columns and entablature with decorative frieze. 5 steps leading to 2-leaf timber panelled entrance door with sunburst fanlight and sidelights in pilastered architrave; channelled stonework to voussoirs and architrave. Regular fenestration. Recessed wings with Venetian windows in slightly advanced central bays; paterae flanking arch and blind tablet above supported on guttae. Pilastered openings below heavy cornice to outer bays; small recessed panels above. Square ventilation lantern with louvred faces and piended metal roof to ridge of right wing; later roof extension to left wing. 1928 former gymnasium to outer left with piended roof and Venetian window.

SW ELEVATION: former gymnasium: blind wall with door set off centre right; 4 relief panels of modern art.

NW (REAR) ELEVATION: 3-storey main house with 2-storey wings. 3-bay bowed section to centre with tall architraved and corniced windows and wrought-iron balcony to piano nobile. Outer bays with later tripartite windows at 1st and 2nd floors. Slightly recessed flanking wings; advanced central bays with recessed relieving arches containing single windows at 1st floor and oculi to attic; blind windows to attic of flanking bays. Wing to left with 1928 tripartite windows to centre and left of basement; paired windows to right. Wing to right with original Diocletian window at basement (see Notes). Former gymnasium advanced to outer left with Venetian window.

NE ELEVATION: central relieving arch breaking string course, containing single window; blind tablet above. Pilastered corners. Ashlar steps leading to basement door at lower right.

Predominantly 12-pane glazing in timber sash and case windows; some 6, 8, 9 and 15-pane glazing to rear. Piended grey slate roof with platformed top and lead flashings. Partially concealed painted cast-iron rainwater goods.

INTERIOR: original groin-vaulted lobby with pilasters and frieze decorated with paterae; Ionic pilastered corridor with groin vaulting and decorative plasterwork in soffits of arches. Stone staircase (remodelled by Playfair) with cast-iron balusters. Some timber panelled interior doors and original cornicing.

Statement of Special Interest

B-Group with Colinton Castle, Dovecot, Ha-Ha, Stables, House at Walled Garden, Walled Garden, Garden Store, Main School Building, Chalmers and Rogerson Houses, Headmaster's House, South Lodge, Gatepiers and Boundary wall. The house was built for Sir William Forbes of Pitsligo who bought the Colinton Castle estate from the Foulis family in 1790. Sir William Forbes (1739-1806) was one of the most important men in eighteenth century Edinburgh. He was an extremely successful banker, becoming a partner of Coutt's bank at the age of 22, and head of the banking firm Forbes, Hunter and Co. twelve years later. He also was an extremely energetic philanthropist, and was actively engaged in the management of almost all the charitable institutions in Edinburgh. In particular, his patronage of the Church of Scotland carried it to a position of importance and influence that it had not known since the disestablishment of 1689. Originally Forbes considered altering and extending Colinton castle and had plans drawn up by local architect and mason John Fraser. He then decided to build a new house, and asked a number of architects to draw up plans. The chosen scheme was a design by Thomas Harrison, and adapted by Richard Crichton. In 1801, Forbes described the plan in a letter to his son, "an excellent plan, chiefly Mr Harrison's only somewhat more expensive than I reckoned on." The various tradesmen involved in the building of the house are listed in Buildings Of Scotland. The house was not complete by Forbes death, and passed on to his son, also called Sir William, who was married to the sweetheart of Sir Walter Scott. After his death in 1828 it became the retirement residence of Lord Dunfermline, who had been speaker in the House of Commons, and commissioned the alterations by Playfair. His son Ralph married a daughter of the banking family Trotter who in turn sold the estate to the school. The house was adapted in 1928 to form the science block of the newly constructed school. Numerous alterations were carried out by Walker Todd, which included bringing forward the SE (front) walls of the wings and altering the fenestration at the rear. He also demolished part of the SW wing in order to make way for the new gymnasium (now the library), made a number of minor interior alterations, and removed most of the chimney stacks.



Letter book (PLAYFAIR) at Edinburgh University Library, CORRESPONDANCE WITH LORD & LADY DUNFERMLINE. John Small, CASTLES & MANSIONS OF THE LOTHIANS, VOL I (1883). Dean of Guild plans in Edinburgh City Archive, 24th August 1928. Gifford, McWilliam & Walker, BUILDINGS OF SCOTLAND: EDINBURGH (1991), p516. Charles McKean, EDINBURGH ? AN ILLUSTRATED ARCHITECTURAL GUIDE (1992) pp190-1. (chapter1) ? for information on Sir William Forbes.

About Designations

Listed Buildings

We list buildings of special architectural or historic interest and these are selected according to criteria published in the, Annex 2, pp74-76.

The information in the listed building record gives an indication of the special architectural or historic interest of the listed building(s). It is not a definitive historical account or a complete description of the building(s). The format of the listed building record has changed over time. Earlier records may be brief and some information will not have been recorded.

Enquiries relating to works to listed buildings should be made to the local authority in the first instance. Listed building consent is required for works which a local authority considers will affect its character as a building of special architectural or historic interest and local authorities also decide if listed building consent is required.

Listing covers both the exterior and the interior. Listing can cover structures not mentioned which are part of the curtilage of the building, such as boundary walls, gates, gatepiers, ancillary buildings etc. The local authority is responsible for advising on what is covered by the listing including the curtilage of a listed building. For information about curtilage see

Legislation introduced on 1 October 2015 allows us to state that: an object or structure fixed to the listed building; any object or structure within the curtilage of the listed building; and, any part or feature of the listed building that is not of architectural or historic interest may be excluded from a listing. If part of your building is not listed under the new legislation, the part will be excluded in the statutory address and in the statement of special interest. The statement will use the word 'excluding' and quote the relevant section of the Historic Environment Scotland Act 2014. Some earlier listed building records may use the word 'excluding', but if the Act is not quoted, the record has not been revised to reflect current legislation.

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