Dated 1615. 2-storey and attic 17th century L-plan laird's house incorporating earlier fabric, with alterations by Robert Brown 1813; later additions to N, 1887 by Sir Robert Rowand Anderson; further additions by George Henderson 1904; all incorporating earlier fabric salvaged from Edinburgh's Old Town. Harl-pointed random rubble; later additions in squared coursed rubble with some ashlar quoins. Crowstepped gables; dormers breaking wallhead and corbelled corner turrets to angles at S. Basket arched doorway and large shaped 17th century wallhead stack to E.
W (ENTRANCE) ELEVATION: roughly 6-bay with lower 3-bay block of 1887 adjoining to N. Small single storey porch to centre; corbelled corner turret to S. Crowstepped gable to right of porch with corbelled stair tower in re-entrant angle, rectangular-plan at upper stages. Lower gable to N (1887) block. Various thistle and fleur-de-lys finials at dormers; dormer to far right (S) with datestone inscribed 1615 with initials J.B. and M.B. Grotesque face at skewput supporting ball finial to right (S) of lower gable; crown finial at pinacle. Ashlar long and short rybats, lintels and cills to N block; paired pedimented windows to N probably from French Ambassadors Chapel (formerly in Cowgate, Edinburgh).
S ELEVATION: roughly single bay with corbelled turrets at 1st floor to either corner. Crowstepped gable. Irregular fenestration.
E ELEVATION: roughly 7 bays, advanced to centre and recessed to N. Small gablet to centre with small corbelled turret in re-entrant angle flanked by larger gable to S. Later wing to N with large crowstepped gables breaking wallhead. Forestair to 1st floor in re-entrant angle. Moulded string course at ground floor and stepped at 1st floor. Parapet to smaller gable at N. Moulded stepped hoodmoulds to centre. Moulded round arched window at ground floor to centre. Moulded architraved and hoodmoulded surrounds to dormers to N.
N ELEVATION: roughly single bay with corbelled tripartite canted window to E. Crowstepped gable above.
Predominantly 12-pane in timber sash and case windows to 17th century block, multi-pane timber sash and case windows elsewhere. Roughly coursed rubble shouldered wall-head stack 17th century with later cornice and no cans; Corniced ashlar ridge and gable end stacks (some modern repairs) with modern clay cans. Pitched roof; grey slates. Cast-iron rainwater goods.
INTERIOR: later alterations to interior forming office space at 1st floor and single residential dwelling at ground floor. Entrance through porch to W elevation leads into stairwell with barley twist balusters to stair and Tudor rib vault over (circa 1830). Small doors to SE and SW corners at 1st floor allow access to corbelled turret. Some 18th century panelling survives throughout.
BOUNDARY WLL TO N.: coursed squared rubble wall with string course and moulded ashlar copes. Pilastered and moulded round arch to centre with corniced rectangular plinth above. Large ball finial to SW. Some panels with Latin inscriptions incorporated within wall.
Statement of Special Interest
A-Group with St. Mary's Cathedral and Walpole Hall and Song School (see separate listings). An early laird's house built in 1615 for John Byers and a rare survival of the suburban residence of a wealthy burger of this period. Byers purchased the land in 1610 and after this date held office as Baillie and Treasurer of Edinburgh. The initials of his first wife (Mary Barclay) are inscribed along with his own and a blank armorial shield on the datestone in the W elevation. The original 17th century core of the building is a survival of a type of suburban dwelling which would have characterised this area before the expansion Edinburgh's New Town.
The house is now set within the grounds of St. Mary's Cathedral and in use as offices and a residential dwelling (2008). There are several phases of additions to the original building. The house was 'repaired' (Gifford) in 1813 probably by Robert Brown who was working as the architect on the nearby Walker Estate development. Brown's work probably included the initial addition to the N (at the same height as the original building). His work incorporated fragments of other buildings from Edinburgh Old Town. Under the patronage of Sir Walter Scott the cathedral adopted the building as the choir school in 1887. At this point Rowand Anderson possibly recast the Brown additions to the N and continued the theme of re-using fabric from the Old Town. This included the double window in the gable of the W elevation which is reputed to have come from the French Ambassadors Chapel, various inscribed lintels were also included in this phase of alteration. In 1904 Henderson was involved further recasting of previous work and it was at this point that the porch on the W elevation became crowstepped.
(List description revised 2009 as part of re-survey.)
James Knox, Map of the Shire of Edinburgh, 1816: Ordnance Survey, Large Scale Town Plan, (1849-53); David MacGibbon and Thomas Ross, The Castellated and Domestic Architecture of Scotland from the Twelfth to Eighteenth Century, Vol II (1887-92) p. 509; N Tranter, The Fortified House in Scotland (1971) Vol. 1 p 71; J Gifford, C McWilliam, D M Walker, The Buildings of Scotland: Edinburgh (1988) p. 366; Youngson, The Making of Classical Edinburgh, (1988) p. 215; RCAHMS, Inventory of Edinburgh 1951; RCAHMS EDD88/8 Architectural Notes And Thoughts on Easter Coates House (circa 1880); RCAHMS broadsheet 13, Miles Glendinning, Alison Darragh, St. Mary's Episcopal Cathedral, Edinburgh, A Short History and Guide (2002); www.cathedral.net (accessed 13/5/2008).
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