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- Category: A
- Group Category Details: A
- see notes
- Date Added: 16/12/1965
- Local Authority: Edinburgh
- Planning Authority: Edinburgh
- Burgh: Edinburgh
National Grid Reference
- NGRNT 26361 74523
- Coordinates326361, 674523
W H Playfair, designed 1823, building 1825; Nos 6 and 7 Hillside Crescent and 2 Brunswick Street built to Playfair's designs (slightly altered), during the 1880s. Near-symmetrical, classical terraced range of townhouses (No. 7 Hillside Crescent and 2 Brunswick Street built as flats) with advanced pavilions to outer left and right, Greek Doric colonnade and continuous balconette to 1st floor; 3-storey and basement (additional attic storey to pavilions and Brunswick Street elevation); to Hillside crescent elevation, 3-bay pavilions with 15-bay centre section; 7-bay Brunswick Street elevation. Polished ashlar (droved ashlar to basement, squared coursed rubble with droved margins to rear). Projecting band dividing basement and ground floors; plain entablature dividing ground and 1st floors; cill band to 2nd floor; mutuled eaves cornice and blocking course to central section; to pavilions and Brunswick Street elevation, mutuled cornice dividing 2nd and attic floors, attic floor cill band, eaves cornice and blocking course. Predominantly regular fenestration; segmentally headed windows to basement; architraved windows to 1st, 2nd and attic floors; cornices to 1st floor windows to pavilions.
SE (HILLSIDE CRESCENT) ELEVATION: to ground floor 3rd, 4th, 7th, 10th, 13th 16th and 19th bays from left, steps and platts overarching basement recess leading to 2-leaf (single-leaf to No. 7) timber-panelled doors with letterbox fanlights; modern metal ramp to left of platt to No 5; paired engaged fluted Greek Doric columns dividing bays. To 1st floor, continuous cast-iron trellis design balconette with Greek key borders. To 2nd floor windows to left pavilion, decorative cast-iron window-box holders.
NE (BRUNSWICK STREET) ELEVATION: to central bay, steps and platt overarching basement recess leading to timber-panelled door with letterbox fanlight in architraved opening with doorpiece of engaged fluted Doric columns supporting entablature and wrought-iron trellis design balconette with Greek key border. Sunken aprons to ground and 1st floor windows.
GLAZING etc: predominantly plate glass in timber sash and case windows; 12-pane glazing in timber sash and case windows to No 1 (ground and 2nd floor), No 2 and No 4 (ground and 2nd floor); 15-pane glazing in timber sash and case windows to 1st floor to Nos 1 and 4. M-valley roof with gutter to Nos 1-6; piended roof with flat top to No 7 Hillside Crescent and 2 Brunswick Street; graded grey slates; stone skews and skewputts; rooflights and cupolas to piended section of roof. To Hillside Crescent elevation: to pavilion to W, to outer left and right, corniced ashlar mutual ridge stacks preceded by linked individual octagonal flues; to central section, 3 corniced ashlar ridge stacks and 1 corniced rendered ridge stack; to pavilion to E, corniced ashlar gablehead stack to left; corniced ashlar stack to centre; to Brunswick Street elevation, double linked corniced ashlar wallhead stack to centre; corniced ashlar gablehead stack to right.
INTERIORS: 4 Hillside Crescent: to ground floor; to lobby, opening to stair hall flanked by Ionic columns in anta filled in with modern timber and glazed screen and doors, compartmented ceiling, good plasterwork; to stairs and stair hall, stone stairs with cast-iron balusters, wrought iron lamp brackets, oval cupola with compartmented cavetto surround in sail-vaulted ceiling, good plasterwork.
Statement of Special Interest
Part of the Calton A-Group.
The block comprising 1-7 Hillside Crescent and 2 Brunswick Street forms part of Playfair's Eastern New Town (or Calton) scheme, and as such is an important example of the work of one of Scotland's leading early 19th century architects. Playfair was one of the major driving forces of the Greek Revival in Edinburgh at this time, and his public commissions such as the National Monument, the Royal Institution and the National Gallery (see separate listings) gave strength to Edinburgh's reputation as the Athens of the North. The Calton Scheme was one of his few domestic commissions, and the variety of designs, different for each street, demonstrates Playfair's expertise with the Grecian style and his characteristic punctilious attention to detail. The railings are important as their design features distinctive elements which Playfair repeated in large areas of the Calton scheme.
The block comprising 1-7 Hillside Crescent and 2 Brunswick Street is the only portion (other than the solitary 11 Hillside Crescent, see separate Listing) of Hillside Crescent to be built to Playfair's designs. Playfair had conceived the Crescent to one of the key elements of the Calton scheme, a crescent of 'great size' with streets radiating of it; he believed that 'the good effect of the diverging of several Streets from a Central point has long been felt and acknowledged particularly in the Piazza del Popolo at Rome'. The maximum impact of a complete crescent to built Playfairs designs was never realised, but the block comprising 1-7 Hillside Crescent and 2 Brunswick Street, with its powerful repetition of paired Doric columns and delicate ironwork balconette, gives a tantalising taster of how it would have looked. The remainder of the crescent was completed in the 1880s to the designs of John Chesser (see below)
The origins of the Eastern New Town, which was to occupy the east end of Calton Hill and lands to the north of it on the ground between Easter Road and Leith Walk, lie in a 'joint plan for building' which three principal feuars (Heriot's Hospital, Trinity Hospital and Mr Allan of Hillside) entered into in 1811. In 1812 a competition was advertised for plans for laying out the grounds in question. Thirty-two plans were received, displayed and reported on by a variety of people, including eight architects. Eventually, it was decided that none of the plans was suitable. However, it was a more general report by William Stark (who died shortly after submitting it) which caught the attention of the Commissioners and formed the basis of the final scheme. Stark's central argument stressed the importance of planning around the natural contours and features of the land rather than imposing formal, symmetrical street plans upon it. After several years of little or no progress, in 1818 the Commissioners finally selected William Henry Playfair, Stark's former pupil, to plan a scheme following his master's Picturesque ideals.
The resulting scheme, presented to the Commissioners in 1819, preserved the view of and from Calton Hill by the creation of a limited triangular development of three single-sided terraces on the hill itself. These looked over a huge radial street pattern, centred on the gardens of Hillside Crescent, on the land to the north. The feuing of these lower lands started well, with Elm Row, Leopold Place and the west side of Hillside Crescent being built fairly swiftly. However, demand for the feus faltered severely, due to the growing popularity of new properties being built to the west of the New Town. The fate of the Calton scheme was sealed in 1838, when it was decided that feuars should pay poor-rates to both Edinburgh and Leith. This virtually halted development for the next thirty years. Hillside Crescent also had particular problems with subsidence, which further exacerbated the lack of interest in the scheme. The result of all these problems was that very little of Playfair's original scheme was ever built. When building resumed in the late 1880s, some of Playfair's original street lines were adhered to, as was the case with Brunton Place and Hillside Crescent, and in others such as Brunswick Street, Hillside Street (originally to be a longer street called Hopeton Street), and Wellington Street (also curtailed). The revised scheme of the 1880s was designed by John Chesser who reworked and simplified some of Playfair's designs for the streets that had already been partly built, and designed the remainder of the streets in a more contemporary style. However, due to piecemeal residential, industrial and transport developments immediately to the north, it would have been impossible to further follow Playfair's original layout, even if this had been considered desirable.
Kirkwood's Map, 1821. Brown's Maps, 1823 & 1831.OS Map, 1851, 1877, 1896. MINUTES OF MEETINGS OF THE COMMITTEE FOR FEUING THE GROUNDS OF CALTON HILL 1811-1822, Edinburgh City Council Archives. W H Playfair, DRAWINGS, Edinburgh University Library, 1790-1857. Edinburgh City Archives, Dean of Guild: 16th May 1895 (relating to alterations to 5 Hillside Crescent). A J Youngson, THE MAKING OF CLASSICAL EDINBURGH, (1966) pp148-156. I Lindsay, GEORGIAN EDINBURGH, (1973) pp54-55. Gifford, McWilliam and Walker, EDINBURGH, (1994), p447. H Colvin, DICTIONARY OF BRITISH ARCHITECTS, (1995), p766. J Lowrey, THE URBAN DESIGN OF EDINBURGH'S CALTON HILL in THE NEW TOWN PHENOMENON - ST ANDREWS STUDIES IN THE HISTORY OF SCOTTISH DESIGN AND ARCHITECTURE AND DESIGN, (2000), pp1-12. RCAHMS Collections.
We list buildings of special architectural or historic interest and these are selected according to criteria published in the www.historic-scotland.gov.uk/shep-dec2011.pdf, Annex 2, pp74-76.
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