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- Category: A
- Group Category Details: A
- SEE NOTES
- Date Added: 29/04/1977
- Local Authority: Edinburgh
- Planning Authority: Edinburgh
- Burgh: Edinburgh
National Grid Reference
- NGRNT 26755 74496
- Coordinates326755, 674496
W H Playfair, designed 1823, built by Thomas Beattie, 1825. Symmetrical, classical tenement range, flanked to left and right by later adjoining tenement blocks (see separate listings); 14-bay, 3-storey, basement and attic; 2 groups of common-stair doors flanked to left and right by main-door entries. Polished ashlar; predominantly coursed squared rubble with dressed margins to rear. Base course; dividing band between basement and ground floors; dividing band and cornice between ground and 1st floors; cill band to 2nd floor; modillioned eaves cornice; balustraded parapet. Predominantly regular fenestration; windows in recessed surrounds with aprons to ground floor; architraved windows to upper floors.
S (PRINCIPAL) ELEVATION: to 3rd, 4th and 5th bays and 10th, 11th and 12th bays, mutual steps and platts overarching basement recess; to central bays to each group, timber-panelled and glazed common stair doors and triple-circle pattern letterbox fanlights in pedimented Greek Doric doorpiece of flanking engaged fluted columns. Flanking common stair doors, 2-leaf timber panelled doors with letterbox fanlights (to 12th bay, single-leaf timber-panelled door with narrow margin lights and triple-circle design fanlight), with pilasters to outer left and right supporting slightly advanced entablature. Cast-iron balconnettes to 1st floor windows. To roof, 8 flat-roofed dormers.
GLAZING etc: predominantly plate glass; 4-pane glazing to 2nd floor to 1st, 2nd and 3rd bays from left; plate glass top sash and 2-pane bottom sash to central 6 bays to 1st floor; 12-pane glazing to 4th and 11th bays and to ground floor to 13th and 14th bays; 15-pane glazing to 1st floor to 13th, 14th and 15th bays; all glazing in timber sash and case windows. M-roof with valley gutter; graded grey slate; predominantly stone skews. Slate haffits to dormers. Mutual ridge stacks to outer left and right; to left, 3 ashlar stacks with chamfered ends; to right, 2 rendered stacks; all stacks corniced with predominantly circular cans.
RAILINGS: edging basement recess and platt, cast-iron railings with spear-head and pine cone finials, spear-headed dog bars and Greek key patterned top border.
Statement of Special Interest
Part of the Calton A-Group.
Although the interiors may have undergone alteration, a significant proportion of the original features of 4-9 Brunton Place, such as plasterwork and chimneypieces, are likely to remain and this should be kept in mind when considering changes to the internal fabric.
4-9 Brunton Place is significant as the eastern-most fragment of one of the most important streets in Playfair's Calton or Eastern New Town Scheme. It is a significant 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 as the North The Calton Scheme was one of his few domestic commissions, and the variety of designs, different for each street, demonstrate 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 origins of this 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, who in his early years had been associated with Stark, to plan a scheme following Stark'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 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). 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.
When completing Brunton Place and Hillside Crescent in the 1880s, John Chesser did not follow Playfair's original elevations. Instead, he chose to base his design on a simplified and cruder version of 4-9 Brunton Place, the only section of Brunton Place which was built to Playfair's designs.
Kirkwood's Map, 1821. Brown's Maps, 1823 & 1831. OS Map, 1877, 1896. MINUTES OF MEETINGS OF THE COMMITTEE FOR FEUING THE GROUNDS OF CALTON HILL 1811-1822, Edinburgh City Council Archives. Playfair Drawings, 1790-1857, Edinburgh University Library. Edinburgh City Archives, Dean of Guild: 24th March 1887 (relating to alterations to 9 Brunton Place); 13th November 1964 (alterations to 4 Brunton Place). 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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