John Lessels, 1869-1870. 2-storey, basement and attic Scottish Baronial mansion; 4-stage tower with cap-house. Squared and snecked cream sandstone rubble with polished ashlar dressings.
W (ENTRANCE) ELEVATION: 4-bay entrance block to left with tower at SW angle.
ENTRANCE BLOCK: steps to doorway in advanced bay to penultimate right; finely carved porch at ground; round-arched doorway; cable moulding to architrave and entablature; flanking carved panels and heraldic lions; 3-light, canted, oriel window to 1st floor above with carved parapet; single, pedimented window set in crowstepped gable; 2-stage bartizan with heraldic carving to eaves to immediate left; cast-iron finial to conical roof. Single bay to right; bipartite window at ground with blank inscription panel above; single, pedimented window to 1st floor above; single pedimented dormer to attic. Bay to immediate left; tripartite window at ground; bipartite window to 1st floor above; single bay to outer left; bipartite window at ground; single window to 1st floor above; small window to attic; cast-iron finial to crowstepped gable.
TOWER: W AND S ELEVATIONS: base course; cill course to 1st floor windows; architraves to 1st and 2nd floor windows with blank inscription panel between; eaves course; corbels to crenallated parapet. 2 single windows to ground floor; single windows to 1st and 2nd floors above;
2 small windows to 3rd floor; circular bartizan at SW angle; crowstepped gables and pedimented dormers to cap-house above parapet.
S ELEVATION: 3-bay with tower to outer left (see above); 4-stage circular-plan tower to SE angle. Single central bay; tripartite window at ground; bipartite window to 1st floor above; small attic window; crowstepped gable; twin bipartite windows in bay to outer left; 3-light, bowed windows to 1st and 2nd floors above; crowstepped gable; circular bartizan to right with heraldic carving to eaves and cast-iron finial to conical roof. Full-height, advanced, canted bay to outer right with bipartite windows to each face; carved parapet above forming balcony to pedimented attic window; crowstepped gable. Circular tower with single windows to each floor and machicolations at eaves.
E ELEVATION: 3-bay with circular tower to S (see above); central recessed bay; bipartite window at ground; pierced balcony to tripartite, 1st floor window above; advanced, 4-light, full-height window to outer left; steps and terrace to ground floor windows; single, round-arched window to attic with heraldic carving to architrave; cast-iron finial to crowstepped gable; full-height, advanced, canted window in bay to outer right with bipartite windows to central face; single pedimented window above; cast-iron finial to crowstepped gable.
N ELEVATION: 3-bay; central bay deeply recessed; tripartite window to basement and to ground and 1st floors above; carved roundel above 1st floor window; engaged, 4-stage, circular tower to right; heraldic carving at eaves and cast-iron finial to conical roof. Bipartite window to basement of bay to outer left; bipartite windows to ground and 1st floors above; blank inscription panel above 1st floor window; circular bartizans to E and W angles; crowstepped gable. Blank gable wall to bay to outer right; blank inscription panel to 1st floor; advanced chimney to wall head stack; crowstepped gable; circular bartizan at E angle; single window to 1st floor and attic; heraldic carving to eaves course; cast-iron finial to conical roof.
2-pane, timber, sash and case windows. Grey slate roofs; coped wallhead stacks, predominantly with octagonal flues.
INTERIOR: very fine interior with many original features remaining. PRINCIPAL GROUND FLOOR ROOMS panelling, panelled doors with lugged architraves, carved fireplaces and richly decorated cornices and ceilings, possibly by Thomas Bonnar in olive green, gold and red. Other features include: MAIN STAIRCASE (stair hall currently under restoration) richly carved with fruit, foliage, heraldic beasts and classical figures; original library bookcases with leaded glass panels to ADMISSIONS OFFICE; heavily carved and mirrored sideboard to original dining room, now the GENERAL OFFICE; elaborately carved fireplace to ACCOUNTS OFFICE with romantic landscape painting to overmantle.
BOUNDARY WALLS: high rubble boundary surrounding estate.
Statement of Special Interest
Built for the younger Thomas Nelson, one of the sons of Thomas Nelson the publisher, the house was originally called Arthurley. The Nelsons owned the Parkside printing works on the Dalkeith Road/Holyrood Park Road site now occupied by Scottish Widows; this building was also by Lessels. In old age, Thomas Nelson jnr ran the family business from the library at St Leonards and died at the hall in 1892.
Between the wars, the adjacent estates of St Leonards Hall and Salisbury Green were sold to Sir Donald Pollock, who gifted the land to Edinburgh University.
John Lessels (1809–1883) was a Kirkcaldy born architect who practiced in Edinburgh from 1846 and was appointed joint architect to the City Improvement Trust in 1866. By the early 1860s, Lessels had gained the patronage of Nelsons the publishers for whom he designed the extension to Salisbury Green and St Leonards Hall, Holyrood Park Road in 1869.
St Leonards Hall first appears on the Edinburgh Ordnance Survey map of 1876.
Listed building record and statutory address updated (2015). Previously listed as '18 Holyrood Park Road, St Leonard's Hall including boundary walls'.
Simpson, A. L. (1876) In Memoriam: Thomas Bonnar.
Ordnance Survey (Surveyed 1877, published 1878-81) Large scale Scottish town plans, Town Plan of Edinburgh (south east part). London: Ordnance Survey.
Paton, H. M. (1942) Lands of St Leonard's in Book Of The Old Edinburgh Club, Vol 24, p. 234.
Crossland, J. B., (1966) Victorian Edinburgh. pp. 70-71
Ramsay, A. (1981) Nelson The Publisher, p.14.
Gow, I. (1988) "The Finest Room in Scotland: Thomas Bonnar's Decoration of the Drawing Room for Newbattle Abbey" Scottish Society For Art History Yearbook.
Gifford, J. McWilliam, C. and Walker, D. (1991) The Buildings of Scotland: Edinburgh. London: Penguin Books. p. 637-8.
Crossland, J. B. (1992) John Lessels, Edinburgh Tatler, 11 May 1964.
Dictionary of Scottish Architects, John Lessels, http://www.scottisharchitects.org.uk/architect_full.php?id=200066 [accessed 10 March 2015].
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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