James Simpson, 1891-3. 3 storey, basement and attic 4-bay rectangular plan Renaissance end terrace townhouse with Greek detailing; set on ground falling steeply to rear (N) with further basement storeys. Sandstone ashlar. Banded base course; moulded cill course at 1st and 2nd floors. Corniced eaves course with large console brackets; blind parapet to principal (S) elevation, balustraded to sides and rear. Outstanding interior scheme by Scott Morton and Co. including stained glass by Daniel Cottier, 1893.
S (PRINCIPAL) ELEVATION: 3-light, 2 storey, Corinthian columned, bowed bays flanking central doorway with single bay to right (E). Anthemion friezes to bowed bays and 1st floor windows. Doorway to centre with advanced corniced porch supported by Corinthian columns. Moulded architraved windows at ground and 1st floors with bracketed cornices. Moulded architraved surrounds at 2nd floor, tripartite above bowed bays. 2 semicircular pedimented bipartite sandstone ashlar dormers flanking triangular pedimented dormer at attic, grouped off-centre to left, integrated into blind parapet.
E (SIDE) ELEVATION: roughly 6 bays, ground falling to right (N). Advanced breakfronted bay to far left (windows to right return), further bays each stepping back to right, corbelled out circular plan full height bays to corner bay at right. Moulded architraved surrounds, some corniced (some tripartite windows).
REAR ELEVATION: roughly 4 bays, 4 storeys and attic over deep basement. Paired corbelled 3-light canted bays to centre at 3rd floor. Bipartite rectangular sandstone ashlar dormers above. Roughly regular fenestration with architraved surrounds.
Predominantly plate glass in timber sash and case windows. Mansard roof; grey slates. Corniced sandstone ashlar ridge and wallhead stacks, some with raised and fielded panels; modern clay cans. Cast-iron rainwater goods with decorative hoppers dated and inscribed A.S. 1893. Cast-iron railings edging basement area to street.
INTERIOR: outstanding highly decorative classical scheme W Scott Morton 1893. Grecian decorative scheme to large entrance hall with grand staircase; Cottier stained glass to vestibule door and to some bowed windows; mahogany panelling to hall, Ionic columned chimneypiece. Ornate compartmentalised ceiling with rich cornice. Top-lit stairwell with further panelling and mosaic inlay. Corinthian columned balustrade with carved winged horses; columned screen at 1st floor with mahogany caryatids, copy of Parthenon frieze above. Renaissance dining room with Jacobean ribbed ceiling and ornate cornice; large chimneypiece to ingleneuk; lower windows containing further stained glass by Cottier depicting the seasons. Further Doric columned arcades and elaborate timber screen to library in American walnut. Bronze and copper chimneypiece with Dutch tiles in breakfast room. Adamesque ceiling to drawing room with elm panelling; alabaster chimneypiece with caryatids, stove to centre flanked by sphinxes. French, Elizabethan and Adamesque rooms to 1st floor, all richly detailed. Former bedrooms to rear at 1st floor, one Corinthian columned and pilastered with embossed Tynecastle canvas to the ceiling. Neo-Elizabethan billiards room accessed by small later (circa 1950) stair; lined with oak panelling with further embossed Tynecastle canvas. Three arched arcaded screen to dais with further richly detailed chimney pieces to either end.
Statement of Special Interest
large and well detailed detached townhouse with outstanding decorative scheme to interior detailed in a wide variety of styles. It has been described by Gifford et al. as possessing the most sumptuous interior in Edinburgh. The house was commissioned for Arthur Sanderson a whisky baron and wine merchant, and was designed almost exclusively for entertaining. The whole interior boasts fine design and extensive craftsmanship throughout the principal rooms. It is currently (2008) the property of the Royal Airforce, and has a later gymnasium to the rear.
The terrace which Learmonth House concludes was built by John Chesser for Colonel Learmonth as part of his wider development of lands in this area. Learmonth had played a major part in the funding of the nearby Dean Bridge (see separate listing). The construction of the bridge placed his land on what became a main thoroughfare into and out of the City of Edinburgh and made his developments much more valuable. The feu plan drawn up by Chesser originally covered a much larger area of Learmonth's estate, but only Learmonth Terrace was built to this design. Unlike the earlier phases of the New Town the terraces of the Dean estate were exclusively of individual affluent family houses with lavish Victorian detailing. Changing social circumstances in the 20th century have led to a degree of alteration and adaptation.
James Simpson was an Edinburgh based architect working mainly in Leith, where he was the Burgh Assessor and Town Architect. Learmonth House is probably his most high profile residential work, but he also worked on Leith Town Hall (see separate listing).
The Morton and Co. furniture business was set up by two brothers, William Scott-Morton and his brother John in 1870 in the Tynecastle area of Edinburgh. William had attended design classes in Glasgow before working for architect James Smith. The firm stocked a range of furniture and also produced carpet designs for Templeton's of Glasgow. From the late 1870s onwards the firm began to make wallpaper and were renowned for their invention of Tynecastle Tapestry a canvas wall covering which was based on 15th century Spanish or Italian embossed leather and was an alternative to plasterwork. From the later 19th century the company provided furnishings for many prestigious houses including 25 Learmonth Terrace and worked with architects such as Hippolyte Le Blanc and R S Lorimer in addition to providing interior fittings for branches of the Commercial Bank of Scotland.
Daniel Cottier was the pioneer of modern stained glass in Scotland, becoming chief designer for Field and Allan of Edinburgh and Leith. He later worked alone before moving to London in 1870. He later went on to open branches of his interior design studios in Sydney and New York and became a prominent member of the Aesthetic movement in the U.S.A.
Category changed from B to A in July 2002.
List description revised as part of resurvey (2009).
Ordnance Survey, Large Scale Town Plan (1893-4); J G Bartholomew, Plan of Edinburgh and Leith, from Survey Atlas of Scotland, (1912); J Gifford, C McWilliam, D M Walker, The Buildings of Scotland: Edinburgh (1988) p. 399; Richard Roger, The Transformation of Edinburgh: Land, Property and Trust in the Nineteenth Century (2004) p. 248; www.scottisharchitects.org.uk (accessed 17/9/2008); RCAHMS, Acc 2000/197 and 2000/198; Rebecca Bailey, Scottish Architects Papers, (1996); Malcolm cant, Gorgie and Dalry, (1995); Edinburgh University Special Collections, Phot Ill 149, photograph albums documenting the work of W Scott Morton and Co.
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