John Lessels, 1855-6 (Melville Crescent splayed elevation) linking to earlier Robert Brown end terrace blocks of 1814 fronting 45 Melville Street and 20 Walker Street. All 3-storey and basement unified façade of classical houses with main-door and common stair flats behind; oversailing platts; later attic addition to No. 1 Melville Crescent. Basement area to street including some vaulted cellars and retaining walls. Sandstone ashlar, channelled at ground floor. Banded base course; banded cill and string courses at 1st floor; banded cill course at 2nd floor. Stepped parapets with balustrades in between. Cast-iron balconies on foliate brackets at 1st floor. Decorative cast-iron arches, with lamp holder to Melville Street.
E (MELVILLE CRESCENT) ELEVATION: symmetrical, 9-bays. Advanced and pilastered central 3 bays and single end bays with architraved bracketed and corniced 1st floor windows. Cross design to parapet at left.
SE (MELVILLE STREET AND WALKER STREET) ELEVATIONS: symmetrical 5-bays. Advanced flanking bays and recessed centre. Sandstone ashlar vermiculated to basement. Entrance platts oversailing basement, main entrance to centre with round arched surround, narrow sidelights and fanlight above, radial glazing to Melville Street. Architraved, bracketed and corniced surrounds at 1st floor; architraved, bracketed and pedimented surround to centre.
Predominantly plate glass in timber sash and case windows. Double pitch M-section roof; grey slates. Corniced ashlar gable end and ridge stacks, modern clay cans. Cast-iron railings on ashlar coping stone edging basement recess.
INTERIOR: interiors typified by highly decorative classical scheme converted for later office and residential use (2008). No. 2 Melville Street has dog-leg stair topped by large cupola with further decorative cornicing and roundel panels, and retains deep and highly detailed cornicing throughout ground and 1st floors. Doric columns to ground floor drawing room; Corinthian columns with foliate capitals and large decorated console brackets at 1st floor drawing room. Some original marble fire surrounds with keystone and intricate relief panels containing foliate pattern.
ARCHED LAMP HOLDERS: large ornate cast-iron arches above entrance platt to Melville Street with lampholder to centre; some with glass bell-jar shades. Coiled cast-iron serpent lamp snuffers to each side of archway.
ANCILLARY BUILDINGS AND BOUNDARY WALLS TO REAR: various single storey ancillary buildings to the rear, some later. Sandstone ashlar, with pitched and piended slate roofs and regular fenestration with some blind windows. Coursed random rubble boundary walls, with some ashlar quoins and copes.
Statement of Special Interest
A group with 4 - 12 Melville Crescent, Melville Memorial and the whole of Melville Street (see separate listings). Melville Crescent is a fine example of late Georgian street urban architecture and planning, serving as the centrepiece of the early 19th century Walker Estate development. It still forms a significant and imposing diagonal square. The splayed corners also serve to articulate the intersection with Walker Street, and give a sense of space and drama to the two streets. It is a key feature of the whole of the Western New Town plan and articulates the space in a well-ordered understated classical design. Melville Crescent contained the highest class residential housing in the whole scheme. It was executed by John Lessels to a grand design. Number 1 Melville Cresecnt is the only house built entirely to the original design by Robert Brown, with a saltire cross detail to the parapet. The later pahses of the development were also constructed from lower quality stone.
John Lessels retained much of the original 1814 design for the crescent by Robert Brown. The OS survey of 1852 also shows an alternative street layout with a circular garden in the centre of the square. Brown was experienced in town planning, and he had already designed several other urban schemes, including between 1810 and 1830 laying out streets in Portobello on land belonging to the Marques of Abercorn. His other notable works include Newington and St.Leonard's church (now The Queen's Hall) and the rearrangement of the interiors for Yester House on behalf of the Marques of Tweeddale. Robert Brown worked on a number of smaller projects in the New Town but the cohesive planning of the Walker estate is amongst one of the best examples of his work.
John Lessels secured the control over the Walker Estate in 1850, only 4 years after he had set up practice on his own in 1846. He later went on to work for the City Improvement Trust in Edinburgh, and gained a wide experience of residential design with further designs in both the old and new towns of Edinburgh as well as some large commissions such as significant alterations to George Watson's Hospital.
(List description revised 2009 as part of re-survey.)
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