EDINBURGH EXPERT WALKING TOURS - BLOG
EDINBURGH EXPERT WALKING TOURS - BLOG
Edinburgh's historic Old and New Towns have a wealth of architectural heritage between them, with many iconic structures by visionaries like Robert Adam and William Playfair, who between them gave the city its style and classical appearances.
Another of the significant figures to shape Edinburgh was the architect Thomas Hamilton, whose father had been an architect and carpenter before him. Here are just a few of Hamilton's gifts to the city...
The Old Royal High School
A building whose profile has been raised in recent months by controversial plans to have the structure renovated to give the city its first six-star hotel, the old Royal High School building may be Hamilton's best known work in the city.
Built in the 1820s on the edge of Calton Hill, looking out over the Old Town, the school operated from this location until the 1970s, when the building was considered no longer fit for purpose - its plumbing was outdated and it lacked the necessary standard of electrical connections. The school continues to operate, but has moved elsewhere in the city.
In the 1990s, the empty building was considered a possible site for the new Scottish Parliament, a plan vetoed on the grounds of it being prohibitively expensive to make the building 21st-century functional... The current hope is for Hamilton's building to be given new life as a home to St Mary's Music School.
The Martyrs' Monument
Just a stone's throw from where Hamilton would eventually be buried, in the Old Calton Burial Ground, stands a memorial, designed by him, to commemorate the lives of five men who had campaigned for political reform in Britain at the end of the eighteenth- and early nineteenth-centuries.
The monument is occasionally compared to the Washington Monument in Washington DC, a flattering comparison considering Hamilton's Martyrs' Monument is just 27 metres high!
George IV Bridge
One of Hamilton's 'hidden' features, George IV Bridge was built as an elevated roadway across the Cowgate valley to the south of the Royal Mile, with buildings constructed alongside to almost completely enclose it. Visitors (and locals) will often traverse the bridge (and the other bridges in the city) without fully realising the engineering feat supporting them. Another Hamilton building, the former North Road Free Church, now run by the University of Edinburgh as the Bedlam Theatre, stands at the southern end of George IV Bridge.
Dean Orphanage, now one of the Modern Art Galleries
At Belford, just a short walk from the west end of Princes Street, sit the city's two modern art galleries, part of the collective National Galleries of Scotland.
In the 1830s, Hamilton designed the Dean Orphanage, to help house and educate some of the city's children. Above the portico to the building is a stone clock, taken from the Netherbow Port, which was formerly the city's main gateway on the Royal Mile. When the gate was demolished in the 1760s, the clock was saved and incorporated into Hamilton's design sixty years later.
In the grounds of the gallery are a number of allotments, still maintained for local people to grow their own fruit and vegetables, after being set up during the 1940s to help with the war effort during World War II.
Robert Burns Memorial
Across the road from the Royal High School on Calton Hill is one of two memorials that Hamilton designed to commemorate Robert Burns, Scotland's national poet.
The earlier memorial was built in Alloway in the Scottish Borders, Burns' birthplace, and in the 1830s a second memorial, to essentially the same classical Grecian-style design, was constructed in Edinburgh.
This second memorial was designed to house a life-size statue of Burns himself, and although the monument is no longer publicly accessible (except during special events) the statue of Burns, by the sculptor John Flaxman, is still on display in the city's National Portrait Gallery.
Explore more of Edinburgh's architectural history with my private city walking tours!
Edinburgh Expert Walking Tours is run by Gareth Davies, an adopted native of Edinburgh since 1998...