Other buildings around the square have historical significance - Field Marshall Douglas Haig was born in a house on the southern side in June 1851, and a few years previously at number 14 South Charlotte Street, leading off the square to the south, Alexander Graham Bell had been born, later to become popularly credited with inventing the telephone.
Number 6 Charlotte Square is today the official residence of the First Minister of Scotland, and at number 7 is the Georgian House, a period recreation of what these properties were like, run and managed by the National Trust for Scotland. The offices of the Edinburgh International Book Festival, held on the square every summer, are at number 5a Charlotte Square.
Charlotte Square was the final area of construction from the first phase of the New Town development, finally being completed in 1820, over fifty years since the construction had begun at the east end of the city.
Charlotte Square at the west end of Edinburgh's New Town is the starting point for some of my Up-Close and Personal tours, and it's a part of the city bursting with historical and architectural interest. If you're visiting the city, or even if you live here, take some time to walk around its four sides to experience what life was like at the heart of Edinburgh's Georgian New Town.
At the centre of the (still private) gardens in the middle of the square is a statue of Prince Albert, commissioned by Queen Victoria following Albert's death. The orientation of the statue is a little curious, however - Albert is mounted on his horse, and facing south. Victoria was a frequent guest at number 6 Charlotte Square, in the middle of the north side of the square, where every morning she could draw her curtains and look straight out not into the face of her much-loved husband, but directly at the rear end of Albert's horse.... Despite this unfortunate alignment issue she nevertheless considered the statue a great likeness of her husband, and at its unveiling is said to have knighted the sculptor, John Steell, on the spot.
James Craig's original designs for the New Town stipulated that both Charlotte Square and its opposite number at the east ends of George Street, St Andrew Square, would be graced by a church. The building of the former St George's church still stands on the west side of Charlotte Square, but is today one of the offices of the National Archive of Scotland. The dome at the top of the building was modelled on the dome of St Paul's Cathedral in London, and the building itself was originally designed by Robert Adam. Adam died before construction could be completed, and the plans were modified by his associate Robert Reid, who takes responsibility for the final design of the building. When severe subsidence was discovered under the building in the 1960s the Church of Scotland sold the building to the city council who could afford to restore it to the perpendicular, and it has remained in the portfolio of council properties ever since.
Explore Charlotte Square in more detail with my Up-Close and Personal city tours!
Edinburgh Expert Walking Tours is run by Gareth Davies, an adopted native of Edinburgh since 1998...