History, Squared: Charlotte Square
Charlotte Square at the west end of Edinburgh's New Town is 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.
Many 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 - called Bute House - 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 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.
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. Victoria 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 end of George Street, St Andrew Square, would be graced by a church. The squares would be named for the respective patron saints of Scotland and England - St Andrew to the east and St George at the west end of the city.
By the time they came to develop St George Square, however, another development south of the Royal Mile had taken the name George Square - in order to avoid confusing postmen and tourists, they renamed the New Town develop Charlotte Square, after the wife of the monarch, George III.
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 Archives 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 (along with all the properties around the square) was originally designed by Robert Adam.
When severe subsidence was discovered under the church 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 and the New Town in more detail with my private city walking tours!
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