History Squared: St Andrew Square
In honour of it being St Andrew's Day in Scotland every 30 November, here's a brief introduction to St Andrew Square, one of Edinburgh's iconic Georgian squares in the New Town area.
The square was created during the first phase of building of the New Town from the 1760s, and was an integral part of James Craig's design to have George Street flanked at each end with an impressive garden square. Named for the patron saint of Scotland, the large monument in the centre of the square isn't in fact dedicated to the eponymous saint.
The statue is of Henry Dundas, first Viscount Melville, and a man of considerable influence in Scotland in the latter half of the eighteenth century, his power gaining him the nicknames 'King Henry the Ninth' and 'the Great Tyrant'.
He was the United Kingdom's first Secretary of State for War, and is (to date) the last member of British Parliament to be impeached, for misappropriation of public money - some say the money he 'misappropriated' was used to construct the monument, costing £8,000, on which his statue stands today.
The Dundas family seemed to have a predilection for behaving badly - Henry's cousin, Lawrence Dundas bought a plot of land on the east side of the square, land which had been intended for the construction of St Andrew's church, as laid out in James Craig's original designs for the New Town.
Instead of constructing the church, however, Dundas had a large mansion house built for his family to live in. In 1825 the mansion passed into ownership of the Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS), becoming its head office. The building still operates as a branch of RBS today. (The church which was supposed to have been sited here moved a short way down George Street.)
After its completion the square was an incredibly desirable place to live, with many well-off family and landowners purchasing properties here. Famous residents include Sir Henry Brougham, whose name lives on in the design of the four-wheeled horse-drawn carriage that he had built to his specifications. The philosopher David Hume not only lived on the square, but who unwittingly gave his name to one of the streets running off it. A dedicated atheist, the previously unnamed street between St Andrew's Square and Princes Street was (ironically) dubbed 'Saint David Street' in honour of its famous occupant. The name stuck, and today is still known as St David Street.
Today the square is open as a public garden, as well as a useful thoroughfare to cross between George Street and the east side of the square. At the north east corner of the square is access to Edinburgh Bus Station, adjacent to the Harvey Nichols department store. Recent efforts are underway to redevelop the south side of the square, removing unsightly architectural constructions from the 1960s and replacing them with buildings which work to retain and show off the square architectural heritage.
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