Candlemaker Row Exterior

Early Edinburgh Projects

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Introduction

The Cockburn Conservation Trust, which formally merged with SHBT in 2010, undertook a series of important projects in the centre of Edinburgh from 1978 to 1983. The Trust’s first two projects, Moubray House and Candlemaker Row were both located at the centre of the Old Town. They were followed by projects at Calton Hill and Glanville Place, situated at opposite ends of the New Town and demonstrating the impact that this large-scale development had on the pre-existing communities that bordered it.

The maintenance of Edinburgh’s historic beauty is what drives the Cockburn Association, founded in 1875. The decline of many buildings with the city centre, and the threat of them being replaced with modern developments, led the Association to found the separate Cockburn Conservation Trust in 1978. This was specifically dedicated to restoring such buildings and returning them to regular use.  Many of the properties restored by the Cockburn Conservation Trust were tenement blocks, exemplifying the long history of this building type within Edinburgh. It is due to the interventions of the Trust that the interior of these tenements continue to be used and enjoyed by Edinburgh residents today, whilst their exteriors contribute to the city’s distinctive appearance and historic character.

Moubray House

Moubray House Exterior

Moubray House is located at the lower end of the High Street. Together with the adjacent John Knox House, it is recognised as the one of the few surviving 15th-century buildings on the Royal Mile. The name derives from its first known owner, Andrew Moubray, who is recorded as owning the site in 1477.

The building continued to be adapted and extended throughout the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. The present rubble frontage dates from around 1630 and inside there is a surviving 1580s painted ceiling as well as a beautiful plaster ceiling dating from around 1630. Like most other properties in the Old Town, the building was divided up horizontally into separate apartments. Notable residents include the artist Gorge Jamesone and the author Daniel Defoe.

The positioning of Moubray House led to its early recognition as a historic building worth preserving. It was purchased by the Cockburn Association in 1910 and therefore not surprisingly became one of the first restoration projects of the new CCT in 1978. The Trust employed Nicholas Groves-Raines to restore the historic features within the building and convert the spaces for modern living. When completed, the two-storey flat at the top of the building was sold, whilst the other flat, ground floor shop and basement were retained and rented out. Half of the basement was later returned to the Cockburn Association, who employed Benjamin Tindall Architects to convert it into offices. The building is now in the complete ownership of a private individual who has gifted it to Historic Environment Scotland.

Candlemaker Row

Candlemaker Row Exterior
Concurrent with the restoration of Moubray House, the newly created Cockburn Conservation Trust embarked on an ambitious project to restore some of the historic tenements in Candlemaker Row. These encompassed the prominent four-storey building at the top of the street, No. 36, as well as two three-storey buildings further down the hill, Nos. 46-54.

The street’s association with candlemaking dates back to 1621 when candlemakers were expelled from the High Street due to the unpleasant odour and fire-risk that accompanied their craft. No.36 was the building of greatest historical importance as the home of the Incorporation of Candlemakers of Edinburgh, built for them in 1722. The Incorporation gradually bought and reconstructed the other properties along the street including numbers 46 to 54.

All of these buildings were extensively modified in 1928 by the City Architect Ebenezer J. MacRae. What were intended as improvements destroyed almost all of the surviving historic interiors and did not prevent the buildings from once again falling into dereliction. The CCT acquired ownership in 1978 and, with the help of Simpson and Brown, converted both sections of the street into more desirable shop and residential accommodation. A key intervention involved cutting new windows into the back of some of the buildings, allowing west light to filter in between the large funerary monuments lining the edge of Greyfriar’s Kirkyard. The success of the project was marked in its commendation in the Urban Renaissance category at the RICS and The Times Awards 1981.

Calton Hill

Calton Hill Exterior

Much like at Candlemaker Row, the Calton Hill project involved restoring a series of 18th-century tenements. These were particularly important as a rare surviving part of old Calton, the village that originally existed at the west end of the hill. The creation of Regent Bridge and Waterloo Place from 1816-19 required the destruction of most of the old properties, whilst the series of residential terraces built around the hill immediately afterward cemented the area’s position as an extension of the New Town.

In 1972, City of Edinburgh Council began demolition work on No.14 Calton Hill. This building, lived in by Robert Burns’ lover and muse Agnes Maclehose, was part of a terrace constructed between 1768 and 1780. The Council’s demolition plans extended to the neighbouring building, containing No.16 and No.18, but luckily work was stopped by the objections of a local resident, supported by various conservation organisations.  Unfortunately, sufficient damage had already been inflicted on the structure of No.14 that it was deemed unable to be saved and the surviving parts were dismantled. The resident who had objected, Miss Molly Lobban, put forward a proposal to purchase the site and restore Nos.16-18 before rebuilding No.14. She engaged in lengthy negotiations with City of Edinburgh Council to try and take this forward, but was ultimately unsuccessful.

In 1979, the Cockburn Conservation Trust stepped in and managed to negotiate an agreement whereby they would purchase Nos.16-18 and pursue a restoration project in conjunction Viewpoint Housing Association, who were granted permission to build a new property on the site of No.14. Robert Hurd and Partners were engaged to oversee the entirety of the work, ensuring that the new building was designed in a style sympathetic with the earlier terrace. This included reusing the pieces of stonework that had been salvaged from the demolished building. The project was largely complete by 1981, when Nos.16-18 were finally given protection with a Category B listing and were sold as four individual flats. The success of the project is evidenced by the fact that the two buildings remain in use today and sit together so harmoniously that many people mistake No.14 for an original 18th-century building.

Glanville Place

Glanville Place Exterior

A relatively plain tenement block, 1-3 Glanville Place is the perfect example of the type of buildings that emerged all over Stockbridge during the early 19th century. The development of Edinburgh’s New Town from 1767 onwards resulted in a dramatic increase in housing demand in Stockbridge, which had previously been a small village.

The painter Henry Raeburn took advantage of this by purchasing and developing a large parcel of land just north of the Water of Leith. Raeburn then commissioned the young architect James Milne to reconstruct the main bridge over the river in order to improve transportation between his properties and the New Town. This bridge still forms part of the main thoroughfare through Stockbridge.

Glanville Place lies directly adjacent to the bridge and was built soon after its completion in 1801. As with many other old tenement buildings, Glanville Place slid slowly into dereliction during the 20th century and was declared unfit for habitation in 1971. In 1979, the Cockburn Conservation Trust managed to purchase four of the building’s six flats for just 25 pence. They saved the building by dividing the external restoration costs with the owners of the two ground floor shops and then restored the interior flats with funding from the Historic Buildings Council (now Historic Environment Scotland). Simpson & Brown Architects delivered the two-phase project, which was completed in 1983. Most of the internal partitions had to be re-built, and the missing joinery elements and plaster finishes replaced. Some of the latter were acquired from the Edinburgh New Town Conservation Committee Salvage Yard, set up to provide salvaged architectural elements suitable for use within New Town properties.