The Georgian House is an 18th-century townhouse situated at No. 7 Charlotte Square in the heart of the historic New Town of the city of Edinburgh. In 1766 a young unknown architect named James Craig won the competition to design a layout for Edinburgh's first New Town. By this time in the mid-18th century Edinburgh had become extremely overcrowded and the rich and poor alike were living in very close quarters in cramped conditions in the tenements of the medieval Old Town. The New Town was to be constructed to the north of the Old Town, and the intention was that it would remain a strictly residential development, a privileged enclave for the wealthy away from the squalor found in the Old Town. Today visitors can experience what life was like in the Old Town by visiting Gladstone's Land on the Royal Mile, which is a restored tenement building set up as the dwelling of a 17th-century merchant.
Craig's design for the New Town formed a grid-like pattern consisting three principal streets and two large squares with gardens for the residents use. The main thoroughfare was George Street (named after King George III), right at the centre of the development running east to west; this was the only main street to have houses constructed on both sides. Princes Street (named in honour of the King's sons) which ran parallel to George Street was designed as a terrace (meaning that it had houses on only one side) overlooking what was to become Prince's Street Gardens and facing the Old Town lay to the south of the grid. Queen Street (named for Queen Charlotte, who was the wife of George III) ran parallel to George Street on the north side of the New Town. It also had houses on one side only and again gardens were laid out for the use of the residents of the street (these gardens are still private today).
The New Town was built from St Andrew's Square in the east and continued west. Critics of the development began to complain that the streets were too plain and regimented and that there was a general lack of architectural merit. In response to this, Scotland's foremost architect of the day Robert Adam was asked to draw up elevations for Charlotte Square so that the New Town could be finished off with a flourish of grandeur and elegance. Adam drew up the plans in 1791, but he did not live to see the completion of the square, since he died in 1792 just as building work was commencing. The first houses were completed on the north elevation of the square and were ready for occupation by the mid-1790s. No. 7, today's Georgian House, was completed in 1796 and was purchased for £1,800 by John Lamont to serve as his townhouse to be used during the social season.
John Lamont of Lamont was born in c. 1741 and was the eldest of seven children. He became the 18th Chief of the Clan Lamont in 1767 and inherited the Ardlamont Estate in Argyllshire. As a member of the landed gentry he was not in paid employment and his main income came from the rents collected from his tenants. In 1773, he married Helen Campbell and the couple had five children together: John, Amelia, Norman, Georgina and Helen Elizabeth. Although John Lamont was a comparatively wealthy person he had inherited some debts and owing to his own extravagant lifestyle his financial difficulties began to mount up. He spent much of his time in London where he attempted to involve himself in politics and lived beyond his means. His portrait was painted by one of Scotland's most sought after artists of the day, Henry Raeburn. He died at his Ardlamont country seat in 1816, heavily in debt. The previous year he had sold No. 7 Charlotte Square for £3,000 and had abandoned his urban pursuits. It is this first owner who is of most interest to the visitors of the Georgian House today, due to the fact that it has been restored to represent what the house may have looked like at the time it was occupied by the Lamont family around the turn of the 19th century.
The second owner of the property was Mrs Catherine Farquharson of Invercauld. She was a widow with two daughters and a son. Catherine was the only survivor of 11 children and she therefore inherited her father's estate, which in normal circumstances would have gone to the male heir, so she was a woman of independent wealth. The 1841 census shows that she was living in the house with one relative and eight servants. She sold the house in 1845. Charles Neaves, Lord Neaves bought the house in 1845. He had a very distinguished career as a criminal lawyer. In 1852 he was made Solicitor-General, before succeeding Lord Cockburn to the bench in 1853. Five years later he was appointed a Lord of Judiciary. In 1851 the census shows that he and his wife had six children, and employed six servants. By 1861, there were 10 children and 10 servants which included a butler and a pageboy. In 1881 Mrs Neaves is a widow and her three unmarried daughters live with her, along with seven servants.
In 1889 Rev Alexander Whyte moved into No. 7 with his wife. It was to be his home for the next 27 years. He was minister of St. George's Free Church. The couple had altogether eight children. Robert aged 24 was killed in action in the First World War, Alexander Frederick, born in 1883 was an MP, was knighted and became the President of the Indian Legislative Assembly. Dr Whyte was born in 1836 in Kirriemuir and he served his apprenticeship to a shoemaker before becoming a school teacher. He saved up enough money to go to Aberdeen University and then to New College, Edinburgh to study theology. In 1880 he became minister of Free St George's and in 1880 he married Jane Barbour of Bonskeid. Nine years later they moved into No. 7 Charlotte Square from 52 Melville Street. He died in 1921, and Mrs Whyte remained in the house as a widow until 1927. It was during the occupancy of the Whyte's that in 1913, Abdul'-Baha the son of the founder of the Bahá'í faith came to stay at No. 7 Charlotte Square during his tour of the United kingdom.
Take in the splendour of the grandest rooms – the drawing room and dining room – used to entertain and impress guests. Amongst their contents are a suite of fine seat furniture, a square piano, silver and ceramics. More intimate are the parlour and master bedroom, used primarily by the family and selected friends and guests. Look out for a pair of antique globes, an Edinburgh-made tea table, a four-poster bed with its 1770s hangings, and a travelling medicine chest. Head downstairs to the basement to discover the servants’ domain – a fully furnished and equipped kitchen and scullery, a china closet and wine cellar. This is where the servants laboured long and hard for up to 16 hours per day to ensure the smooth running of the household upstairs. Access may be difficult: there are six stairs into the building, and then further stairs up to the first floor and down to the basement. Chairs are in all rooms or portable chairs are available. For visitors not wishing to climb stairs, an 'armchair' guide and a portable DVD player to view the film are available on the ground floor. A Braille guidebook is available. Large-print information is available. A guided touch tour is available (please book in advance). Assistance dogs are welcome.
Location : Georgian House, 7 Charlotte Square, Edinburgh, Edinburgh & The Lothians EH2 4DR
Transport: Waverley (National Rail) 15 minutes or bus. Bus Routes : 3, 10, 19, 33, 41 and X48 stop close by
Opening Times : Daily 10:00 to 17:00
Tickets : Adults £7.00; Concessions £5.50; Children (5 - 15) £5.50.
Tel: 0131 226 3318
Gladstone's Land is a surviving 17th century high-tenement house situated in the Old Town of the city of Edinburgh. The "Land" (sited at 481 and 483 Lawnmarket) was originally built in 1550, but was bought and redeveloped in 1617 by a prosperous Edinburgh merchant and burgess Thomas Gledstanes. The work was completed in 1620. Its prominent siting (on the Royal Mile between Edinburgh Castle and the Palace of Holyrood) and the extent of its accommodation mark out the affluence of its mercantile owner. However, not only did Gledstanes reside there, he let out parts of the building to an assortment of tenants of different social classes (another merchant, a minister, a knight, and a guild officer). Thus the restored building allows an insight into varieties of Edinburgh life of the period. The cramped conditions of the Old Town, and the physical size of the lot, meant that the house could only be extended in depth or in height. As a result, the house is six storeys tall.
Today the restored premises offer a glimpse of 17th century life, with open fires, lack of running water, and period decoration and furniture. At ground level, there is a French-style arcade frontage and reconstructed shop booth, complete with replicas of 17th century wares. This would originally have provided shelter for the merchant's customers. On the left of the building, a curved stone forestair with iron railings leads from the street to a door at 1st floor level. The sign above the entrance to the building displays the date 1617 and a gilt-copper hawk with outstretched wings. Although not an original feature, the significance of this is that the name "Gledstanes" is derived from the Scots word "gled" meaning a hawk. By the late-18th century, Edinburgh's Old Town was no longer a fashionable address. Increasing pressures from population growth encouraged the flight of the affluent from cramped conditions to the developing New Town (see above).
Inside these walls you'll discover the indignities of living in cramped conditions, the embarrassing consequences of sitting too close to the fire and the gruesome punishment for cheating your customers. There is wheelchair access for the ground floor. Access to the first floor and gallery is via a turnpike (spiral) stair of 20 steps. If stairs are a problem, visitors can explore the two rooms on the ground floor and view the 'armchair guidebook' to see the apartment on the first floor. There are no public toilets in the building. Guide dogs are welcome.
Location : Gladstone's Land, 477b Lawnmarket, Royal Mile, Edinburgh EH1 2NT
Transport: Waverley (National Rail) 8 minutes. Bus Routes : 2, 27, 40, 41 and 45 stop close by
Opening Times : Daily 10:00 to 17:00
Tickets : Adults £6.50; Concessions £5.00; Children (5 - 15) £5.00.
Tel: 0131 226 5856