John Knox's House

John Knox's House

John Knox's House 1861

John Knox's House - 1861


John Knox House, popularly known as "John Knox's House", is a historic house in Edinburgh, Scotland, reputed to have been owned and lived in by Protestant reformer John Knox during the 16th century. The house itself was built from 1490 onwards, featuring a fine wooden gallery and hand-painted ceiling. It had belonged to Walter Reidpath whose grandson John Arres inherited it and left it to his daughter Mariota Arres in 1556. Her husband James Mossman, Goldsmith, refashioned the crown of Scotland for James V. He remained loyal to Mary, Queen of Scots when she was exiled in England. He worked in Edinburgh Castle making coins for her supporters who held the castle on her behalf during the 'Lang Siege'. When the Castle surrendered in August 1573, Mossman was charged with counterfeiting, for which he was hanged, quartered and beheaded. The house was forfeit for the treachery, and was given in the name of James VI of Scotland to James Carmichael younger of that ilk.


The visitor's pamphlet states that the house "was Knox's home only for a few months during the siege of Edinburgh Castle, but it is believed that he died here." It appears to have become widely accepted as "John Knox's House" from the mid-19th century onwards after Victorian writers like Robert Chambers and Sir Daniel Wilson had repeated the popular tradition, first recorded c.1800, of attaching Knox's name to it. The house looked old enough to fit the description, but no research was able to establish the rights or wrongs of the claim. It was owned by a prominent Catholic at the time of Knox, so it is unlikely the reformer ever visited it, given the Catholic connection. Because of its visual prominence, however, it is almost certain that the building would have been familiar to Knox. The location of his actual residence is marked by a plaque in Warriston Close which lies further up the slope of the High Street.


After the Disruption in the Church of Scotland in 1843, the house was bought by the new Free Church, a fact which may have strengthened belief in its association with Knox. It was condemned and due for demolition by the Town Council in 1849 but saved through the efforts of the pioneering urban conservationist Lord Cockburn. The audio guide is only £1 and really brings the building to life. It points out interesting parts of the building you would otherwise miss and tells you stories about past inhabitants goings on in the house. Tours by a professional story teller are available at £90.00 (per tour) plus admission. The Scottish Storytelling Centre is next door and well worth a visit; admission is free. The Scottish Storytelling Centre is fully accessible to wheelchair users, except the upper floors of John Knox House which can be viewed through an interactive virtual tour on the ground floor. Wheelchair access to the building is located on the John Knox side of the building. Audio loops are available in performance areas and there is braille signage throughout. Assistance dogs are welcome.


Location : 43-45 High St, Edinburgh EH1 1SR

Transport: Waverley (National Rail) 10 minutes. Bus Routes : 35 stops outside or 5, 7, 8 and 14 stop near by

Opening Times : Monday to Saturday 10:00 to 18:00; Sunday 12:00 to 18:00 through July and August

Tickets : Adults £5.00;  Concessions £4.00;  Children (7 - 16) £1.00.

Tel: 0131 556 9579