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University of Edinburgh, Surgeon's Hall, Including Screen Wall, Gates, Railings and Lamp Standards, Nicolson Street, Edinburgh (Ref:27772)

This building is in the Edinburgh Council and the Edinburgh Burgh. It is a category A building and was listed on 14/12/1970.

Group Items: N/A, Group Cat: N/A, Map Ref: NT 2609 7326.


W H Playfair, 1829-32, with later additions by A F Balfour Paul, 1908-9. Important and imposing 2-storey, T-plan Greek Revival purpose-built Surgeon's Hall with dominant fluted Ionic hexastyle portico to W (principal) elevation with columns resting on tall screen wall. Chamfered sandstone ashlar to portico, coursed rubble to rear with ashlar dressings. Chamfered base course, band course, cornice. Venetian window to N.

FURTHER DESCRIPTION: principle (W) elevation with central pedimented portico with honeysuckle and palmette frieze. Carved foliage decoration in tympanum. Very tall timber panelled and metal studded entrance door with consoled pediment above.

N and S elevations with off-centre, slightly advanced 2-storey, 3-bay sections with Doric loggias to ground. Advanced pedimented single bays to W with paired Doric pilasters to outer corners.

2-storey linking corridor at SE corner to Nos 6 and 7 Hill Square with glass and timber swing entrance doors.

SCREEN WALL, GATES AND RAILINGS: to W. Tall, channelled and coped ashlar screen wall, incorporating flanking pedimented gateways with scrolled buttresses. Base course. Decorative cast-iron gates. Low coped wall to W surmounted with decorative cast-iron railings and incorporating 4 cast-iron lamp standards. Mixture of glazing; predominantly 12 and 4-pane timber sash and case windows with some fixed stained-glass windows. INTERIOR: (seen 2007). Excellent decorative scheme with some original Playfair features. Timber and glass revolving doors lead to double-height coffered, domed entrance hall. Sweeping D-shaped staircase with stained-glass stair window. Major rooms have timber panelling and classical fire surrounds. 6-panel timber doors, many with deep cornices. Decorative cornicing. Lecture hall with ornately decorated plaster coved ceiling and cornicing. Elaborate carved plaster doorheads. 7-bay nave and aisle plan galleried museum hall with Doric pilastered piers and glass-coffered ceiling.


Surgeon's Hall is an exceptional building designed by William Playfair, one of the country's most eminent architects and a leading exponent of the Greek Revival style. It is particularly distinguished by its large-scale portico on the street elevation and it contains an impressive interior decorative scheme. Designed in the Greek Revival style, the massive scale of the Ionic portico presents a monumental frontage to the street. This monumentality is enhanced by the construction of the large building into a relatively small site.

W H Playfair (1789-1857) was an renowned and eminent architect and a leading figure in Edinburgh's Enlightenment. He was responsible for many of the buildings in 19th century Edinburgh including the National Gallery (1848), The Royal Scottish Academy (1822-6) and Royal Circus (see separate listings). An expert exponent of the Greek Revival style, his buildings helped to create Edinburgh's Enlightenment character. This building is considered to be one of the best examples of his work.

The Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh has been in continuous existence since 1505 when, as The Barber Surgeons Of Edinburgh, it was incorporated as a Craft Guild of the City of Edinburgh. Their first meeting place was in Dickson's Close in 1647, but as the Incorporation expanded, they required a building with an anatomical theatre and in 1697, they moved into Old Surgeon's Hall (see separate listing) in High School Yards. By the beginning of the 19th century, they had outgrown this space and they purchased the Riding School on Nicolson Street on which site the current building is positioned.

The building was altered and adapted in 1908-9 by the architect Balfour Paul, who added a further extension for the museum by extending into part of nos 6 and 7 Hill Square (see separate listing).

A F Balfour Paul (1875-1938) was an Edinburgh based architect who practised primarily in Edinburgh. His work includes both private houses and public buildings.

List description revised as part of Edinburgh Holyrood Ward resurvey 2007-08.

Statutory address updated (2015). Previously listed as 'Nicolson Street, Surgeon's Hall including screen wall, gates, railing and lamp standards'.


Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland: http://www.rcahms.gov.uk/canmore.html  CANMORE ID 52407

1st Edition Ordnance Survey Map, 1849-53.

Youngson, The Making of Classical Edinburgh, 1966, p279.

John Gifford, Colin McWilliam and David Walker, The Buildings of Scotland, Edinburgh, 1984. p244.

Leaflet from the Royal College of Surgeons. www.scran.ac.uk (accessed 23-04-07).

© Crown copyright, Historic Scotland. All rights reserved. Mapping information derived from Ordnance Survey digital mapping products under Licence No. 100017509 2012 . Data extracted from Scottish Ministers' Statutory List on . Listing applies equally to the whole building or structure at the address set out in bold at the top of the list entry. This includes both the exterior and the interior, whether or not they are mentioned in the 'Information Supplementary to the Statutory List'. Listed building consent is required for all internal and external works affecting the character of the building. The local planning authority is responsible for determining where listed building consent will be required and can also advise on issues of extent or "curtilage" of the listing, which may cover items remote from the main subject of the listing such as boundary walls, gates, gatepiers, ancillary buildings etc. or interior fixtures. All category C(S) listings were revised to category C on 3rd September 2012. This was a non-statutory change. All enquiries relating to proposed works to a listed building or its setting should be addressed to the local planning authority in the first instance. All other enquiries should be addressed to: Listing & Designed Landscapes Team, Historic Scotland, Room G.51, Longmore House, Salisbury Place, EDINBURGH, EH9 1SH. Tel: +44 (0)131 668 8701 / 8705. Fax: +44 (0)131 668 8765. e-mail: hs.listing@scotland.gsi.gov.uk. Web: http://www.historic-scotland.gov.uk/historicandlistedbuildings.

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Buildings are assigned to one of three categories according to their relative importance. All listed buildings receive equal legal protection, and protection applies equally to the interior and exterior of all listed buildings regardless of category.

ACategory A

Buildings of national or international importance, either architectural or historic, or fine little-altered examples of some particular period, style or building type. (Approximately 8% of the total).

BCategory B

Buildings of regional or more than local importance, or major examples of some particular period, style or building type which may have been altered. (Approximately 51% of the total).

C(S)Category C(S)

Buildings of local importance, lesser examples of any period, style, or building type, as originally constructed or moderately altered; and simple traditional buildings which group well with others in categories A and B. (Approximately 41% of the total).