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This building is in the Edinburgh Council and the Edinburgh Burgh. It is a category A building and was listed on 15/06/1965.

Group Items: N/A, Group Cat: N/A, Map Ref: NT 2344 7374.


William Burn, 1825-8; later additions to N. 2-storey and basement 21-bay former school, now art gallery, set in landscaped parkland. Hexastyle Greek Doric Portico in antis to centre, flanked by 5 recessed bays; advanced and pilastered 3-bay end pavilions. Sandstone ashlar. Banded base course; banded cill course at 1st floor corniced eaves course with triglyph entablature across whole façade. Moulded architraved surround to main entrance with latticework fanlight over 2-leaf door. Moulded architraved windows at ground and 1st floors (corniced at ground floor).

N ELEVATION: 3 storeys, 7 bays with advanced 5-bay centre, pilastered outer corners to recessed flanking bays. Paired shouldered arched tripartite windows at 1st floor in recessed surrounds with ashlar transoms and narrow sidelights.

S ELEVATION: similar to that at N.

W (REAR) ELEVATION: 3 storeys, 22 bays with advanced 4 bay centre and advanced and pilastered 2-bay end pavilions. Coursed squared rubble with ashlar quoins, some ashlar to end pavilions. Band courses at ground and 1st floors. Banded cill courses and corniced eaves course with triglyph entablature to end pavilions. Regular fenestration with large rectangular windows at 1st floor; blind windows to end pavilions. Single storey, double gabled, outbuilding to far right (S) with timber louvered ventilator to roof; connected to main block by single storey corridor. Later outbuildings to far left (N).

Predominantly large 12-pane timber sash and case windows. Piended roof to advanced block at rear; grey slates. Corniced ashlar ridge stacks; modern clay cans. Cast-iron rainwater goods.

INTERIOR: predominantly plain interior scheme, now in use as an art gallery with some later additions and alterations.

S GATE LODGE: sandstone ashlar; Doric portico and moulded architraved windows. Some later additions to rear. Corniced sandstone ashlar piers adjacent with cast-iron vehicle and pedestrian gates.

N GATE LODGE: small T-plan lodge; coursed squared rubble with ashlar quoins. Raised sandstone ashlar window surrounds. Similar adjacent piers and gates to that at S.


Outstanding example of Greek Revival style by William Burn, characteristic of his early works. The building was originally designed as a boarding school for the fatherless children of middle class families, now in use as an art gallery, with landscaped parkland grounds filled with art and land works by prominent modern artists. The architectural treatment is restrained with the composition of the façade unified by the triglyph entablature which runs across the advanced and recessed bays. Other than simple moulded detailing to the windows, the focus on the facade is on the high quality stonework and the central portico. The design echoes Burn¿s treatment of contemporary country houses, including an 1826 scheme for Garscube House. The setting of the building within landscaped parkland also alludes to country house architecture. The original interior scheme was plain, with a simple plan form which included a hall to the rear. The later alterations to form the National Gallery of Modern Art have not changed the character of the original interior with the simplicity of decoration and plan form largely retained. The school was originally built following a bequest from John Watson who left £5000 on his death in 1762 to the Writers to the Signet for charitable use. By 1822 the sum stood at £110,000 and an Act of Parliament was passed for the establishment of a school with boarding accommodation for the fatherless children of the professional classes. William Burn was an Edinburgh based architect, who after training in the office of Robert Smirke in London returned to work in his family firm before setting up an independent practice in 1814. A number of his early commissions were on public buildings, and it is for Crichton Royal Infirmary in Dumfries (see separate listing) that he is most well known, along with country house work which was the mainstay of his practice. The composition of John Watson¿s School is characteristic of Burn¿s early works in which the influence of Robert Smirke is very clear in the emphasis on simple Greek compositions. Burn later began to move away from this style, and in partnership with David Bryce he notably pioneered the introduction of the palazzo style for city buildings, seen in his original designs for the original New Club in Edinburgh (see separate listing). List description revised as part of resurvey (2009).


Ordnance Survey, Large Scale Town Plan (1849 - 53); Stark, J, Picture of Edinburgh: containing a history and description of the city¿,(1806); RCAHMS, RAB/292/149, engraving of the `New John Watson¿s Hospital,¿ (1830); J Gifford, C McWilliam, D M Walker, The Buildings of Scotland: Edinburgh (1988) p. 392; Lindsay, Georgian Edinburgh, p. 43; Boyd, S, 'Gymnastic exhibition', Prospect, Spring 1996 (No 59), 4-5; Dictionary of Scottish Architects http://www.scottisharchitects.org.uk (accessed 18/12/08).

© 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).