CANONGATE, 1 AND 2 CHESSEL'S COURT (W BLOCK) (Ref:51171)
This building is in the Edinburgh, City Of Council and the
It is a category A building and was listed on 14/12/1970.
Group Items: See Notes,
Group Cat: A,
Map Ref: NT 26221 73724.
Circa 1770 (Restored 1963-64 by Robert Hurd and Partners - see Notes). Pair of fine, adjoining 18th century tenement blocks, prominently situated to W side of Chessel's Court. Harled and painted rubble with ashlar dressings. South block with nepus gable and L-plan forestair. N block with canted projecting stairtower to principal elevation. FURTHER DESCRIPTION: S BLOCK: 3-storey with attic and basement, 4-bay to principal (E) elevation. L-plan forestair rising to central 2-leaf timber door with box fan-light; moulded architrave. Central 2-window wallhead gable with coped stack at apex. Later cat-slide dormers flanking. 4-story to rear; full-height stair outshot at 4th bay. N BLOCK: 4-storey with canted full-height stairtower to 4th bay. S gable end with small windows at each floor to right. Irregular groupings of small windows at each floor to rear elevation.Predominantly 12-pane timber sash and case windows. Grey slate. End stacks. Cast-iron rainwater goods.
Nos 1 and 2 Chessel's Court (West Block) are an important survival of 18th century Edinburgh tenements and are also key buildings in the 1960s regeneration of the Canongate. Occupying a key location on the Westside of the court, they were built to provide better accommodation for relatively wealthy residents within the confines of the Old Town. The building is notable for its early timber turnpike stair within the stairtower of the N block (partly seen at resurvey - 2007). Archibald Chesil was an Edinburgh wright (master-carpenter) of some local standing and the building probably follows his design quite closely.
In response to the practice of wholesale slum-clearances advanced in the 1867 Improvement Act, the building was purchased by Patrick Geddes (see below) to prevent its demolition. It was restored in 1963-5 as part of the initial phase of Robert Hurd and Partners' Canongate regeneration scheme. Together with the S block (Nos 3, 4, 5, 6, and 6B Chessels Court) and the N block (Nos 242 and 244 Canongate - see separate listings) they acted as a `test case' model for further systematic restoration of the area by Robert Hurd and other architects. On completion, the Chessel's Court project provided 82 houses, 1 school and schoolhouse, 4 shops, 1 public house and further office space. Using a range of contemporary approaches to restoration within the scope of a limited housing fund budget, a unified scheme was achieved.
The historic and architectural value of Edinburgh's Canongate area as a whole cannot be overstated. Embodying a spirit of permanence while constantly evolving, its buildings reflect nearly 1000 years of political, religious and civic development in Scotland. Throughout the 19th Century the Canongate's prosperity declined as large sections of the nobility and middle classes moved out of the area in favour of the grandeur and improved facilities of Edinburgh's New Town. The Improvement Act of 1867 made efforts to address this, responding early on with large-scale slum clearance and redevelopment of entire street frontages. A further Improvement Act (1893) was in part a reaction to this `maximum intervention', responding with a programme of relatively small-scale changes within the existing street pattern. This latter approach was more consistent with Patrick Geddes' concept of `conservative surgery'. A renowned intellectual, Geddes, who lived in the Old Town, was a pioneer of the modern conservation movement in Scotland which gathered momentum throughout the 20th century. Extensive rebuilding and infilling of sections of the Canongate's many tenements took place, most notably by city architects, E J McRae and Robert Hurd (mid 20th century) with some early frontages retained and others rebuilt in replica.
Prior to resurvey, the collective statutory address for the S, W and N blocks at Chessel's Court was `CANONGATE 240 CHESSEL'S COURT'. The three buildings were listed individually at resurvey in 2007/08
Part of A-group with `3, 4, 5, 6 and 6B CHESSEL'S COURT' (HBNum 28454) and `242-244 (EVEN NOS) CANONGATE' (see separate listings). List description revised as part of Edinburgh Holyrood Ward resurvey, 2007/08.
1st Edition Ordnance Survey Map (1869). E J MacRae, The Royal Mile (1962) p41. A A M Johnstone, Chessels Court: the rehabilitation of an 18th century court in the Canongate (1983) 2v Typescript - Copy in RCAHMS Library. John Gifford et al, Buildings of Scotland - Edinburgh, (1991) p213. Charles McKean, Edinburgh - An Illustrated Architectural Guide (1992) p29. R I McCallum, Historical notes on Chessel's Court (1992) - Copy in RCAHMS library. Dictionary of Scottish Architects, www.scottisharchitects.org.uk (accessed 10.05.2007)
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