New Town, Edinburgh Architecture History
New Town, Edinburgh is the capital of Scotland within the United Kingdom. It is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is known for it’s intense culture and magnificent architecture dating back to the eighteenth century. The construction of New Town paved the way for much of early modern design in Europe.
Building originally began in 1765 and was completed in 1820; however further construction continued well into the late nineteenth century. Construction presumably could have started far before 1765 but due to the then Duke’s untimely resignation from Edinburg, in order to become King in 1685, when plans for the new suburb began, construction was put on hold until 1765. This time in Scotland was a great one as it was during the Scottish Enlightenment and Edinburgh was becoming renowned for its new ways of thought and philosophy.
The idea for building a “new town” for Edinburgh originated from the Duke of Albany and York in order to create a regality and make profit for the royal class of Scotland. The “old town” was also becoming overpopulated and the fathers of the city realized that citizens would soon migrate to the attractive lights of London. Fear of losing large amounts of population and therefore revenue for the city convinced the fathers to invest in the construction of a new suburb.
The architect who conceived the layout and design plans for New Town was James Craig who won a design competition put on by Edinburgh. Craig proposed an axial grid layout and new classic and Georgian styled architecture. The main street in town was to be named George Street after the then king, George III of Hanover.
The first building in the New Town was Thistle Court, two houses, built by John Young, that face each other, separated by a courtyard. John Young received twenty euro for buying the first piece of land in New Town but the houses he built more resembled the style and layout of the Old Town and although they exceeded in privacy they lacked practicality for the New Town.
New Town was completed with multiple churches, a national bank, an official residence for the secretary of state of Scotland among other various forms of housing and shops. One of the most famous attractions in New Town, Edinburgh is St. Andrew’s Church. It was founded and constructed in 1781 and opened to the public in 1784. Its’ denomination is that of the Church of Scotland which is Presbyterian Christian. The design plans for this building were won in a contest by Captain Andrew Frazer. Frazier was a Scottish soldier and engineer and also designed and watched over the construction for Fort George in the Scottish Highlands. St. Andrew’s Church is noted for its elliptical plan which was the first in all of Great Britain. The church featured a temple cut portico with beautiful ceiling rosettes. For practical purposes the pulpit stands on the north wall with a paneled gallery for the elite and box pews below for the rest of the attendants. Although the style of the church is contemporary eighteenth century, it features rounded arches that end in a point which was a design technique from the late Romanesque and early Gothic period.
After the first development of the New Town was completed the need for commercial shops and restaurants on the street levels of buildings was allowed as it was previously not. The need for more residential accommodations became ever present in the mid-nineteenth century and construction of a Upper New Town began.
Today, New Town, Edinburgh looks as it did when it was conceived. All of the original buildings are still there and new construction is built to replicate that of the late eighteenth century. The Cockburn Association is Edinburgh’s Civic Trust and have made sure that the architectural integrity of the two is kept.