Georgian Edinburgh

The Georgian period takes its name from the monarchs (George I-IV), originally from Hanover in Germany, who reigned in Great Britain during the period 1714-1830. One legacy of the Georgian period is some of the finest urban architecture in Europe, and the elegant streets, squares and terraces of the New Town of Edinburgh are an outstanding example of the style. Inchgrove House is in Abercromby Place, at the east end of the Georgian New Town, between the lovely Queen Street Gardens and the elegance of Drummond Place.

The Plan for a New Town of Edinburgh, 1767

Edinburgh is dominated by its large and famous castle. The city has been sacked and burned several times in its history, as warring powers strove to seize this fortress. Until the 1760s the whole city comprised what is now known as the Old Town, the area that runs down the tail of the castle hill to the royal palace of Holyroodhouse. Up till then the city had just two principal streets - the Royal Mile and the Canongate - linked by a warren of side streets, yards, vennels and "closes". The old city or "toun" was surrounded on three sides by the medieval Flodden Wall, which was gated and closed each night for security, and on the fourth by the Nor' [North] Loch, occupying the area where Waverley railway station and Princes Street Gardens are now.

By the middle of the eighteenth century many tens of thousands of inhabitants were crammed into an area a mile long by approximately 400 yards in width. The population was growing all the time, and eventually there was no space left for new buildings on the sloping, craggy site. To cope the city grew taller, with the various social classes squeezed together into cramped flats or tenements. But water supplies and waste became a big problem, and the sheer density of coal fires cast a pall of smoke over the town. (Until the 1960s Edinburgh was still known familiarly as Auld Reekie, or "old smoky".) Although it was remarked by one contemporary visitor that, at the city's ancient Mercat [market] Cross, "I can, in a few minutes, take fifty men of genius and learning by the hand", by the 1760s it was rapidly becoming practically impossible to live in the Old Town.

By then, the medieval city had become so crowded, smoky, insanitary and dangerous (due to building collapses and fires) that it was decided as a priority to hold a competition to plan a New Town of Edinburgh. This was to be built on farmer's fields and meadows immediately to the north of the city. The Nor'Loch, by then little more than a refuse dump-cum-sewer, would be drained and an earthwork built across it. The competition was held in 1767, and the extensive New Town was constructed in line with the plan drawn up by the young winner, James Craig, in three phases between that date and the early 1830s.

Inchgrove House dates from 1806 and was part of the second phase. The streets layed out during the second and third phases include some of the city's finest, as the wealth of the city's expanding professional classes permitted a style of living and quality of life hitherto unimaginable within the confines of the Old Town on the castle hill. The Old and New Towns of Edinburgh together now constitute a World Heritage Site as designated by UNESCO. The city is regularly praised as one of the most picturesque in Europe.

The Old Town from the Castle Esplanade
Moray Place, New Town
Charlotte Square, New Town
Gardens in Edinburgh square
Ainslie Place gardens, New Town