Commercial Projects

"We do think it hard that when talking with a friend on the footpath or when cheapening grapes in a fruit shop, we must either raise our tones to a trumpet pitch or suspend our communings every twenty seconds, in compliment to some four wheeled vehicle..."

        The modern shopper might have few qualms about asking for a 'discount' on an item of furniture or a computer, but the notion of 'cheapening grapes' would probably fill most with horror. Clearly, in Edinburgh in 1829, such a prospect was commonplace but this quote from The Scotsman, of the 16th December is more revealing for what it says about the growth of the carriage trade in the city by this date. Projects to ease the use of carriages, in what was a city of hills and deep valleys, began in the 1760's with the construction of the North Bridge, to link the Old Town with the New, across the swamp at the end of the North Loch. This was quickly followed by its continuation, South Bridge, over the Cowgate valley in 1787. In 1815 Waterloo Place and the Regent's Bridge were constructed, extending Princes Street on a flyover across a deep ravine, towards a new terrace around Calton Hill. The second and third decades of the nineteenth century saw further improvements designed by Thomas Hamilton which will be considered later, but the growth of the carriage trade had an enormous influence on the embellishment of the Edinburgh new town and Hamilton was in the forefront of these architectural developments.

        Henry Cockburn, writing between 1821 and 1830, lamented the barrack-like boredom of the New Town: 'we were led into the blunder of long straight lines of street, divided by an inch, and all to the same number of inches, by rectangular intersections, every house being an exact duplicate of its neighbour, with a dextrous avoidance, as if from horror, of every ornament or excrescence by which the slightest break might vary the surface'. But he could also optimistically point to the future: 'We now have some pillars, balconies, porticoes, and ornamental roughening - travelling and discussion will get us on'. Cockburn underestimated the influence of published prints while it must be remembered that not a single Scottish architect working in the 'Athens of the North' visited Greece during the 18th or 19th centuries. Hamilton's earliest commercial project was the office of the Norwich Union Insurance Society, at 32 Princes Street, the first building in Edinburgh to make use of Stuart and Revett's Antiquities of Athens, published from 1755. Hamilton's commercial projects were also a workshop for bigger ideas. The shop interiors, hotel function suites, private galleries and offices he designed between 1820 and 1835 allowed him to experiment on a small scale with ideas that found use in his larger public projects, not all of which found their way into stone. They were also a way of advertising his style and Hamilton was one of the earliest architects in Edinburgh to realise the potential of a well designed suite of public rooms as advertisement. But this work was by its nature temporary and few of the projects to be discussed here have survived, certainly none with their original decoration. For information on the style and impact of the designs The Scotsman is the primary source, as many of Hamilton's clients were prominent Whigs and the newspaper, as the radical mouthpiece of the time, is often enthusiastic about his work. For the designs themselves, Hamilton's drawings in the Edinburgh Dean of Guild Court provide a remarkable and uniquely informative record of his work between 1812 and 1850.

        Hamilton made his first independent appearance in the Dean of Guild Court on the 10th June 1813, undertaking alterations to a shop at No. 4 Princes Street for Peter Peddie, a trunk maker. The drawing is not signed but Peddie states in his petition that Hamilton provided it. The owner of the property was the Rev. Thomas Edwards, whose wife Mary Anne Robertson may have been a member of the same family for whom Hamilton built a house in Albany Street and made major alterations to 19 Princes Street. Appropriately for a man trained as a wright, the facade is constructed in timber, but it is also cleanly classical, with bow windows set between simple pilasters, all beneath a frieze and cornice. The only awkward feature is the round topped window above the door that may have been preserved from an earlier scheme. Such is the delight of the Dean of Guild material that an unsigned drawing for a re-styling of the design in 1823, possibly by Hamilton, also survives. It shows a more substantial façade with the narrow wooden pilasters replaced by new broader ones in stone. As well as changes to the fenestration pattern, now with more stylish horizontal panes, the whole façade rests on a base supported by large curved brackets in the basement. The shop floor was also lowered, giving better proportions within and allowing a reduction in the number of external steps from six to three while an increase in the depth of the façade allowed the doors to be folded back within a recess. There is a sense of understated elegance, concealing what would have been quite an expensive alteration and on the basis of Hamilton's later work, it may be imagined that the pilasters are single slabs of stone, as is the platt at the top of the steps.


Norwich Union Building, 32 Princes Street, 1820.

        The Norwich Union building dominated the eastern end of Princes Street from the moment it was built until shortly before it was demolished in 1880's[?]. It did so with its scale and sheer architectural swagger, rooted firmly in the most fashionable antiquarian taste. As noted previously it was the earliest building in Edinburgh to reflect Stuart and Revett's archaeological discoveries, published 65 years earlier in the  Antiquities of Athens and it combined ideas found there in a new and picturesque way. [Fig. 00] The street front with its separate entrances on either side of a huge central window was articulated by pilasters and a cornice derived from the Thrasylus Monument at Athens, with its delicate frieze of repeated olive wreaths. Above this, a giant order of engaged columns, their flutes carrying the eye between broad pilasters, to the 'Tower of Winds' capitals and the pediment, high above the roof-line of the surrounding houses. The sills of the three windows at second floor level are joined across the façade, a feature greeted approvingly by C. R. Cockrell during his visit to Edinburgh in 1822:

Mr. Parker of Duddingston remarked to me the good effect of joining the cills in an ashlar front, that Harrison does it. It is so in Mr. Hamilton's front towards Princes Street and is very wise where great simplicity is wanted and not to interfere with the pilasters or other members, not to look crowded.

        From later photographs it can be seen that the pilasters at ground floor level were single monolithic slabs of stone, combining a feeling for the antique with understated elegance. The interior design may only be guessed at from the rather simple plans submitted to the Dean of Guild Court while the OS map of 1848-72 suggests a simplified plan. The front saloon, measuring 25 x 126 ft. was designed with a pair of columns at the rear with pilasters dividing up the wall space around the room. A small corridor was proposed to the left of an inner saloon, connecting the reception space to a suite of offices at the rear of the building and allowing staff to move back and forth freely without interrupting the more formal progression from front to back saloon. In this building the 26 year old architect established the basic elements that would identify his style; the imaginative combination of Greek elements from Stuart and Revett and a masterly use of finely moulded, well proportioned, smooth stone. The design also incorporated, on top of the pediment, a massive figure, derived from a marble Caryatid in the Townley collection that had been on display in the British Museum from 1808 and was published in 1812. Later photographs of the building also show cast iron lamp standards on the footpath that incorporate the so-called Panther Leg, also in the Townley collection and published in 1818. Both of these motifs would appear in later Hamilton commissions and such sculptural decoration was to be another mark of the architect's style. In this case, as so often, the large figure was not executed but Hamilton's important contribution to the development of a taste for sculptural decoration will be considered later.

        This was an important commission for Hamilton because of its prominent position at the eastern end of the main shopping thoroughfare of the City and for many years it was the only façade to break the roof-line of the street with its impressive if entirely false pediment. In fact the pediment was a cleverly concealed screen wall but the clean lines and new stone glowed in the evening light during the commercially important Evening Walk, a daily promenade captured  so perfectly by William Kay in 1796. [Fig. 00] The building responded equally to the growing carriage trade and the continuous flow of traffic that came down South Bridge from the Old Town, passing the office on its way into the New Town. Until the opening of the Mound, breaking into the centre of Princes Street in 0000 and the creation of a circuit back to the top of the High Street via Johnston Terrace in 1830, (also designed by Hamilton) this route, past the Norwich Union building, was the only way into the commercial heart of the New Town in 1820.


James Spittal's shop 'at the sign of the Gilded Balloon', 1823-4.

        Not all of the architect's work consisted of glamorous shop interiors and his next project was to design a hat manufactory for Messrs. Grieve and Scott on the west side of St. John Street in the Canongate. Having applied to the Court in 1820 permission was finally given in 1822 and the commission is indicative of the flight of the well-to-do, to the more fashionable parts of the New Town, leaving the Old Town as a manufacturing base. By 1825 The Scotsman could note that:

The older part of the New Town is every day assuming a more commercial character, as several old established merchants and tradesman are removing thither. The aristocracy, attacked on all points by shops and lodging houses, are now retiring into Lord Moray's grounds…In a state of society where two-thirds of the population went to the country for one half of the year, it is obvious that shops could not thrive; but in proportion as the present New Town becomes more filled with stationary inhabitants, trade will flourish in that quarter.

        'Lodging houses' transformed into hotels as part of the New townscape from 1823 and Hamilton's new façade for the Union Hotel at 30-31 St. Andrew Square (on the corner with Clyde Street) incorporated columns at ground level for the first time in his work. He placed four Ionic columns centrally, in antis, beneath a typically moulded frieze and cornice, on an otherwise plain four bay townhouse. In order to increase the accommodation, an additional floor was added above a modillioned cornice and the client was Thomas Field, acting in his capacity as Deacon, for the Incorporation of St. Mary's Chapel. He owned No. 31 and in 1825 he employed Hamilton to re-design his shop front and add a further suite of rooms to the rear of his house. The drawings show a simple pilastered design, again, with an upper moulded cornice.[1] Both of these schemes are attributed to Hamilton on the basis of the drawing style.

        Some merchants continued to find custom in busy parts of the City, especially around the University. James Spittal, a draper and silk merchant, commissioned Hamilton to design a new wareroom at the foot of Blair Street in April 1823. The drawing, signed T. H. Jun, April 11 1823,  shows an interesting façade with a series of bouncing arches, inspired no doubt by the stone arcade erected in the High Street in 1750 by Robert Moubray and where Hamilton lived in a tenement redesigned by father at 166 High Street in 1790. The architectural elements are strong with a row of smooth stone pilasters paying no heed to the four bay pattern above, the capitals forming a broken 'cornice', from which spring a series of moulded arches. In a further petition to the Court on the 4 March 1824 for the adjoining tenement, Hamilton is referred to by name. Both of these tenements were destroyed in a fire in December 2002 and were photographed shortly before demolition by Peter Stubbs. There is stylistic evidence that Hamilton carried out a much more ambitious scheme for James Spittal's shop, which stood at 84 South Bridge, vertically above the ware rooms in Blair Street, facing South Bridge, but for which no drawings survive. In July 1824 The Scotsman noted:

Mr. Spittal, Convener of the Southern Districts, has improved that part of the Cowgate opposite Blair Street, and by his purchases and buildings, has prodigiously improved the character of a considerable portion of the South Bridge. His Saloon may also be noticed as one of the finest specimens of  architectural taste which is to be met with in any mercantile Street - we might say in any part of the island.[2]

        A rather poor photograph of the saloon, published in 1901 by the owners of the premises at that time, J. and R. Allan Ltd., shows a fabulous clutter of fabrics within a sumptuous classical interior. A circular, top lit, central ceiling is suspended on pendentives that become four bouncing segmental arches, springing from an elaborately moulded entablature. Within one of these coffered arches a smaller segmental arch rests on giant Corinthian columns that lead through to a further apartment. This is pure Hamilton, with decoration reduced to a minimum and dramatic effect produced by active architectural elements. Many of the same features would appear in the design of the Hopetoun Rooms, submitted to the Dean of Guild Court later in August 1824.


The Hopetoun Rooms, 1825.  

            Thomas Hamilton designed this remarkable function suite for Alexander Greenhill, an advocate and the owner of the British Hotel at 70-72 Queen Street in 1824. Somewhat surprisingly, the enture building was demolished in 1967 to make way for a modern office block. The hotel was enlarged by the addition of a floor in 1823 and opened in July 1824 with the comment that the building had been altered by 'an eminent architect' and it was left to Robert Chambers in his Traditions of Old Edinburgh in 1825 to state that this was 'Mr. Alison of London Street'. Charles Alison was probably the builder as the three surviving drawings for the project in the Dean of Guild Court, if a bit understated, are clearly Hamilton's work. The Hopetoun Rooms stood at the rear of the British Hotel and they opened in January 1826 to universal acclaim. The rooms were named in honour of John Hope of Rankeillor, elevated to the peerage as the 4th Earl of Hopetoun in 1814 for his heroic command of the British Forces in the Peninsular War, and who had died in August 1823, shortly before the rooms were commissioned.

            The rooms were aligned east/west, behind the street front of the hotel and comprised three interconnected spaces, two square rooms either side of a large rectangular one, with buffet niches in the corners to create an octagon. These corner doors incorporated large round-topped mirrors, adding to the sparkle and creating an illusion of additional space. There were two means of entry, the most decorated being that into the west-most room, crossing from the hotel via a narrow top-lit corridor. From its treatment, his would appear to have been the main entrance but a single door also opened into the central space, immediately opposite the fireplace. This led from a useful ante-room, but rather inconveniently, from one corner of the room and up four steps, the raised floor level to allow for kitchens beneath. Hamilton's drawings to the Dean of Guild Court show these as sky-lit lower rooms but he did not include a floor plan. When Colin McWilliam made his valuable floor/ceiling plan as the rooms were being demolished in 1967, he indicated a single western entrance and it is interesting to compare this with the drawing made by C. R. Cockrell in his diary on Monday 17th March 1828 when he was shown around by Hamilton. Cockerell (and William Burn) had dined with Hamilton the Saturday before and Hamilton obviously took him through the central door, for added effect, because this is the only entrance Cockerell indicates on his plan. Cockerell was clearly impressed, noting in his diary, 'saw his Hope Town Rooms 90 by 37. admirably disposed'.[3]

            As in James Spittal's shop, Hamilton chose a Roman order and Diocletian windows for the two subsidiary rooms of his scheme and while understated, these rooms drew on a surprising source: Giacomo Barozzi da Vignola's church of St. Andrea in Via Flaminia, Rome (1552-3). But Hamilton used the architectural section published in d’Aviler's, Cours de Architecture qui comprend les ordres de Vignole (Paris 1691) in a clever and knowing way, substituting the round arch with an eliptical one, as an allusion to the unique feature of the original building, its oval dome. For the larger room he cast his net wide in seeking inspiration. His approach once again was academic and for the raised cupola of the splendid central space he sought inspiration in the Vasi, Candelabri,… ed Ornamenti Antichi Disegn, published in Rome by G. B. Piranesi in 1778. Hamilton would turn to this source again in his domestic architecture and it seems likely that he had a copy in his library.

            Piranesi had been on hand in 1766 when three caryatids were found on a site near the Villa Strozzi, on the Appian way, that resembled two similar figures found at the same place. From his imagination he created a further figure and from fragments found on the site he designed a portico as he imagined it might have looked in antiquity. He presented the evidence in a magnificent plate in the Vasi, dedicated to 'Henry Hope, Cav. Scozzese'. Henry Hope [1736-1811] was the nephew of Thomas Hope, founder of the famous banking house in Holland and grandfather of Thomas Hope [1769-1831] the most influential designer of the nineteenth century and author of Household Furniture and Interior Decoration, in 1808. Henry had built a magnificent villa near Haarlem after 1785, that had some influence on a design by Hamilton for Falcon Hall in Edinburgh to be considered later. Piranesi encouraged young designers in his Diverse Maniere to imitate the Romans in the free combination of antique sources to produce striking new designs and this is exactly what Hamilton did. Of the two caryatid figures found near the Villa Strozzi, one had been purchased by Charles Townley after 1768 and was purchased in turn by the British Museum in 1805. It was placed on display in 1808 along with the rest of the Townley collection and published with a fine engraving, in Part 1 of A Description of the Collection of Ancient Marbles in the British Museum, in 1812.

            As has been seen, Hamilton proposed a modified version of the caryatid, as a piece of sculptural decoration for the pediment of his Norwich Union building in 1820. He would have been aware of the interesting possibilities presented by the figure and hinted at in the text accompanying the plate in the British Museum catalogue. There, it highlighted the fact that the modius, or basket on top of the caryatid's head, incorporated a honeysuckle motif popular in Greek architecture and no only this, but one of the three figures found in 1766 was signed by two Athenian sculptors, Criton and Nicolaus. In order to draw attention to the intriguing possibility that these figures were in fact Greek, Hamilton chose to decorate the capitals of the pilasters in the great central room with a small honeysuckle motif, apparently of his own design and which appeared in at least two other buildings by him. The effect was to create, for those who could read it, a subtle intellectual game with Greek and Roman sources combined, with an added reference to the caryatid cupola in John Soane's Bank of England. For those who simply accepted the rooms at face value they provided a frisson of excitement, as The Scotsman discovered:

Having heard much of these buildings we 'dropt in' as Paul Pry says [a character in a popular comedy of the same name] a few days ago to satisfy our curiosity. We were not disappointed. One large room is so like another in this City, that the Hopetoun Rooms merit attention for the novelty of their plan, independently of their elegance. The building is 90' long by 35' in width, and is ingeniously contrived so that it can either be used as one spacious hall capable of dining 300 persons, or be divided into three very elegant saloons, suitable for everyday use. This, of itself, is a very material improvement. The division between the central saloon and the two ends is made by sliding doors [operated by hand from outside the building] and from the tripartitie form of the ceiling, each of the three apartments has nothing to indicate that it is merely a section of a larger one but appears complete in itself. The central saloon is of an octagonal form, its length exceeding its breadth by 10 or 12 feet, with mirrors in the angles. The two lateral saloons….are each adorned with six columns [in fact four columns and two engaged half-columns]. The ceiling is vaulted and tastefully divided into compartments in plaster, embellished with pateras. But the most striking novelty is the mode of lighting. Each of the three saloons has its distinct light which is placed in the ceiling, and consists of what is called, we believe, a lantern… It is a framework rising five or six feet above the roof with a separate roof or cover of its own supported by caryatids, or slender female figures, while the sides form a range of windows round and round…When we speak of this mode of lighting as new, we mean merely that we have not seen it before in any of our public rooms here. There is something at least equally novel in the artificial lights employed. These consist of oil gas, which in the central room is dispensed from five ground glass globes of a size that may be called gigantic, for judging by the eye we should think they are not much less than two feet in diameter. Each globe is lighted within by three powerful jets; but the light appears single and uniform, free from partial shadows, soft, steady and much superior certainly to naked lights of any description. These globes have very appropriately got the name of 'moons'. The Hopetoun Rooms, in short, afford another specimen of Mr. Hamilton's classical taste. A party of 20 or 30 dining in one of the lateral saloons, might fancy themselves (were a statue or two added) placed in the adytum of a Greecian temple. One defect we think, they have in common with all the public rooms here. They want a gallery - we mean for the admission of ladies, many of whom would gladly give the price of a ticket to be admitted as spectators at a public dinner where good speaking is expected… At present they have no other means of indulging it than by popping their heads for a few minutes among the scrapers and servants in the musicians gallery.[4] 

            The beau monde, in the nineteenth century as today, soon tired of the decoration of the Hopetoun Rooms and five years after their celebrated opening, the furnishings by William Trotter were sold off and a series of refurbishments began. In 1834, the establishment changed its name to Barry's Hotel and the foremost interior decorator of the day, David Ramsay Hay, was called in to re-decorate and The Scotsman visited once again:

The appearance presented is that of the inside of a magnificent temple, placed on the summit of a hill, where the sky alone is visible to the eye, seen through open balustrades on all sides, glowing in the summer noon of 'fervid Italy', with light fleecy clouds floating by. The columns are painted in imitation of jasper, in an entirely new style, and of the greatest beauty…which produces, in connection with the aerial tint of the imitation sky, and warm tone of the Etruscan brown of the walls, one of the most pleasing combinations of colours. The double sunk panelling of the ceilings are painted in three shades of Etruscan brown, the cornices, walls and pilasters in two shades of the same. All the enrichments, such as pateras, trusses, capitals, &c. are heightened with gilding, giving great relief, and producing a sparkling , but not gaudy effect. The figures in the lantern of the roof are painted in imitation of white marble, which has been mellowed down by the effects of atmosphere.[5] 

            The rooms found use in the twentieth century as an extension of Mary Erskine's school when they were recorded in romantic mode and they were recorded again in less happy times, by the photographers from the Royal Commission on Ancient and Historic Monuments for Scotland, shortly after demolition began. The loss of the Hopetoun rooms in 1967 was little short of a scandal.

The Wine Company of Scotland, 1825.

        Thomas Hamilton was suddenly fashionable. He appeared to come from nowhere to win the competition to design the Burns Monument at Alloway in 1818 and by July 1823 it was complete, amid great celebration. He was now in demand and he seemed completely in tune with the aspirations of the merchants and entrepreneurs who were moving to the New Town. One of these was James Balfour, manager of the Joint Stock Wine Company. He rented premises at 40 St. Andrew Square in November 1824 and in June the following year moved to 14 George Street. He applied to the Dean of Guild for permission to make alterations to the shop floor and basement and add a further floor but hings did not go smoothly and permission for an additional floor was refused. Once again the drawings to the Court are un-signed but there is little doubt that in terms of style and design, they are by Hamilton. (In common with other sheets by Hamilton, they are on paper watermarked with a 'C' which is probably the mark of Cowan and Company of Penicuik).


Gallery for William Nicholson, 1827.


Shops for the Blackwood Brothers, 1830.

        William Blackwood the bookseller was an influential member of the Town Council that asked Thomas Hamilton to submit designs for the Royal High School. In April 1829, he wrote to his son William in India:

I have bought the house No. 45 George Street…your uncle Thomas has bought the house next to mine [No. 43] … We have both paid the same price, 3500 guineas [£146,195.00] and will probably have to spend £1000 to £1500 [£39,790- 59,685] in the alterations that will be necessary. We will both have fine back rooms … I shall have a more elegant room (lighted from the top) than my present one with rooms behind it. The upper part I will let off as ware rooms, writing chambers or dwelling houses. With what I expect to let, I shall sit at half my present rent and have infinitely better accommodation.[6] The situation too will be fully as good for me, as George Street is every day becoming more and more a place of business and the east end of Princes Street is now like Charring Cross, a mere place for coaches.

        The shops that Hamilton designed for William and Thomas Blackwood were a great deal more sophisticated and presumably cost a good deal more than William reported to his son at the beginning of their venture. In fact, he re-designed the entire facade of the two houses, joining them at shop floor level with an imaginative Ionic colonnade and regularising the [additional] topmost floor with recessed windows above a dentilled Ionic cornice. [Fig. 00] In a small detail that he would use again, Hamilton modified the ends of the dentil course to incorporate a small anthemion in the soffit of the final dentil block at each end, in place of the more correct pine cone. If the additional floor were not enough the new roof was given a Mansard pitch that further increased the available space. In April 1830 William wrote to his son again and in the absence of a plan by Hamilton, he gives a rare clue as to the arrangement of Thomas's shop:

Our two houses in George Street are very nearly finished and they make quite a new feature in [the] Street… The interior is also very elegant. Your uncle's back room is about 40ft. x 30ft. in breadth. Ours is upward of 26ft. square and both are lighted from the roof.

        Facing the shops from the street, William had the one on the left [No. 45], that survived completely intact until 1973 and Thomas, a silk merchant had that on the right [No. 43]. While each of the shops had a centrally placed door to the street, set within a fenestrated screen of lying panes that reflected the courses of masonry, the doors to the common stair giving access to the upper floors entered through a centrally placed portico that extended out to the edge of what would have been a basement entry. The most interesting feature of the fenestration is its expanse and this is possibly the earliest manifestation of what would become a Hamilton shop-front style. Behind the colonnade he created a curtain wall of glass, set into the masonry at the ends but supported in the centre by only slim wooden door-cases and this feature became more sophisticated as his career developed. Thomas Blackwood's shop was sold and re-designed in 185000 making it necessary to remove the central portico but on rainy days its form can be traced on the beautiful honey-coloured Craigleith slabs used in the paving in front of No. 45.

        The late Colin McWilliam captured the essence of the rooms in his charming sectional drawing made before the elaborate mahogany bookshelves and counters were stripped out in 1973. Photographs taken by the Royal Commission for the Ancient Monuments of Scotland at about the same time show some of the original furniture, probably also designed by Hamilton. The great table from the back saloon around which Sir Walter Scott, Christopher North and other congregated appeared for a time in a second-hand bookshop in Abbeyhill, before going to ground. William's shop is now in the care of Messrs. Justerini and Brooks and in most respects the layout of the rooms remains unchanged.

 Melroses tea emporium, George Street .

        If William Blackwood was concerned at the growth of carriage traffic in 1830, worse was on its way. In March 1834 a vehicle eased its way out of Mr. Learmonth's coach works into Princes Street, from a lane just beside the shop designed by Hamilton for the Robertson family in 1823. The steam carriage had arrived and The Scotsman reported that 'The engine is in the boot; it makes a considerable noise and clouds of smoke issued from it…'

Stencil drawing of steam carriage, scotsman 20th Jan 1827

Shop for Grieve and Oliver, hatters, Princes Street, 1837.


Shop for Trustees of Alexander Cowan,  paper maker, 1850.

        There is a certain irony in the final commercial project to be examined here . For most of the drawings submitted to the Dean of Guild Court, Thomas Hamilton used a drawing paper, almost orange in colour and watermarked with a 'C' above a date, produced by Alexander Cowan and Company, papermakers in Penicuik. When it came to the application for the Trustees [the sons] of Alexander Cowan, the founder of the company, Hamilton used paper made at Whatman's factory at Turkey Mill. It  highlights the way that Whatman's papers dominated the market by 1850.

        The building designed by Hamilton might be considered slight when compared with the rather flamboyant columned and pilastered facades considered so far. But this shop front is significant for its modernity. By 1850, at a time when other architects were revelling in the sort of detail we might consider 'Victorian', Hamilton had refined his design and reduced unnecessary detail to such an extent that he could be considered, in modern terms, a minimalist. The essence of this refinement is the use of classical mouldings as single features, here an ogee moulding around each of the windows, set beside highly finished, smooth areas of polished ashlar. It is a feature of his work that also appears in a tenement designed in 1853, to be considered in Chapter 3, but can also be found in interior designs as early as the 1830's.

[1] The Scotsman, 31st December 1823, The extensive alterations are complete. No. 30 belonged to the Incorporation and 31 to Field himself. In The Scotsman on the 20th October 1825 he states that his 'public and private hotels' have undergone repairs.

[2] The Scotsman, 28th July 1824.

[3] RIBA Library, Coc 10/3. Diary of C. R. Cockerell, on loan from Mrs. Crighton. Vol. 8., 1928. Cockerell wrote a memo in his diary, between pp. 25 and 26, recording promises to friends while in Scotland. He notes 'promised Hamilton Aegina Cymatum. details of Surgeons Hall. Phygalium Cymatum'.

[4] The Scotsman, 25th February 1826, p. 1(b-c).

[5] The Scotsman, 23rd August 1834.

[6] The Scotsman, 3rd March 1830, notice regarding the letting of flats at 45 George Street.

This page is still under construction.

Norwich Union building (at right with pediment) c. 1860. Massive enlargement of photograph by T. V. Begbie. The slightly higher buildings here were all built after the Norwich Union building. It is fascinating how the framing pilasters dominate this image,  without the benefit of cross lighting.

Massive enlargement from a print by George Washington Wilson, c. 1880[?]

Hamilton's elevation for the Incorporation of Mary's Chapel, in their petition for the Union Hotel, 24 April 1823.

Elevations and plan for the 19 June 1823 Dean of Guild petition by James Spittal with alternative frontage lines determined by the footprint of a demolished tenement. They opted for the one on the right above.

Elevation and plan for James Spittal's 1824 Dean of Guild petition.

James Spittal's shop at 80-86 South Bridge when occupied by J & R Allan Ltd. in 1901. From W. M. Gilbert, Edinburgh in the Nineteenth Century (Edinburgh 1901)

70 and 71 Queen Street [the numbers changed later] in 1823 when the owner, Alexander Greenhill, advocate applied to add the top floor. A warrant was granted on 23 July, probably the first step in the creation of the hotel.


The very unassuming drawings submitted with the Dean of Guild Court application in 1824.

Section of the interior of St. Andrea in Via Flaminia, Rome. Plate 68, p. 249 from: Charles Augustin d’Aviler, Cours d’architecture qui comprend les ordres de Vignole (Paris 1691)

Plate from Piranesi's Vasi, Candelabri,… ed Ornamenti Antichi Disegn..(Rome 1778)

Caryatid from the Townley collection

Photographs taken by the RCAHMS during demolition in 1967.
See the Canmore site for further photographs.

Mary Erskine prospectus.

Unknown artist: The Hopetoun rooms during occupation by Mary Erskine's school, probably with surviving remnants of a D. R. Hay decorative scheme.
[Collection of the author]