Canongate Tolbooth, Photo, Historic Royal Mile Building, Picture, Old Architecture, Date
Canongate Tolbooth, Edinburgh
Historic building on Royal Mile, Edinburgh, Scotland: Built Environment
post updated 2 August 2021
Canongate Old Tolbooth
Date built: 1591; restored 1879
Address: 163 Canongate
Location: eastern part of the Royal Mile, Old Town – eastern edge of city centre
The Canongate Tolbooth had a Council Chamber at first floor level with a prison below.
This building is a historic landmark of the Old Town section of Edinburgh. It was built in 1591 as a tolbooth, that is, a courthouse, burgh jail and meeting place, for the then separate burgh of the Canongate. The building is now occupied by The People’s Story Museum and is protected as a category A listed building.
The tower of the tolbooth was built in 1591, and the block to the east of it at that time or slightly after, by Sir Lewis Bellenden, justice-clerk and feudal superior of the then independent Burgh of Canongate. It served as the administrative centre for burgh which was outside the Edinburgh town walls, acting as courthouse, burgh jail and meeting place of the town council.
In 1875 the City Architect, Robert Morham completely restored and remodelled the exterior giving it back its medieval look (based on Gordon of Rothiemay’s map of 1647). The first and attic floors were combined to make a single floor, now the The People’s Story Museum.
The building has a central tower with a block to the east that contained Council chamber. Against the eastern block is a stone forestair which leads to a door next to the tower. There is an oriel window in the eastern end of the east block. Under the main tower is an arch that leads into Tolbooth Wynd.
The tower has two bartizans with ornamental gunloops on either side of a clock, dated 1884, which is suspended over the Royal Mile by wrought iron brackets. Above the bartizans and gunloops is a conical spire, and four pedimented dormers by Morham that replaced three piended ones.
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