Whitehorse Close Edinburgh buildings, Old Town property image, Canongate architecture picture
Whitehorse Close Edinburgh
Canongate houses in central Edinburgh, southeast Scotland
Location: 31 Canongate, Old Town
Renewal date: 1964
Renewal Design: Sir Frank Mears & Partners
Whitehorse Close Edinburgh Canongate
Picturesque 17thC Inn refurbished as housing by Sir Frank Mears & Partners in 1964. The jetties and dynamic external staircases must surely have helped inform Richard Murphy’s works at Dublin Street and Canongate housing
White Horse Close, or “Whitehorse Close”, is an enclosed courtyard off the Canongate at the foot of the Royal Mile at the eastern end of the Old Town of Edinburgh. It has a 17th-century inn at its northern end. Because of several conversions to its buildings in the past, the close has been described as “fake”. The late Professor Charles McKean has characterised it as “heritage rather than history”.
The location has been traditionally associated with a royal mews from the time of Mary, Queen of Scots. It is likely that the name derives from the “White Horse Inn” which occupied the northern end of the courtyard from at least the 17th century.
The building bears the date 1632, but this is believed to have been carved when it was restored in the 1930s, the tablet being altered from displaying the more implausible date of 1532. In his Views of Edinburgh, published around 1820, the English engraver James Storer gave the date as 1683, which is more in keeping with the late 17th-century architectural style of the buildings. The dilapidated close was bought by Dr. John Barbour and his sister in 1889, and the inn, with its distinctive forestairs, and the surrounding courtyard buildings were converted into fifteen dwellings for the working class. They were last restored by Frank Mears & Partners in 1961-64.
The inn was the departure point for the stagecoaches that ran between Edinburgh, Newcastle and London in the 18th century. Five arches on the Calton Road side of the building (previously known as the North Back of the Canongate) indicate the former existence of an undercroft which contained the inn’s stables, smithy and coach houses.
The building with a turnpike stair was the residence of two Bishops of Edinburgh – John Paterson and Alexander Rose.
The close is regarded as the most picturesque group of buildings on the Royal Mile, but is often missed by visitors.
Whitehorse Close context : Calton Road
Old Town Buildings close to Whitehorse Close:
picture © Keith Hunter
Palace of Holyroodhouse
picture © Adrian Welch
Scottish Poetry Library
photograph © Keith Hunter
Old Town Canongate Housing
photograph © Adrian Welch
Context for the above buildings: Royal Mile Edinburgh
The first EAA Silver Medal awarded in 1984, was won by Andrew Doolan /
Kantel for St Anne’s Brewery Conversion to Flats, Calton Road, Edinburgh
Comments / photos for the Whitehorse Close Edinburgh Architecture refurbishment as housing by Sir Frank Mears & Partners Architects page welcome