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Restoration of Adam Smith's home begins

Work has started on the restoration of Panmure House, with support from an EWH grant.

Jul 16, 2014

The conservation work to Panmure House is part of a major project headed by the Edinburgh Business School at Heriot-Watt University. Their vision is to turn the category A listed building into a centre for economic and social debate and the latest academic thinking, with a reading room, lecture space and education programme.

Panmure House dates back to 1691, and was originally built as a grand town mansion. It was in 1778 that Adam Smith rented the property, as he took up the post of Commissioner of Customs in Edinburgh. By that time he had already established a reputation as a famous philosopher and economist, and many other leading figures in the Scottish Enlightenment gathered at his home in the Canongate.

The EWH grant of £150,000 will help towards the cost of essential external conservation to the historic building. The work will include stonework repairs, particularly to cracked and eroded sections, and re-building areas repaired with inappropriate cement. The roof will be stripped and re-slated, with additional structural repairs to the original timbers, gutters and downpipes will be replaced and the chimneys will be re-built to their original style.

Adam Wilkinson Director of Edinburgh World Heritage said: "Panmure House is an important historic building, not only because of its links to Adam Smith, the Enlightenment and modern socio-economic thinking, but also as rare survival of a seventeenth century town mansion. We welcome the carefully considered scheme for its re-use as a centre for economics and social studies, very much in keeping with the spirit of its past. Rethinking an important building at risk in this way will support the surrounding area, bringing wider benefits for the people of the Canongate today.”

As well as the EWH grant, the work will be funded by The Friends of Panmure House and a host of private supporters around the world.

Work started at the end of July and is expected to last nine months.

House history
The house was built 1691 for Lt. Col .George Murray, but then sold to earl of Panmure in 1696. As a staunch Jacobite his estates were seized by the government in 1716, but then later returned to his widow. The house remained with the family until 1782, when it was inherited by the earl of Dalhousie.

In 1778 Adam Smith rented the house as he took up his new appointment of Commissioner of Customs and Excise. His mother, cousin and nephew also moved in, along with Smith’s vast collection of 3,000 books, covering a range of topics and languages.

He entertained many key figures of the Scottish Enlightenment at his house, such as James Hutton, Joseph Black, Robert Adam and Dugald Stewart.

“At their pleasure, without an invitation these and other friends of Smith were received in one of the spacious public rooms in Panmure House for plain suppers on Sundays that were a notable feature of Smith’s years in Edinburgh.” (Life of Adam Smith, by Ian Simpson Ross).

In 1838 Panmure House was bought by James Blaiket & Sons foundry, and the building underwent many changes. Part of the main block was taken down, and the imposing courtyard entrance was demolished.

In 1927 the building was bought by The Scotsman, but was left in derelict condition. In 1956 Dr Ronald Selby Wright, Minister of the Canongate Kirk, convinced the newspaper to carry out renovations, and to gift Panmure House to the Canongate Boys Club.

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