Edinburgh World Heritage - News Article


Investigations at Panmure House

An archaeological survey has revealed clues to the former grandeur of this historic building.

Sep 26, 2014

Panmure House dates to 1691 and was once the home of the famous philosopher Adam Smith. The Edinburgh Business School at Heriot-Watt University now plan to transform the building into a centre for economic and social debate.  The survey was conducted to investigate the significance of the existing structure, before conservation work could begin, with funding from the EWH Conservation Funding Programme.

The house that survives today has changed greatly over the centuries, but clues to its past can still be found.

In the 1600s the Canongate was an attractive area for wealthy residents, with more space and less bustle than Edinburgh, and close to Palace of Holyroodhouse. Many aristocrats bought and amalgamated existing plots of land to create major residences, such as Moray House, Queensberry House and Acheson House that still exist today. Panmure House is another good example, first built for the 4th Earl of Panmure, but the survey has revealed that it was once a much bigger and impressive building.  

Much of the original roof structure has survived from the 1600s, and shows clear evidence of the extent of the frontage of the building. Rafter couples show carpenters’ marks from XXIIII through to XXXXIIII – implying a missing 23 couples.

The main approach to the house was originally from the west, via Panmure Close, now the rear of the building. The entrance to the house was clearly designed to impress.

Archaeologist Tom Addyman who led the survey commented: “Truncated vault arches seen below the windows provide the only physical evidence for a dramatic feat of engineering construction whereby the steeply down-sloping ground of the back-land area was levelled up upon four huge barrel-vaults to form an expansive raised forecourt that permitted direct horizontal access from the Canongate that was befitting to aristocratic dignity and, incidentally, paralleled by a similar construction at Queensberry House.”

Left: A detail from a map of 1742 with Panmure House circled.

At the rear of the house was equally grand. Tom added: “A great balustraded terrace was formed to the north with a sweeping staircase that overlooked new formal gardens laid out across the breadth of four pre-existing burgage plots.”

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

Thanks to Addyman Archaeology for the details of the survey.

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