Calls for Stevenson memorial as hotel plans are revealed

Baxter's Place
Baxter's Place
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FOR the home of a famed lighthouse engineer, there is very little to point you in its direction.

But a forgotten property in Baxter’s Place has been plunged back into the spotlight as part of plans for a new 250-bed hotel and retail development.

Robert Stevenson

Robert Stevenson

Renowned engineer Robert Stevenson, grandfather to Robert Louis Stevenson, lived and worked in the property – and died there in 1850 – but there is currently little to commemorate the great man.

Now the developers behind the new scheme are being urged to consider a permanent memorial.

Robert Stevenson, whose son Thomas was father to Robert Louis, worked for the Northern Lighthouse Board and oversaw the development of 20 lighthouses, including the Bell Rock Lighthouse off Angus, considered one of the great feats of 19th-century engineering.

Historian Michael Turnbull, who has written more than 20 books and has a particular interest in the Stevenson family and Edinburgh, said: “It’s a beautiful building and a classic building, which was the family business headquarters. For a long time it has been pretty run down with down-and-outs living rough there.

“It’s good news that it sounds like it’s going to be done up, but they should be aware of the history of the site and commit to putting something up or naming rooms after him.

“You would think they would see it as a selling point.”

The proposal of application notice for the 1-5 Baxter’s Place site has been submitted by the company Trendy Celt Ltd, which owns the building.

It outlines plans to change the use of the building to a hotel, transform the former Salon Cinema into retail space and demolish a building at Greenside Lane.

Planning permission for a hotel on the site, which is next to the Playhouse, had previously been granted in 2008 although other plans to develop the derelict site have fallen through.

The new application is expected to be made formally before the end of the year.

A spokesman for the Chris Stewart Group, a property developer which is working alongside Trendy Celt Ltd, was non-committal after being asked whether the Stevenson link would be marked.

He said: “It’s still in its early stages. We are still in negotiations and liaising with the planning authority just now.

“We are investigating ways of developing the building. We do understand the significance to Robert Stevenson so we are considering that.

“We are still investigating all of our options and we don’t want to rule anything in or out.”

The group hopes that building work will begin next year on the hotel project, which is currently scheduled to be completed in 2014. A hotel 
operator is already currently being sought for the site.

Robert Stevenson is said to have lived in number 1 Baxter’s Place. The former Salon Cinema at 4-5 Baxter’s Place closed in 1973 and is on Scotland’s Buildings at Risk Register.

BRIGHT SPARK

For more than 150 years, engineer Robert Stevenson and his descendants designed most of Scotland’s lighthouses.

He was responsible for more than 20 lighthouses, including the Bell Rock Lighthouse which was built on a dangerous reef in the North Sea and is widely considered his greatest achievement.

He also invented intermittent and flashing lights, which became a common feature of the lighthouse as we know it.

His son, Alan, built ten lighthouses, including the Skerryvore 14 miles into the Atlantic.

Thomas Stevenson, father of Robert Louis, was a specialist in lighthouse illumination.

Robert Louis’s visits with his family to remote lighthouses are thought to have inspired his books Kidnapped and Treasure Island.