IT was hailed as an architectural masterpiece when it was built in the 19th century. But new pictures from inside the A-listed Royal High School building – which has been unused since 1968 when the former boys school relocated to Barnton – reveal decaying interiors with damage to the stunning Grecian pillars and crumbling ceilings.
The building was once earmarked as a possible location for the Scottish Parliament, but is now set to be transformed into a luxury hotel. A new artist’s impression has also been released, showing how extensions will be added to either side of the old school.
Securing the future of the building is a key part of the £55 million development, said hotelier David Orr of the Urbanist Group, who is spearheading the project, along with Bruce Hare, chief executive of Duddingston House Properties – which signed a 125-year conditional lease in 2010.
Mr Orr said: “We recognise that the building has got a lot of challenges, even physically it is deteriorating. But with that said, it is still an absolutely wonderful thing.
“It’s clearly something that should be restored properly and I think at the absolute heart of it, when you are going through the building, you see it is a building which needs to have people back in it.
“It needs to have that thriving feeling, with public access and public use.”
Members of the public will be able to have a look inside today and tomorrow as part of an exhibition.
Mr Orr said: “We want to make sure we have the benefit of having people’s views and thoughts when they come to the site. We are able to work with all of those before having a second exhibition, on March 5 and 6.”
Heritage campaigners have warned over rushing decisions over the future of the historic building, which was designed by feted architect Thomas Hamilton and opened its doors in 1829.
Marion Williams, of the Cockburn Association, said: “It’s been empty for nearly 50 years and it has deteriorated in that time, so everybody is keen to see the right use for the place and for somebody to put some investment into it.
“It’s a hugely important building and a hugely important setting and we can’t be pushed into the wrong decision. It’s all about getting the balance right.”
The Cockburn Association is involved in a “positive dialogue” with the developers, but Ms Williams said it was extremely important to get the finer details of the project right.
The News told yesterday how serious concerns about the development had been raised in letters between city council planning head David Lesley, Historic Scotland and Edinburgh World Heritage.