Historic Edinburgh Old Town tenement restored to former glory

An historic Old Town tenement that recalls the Capital's shoemaking past has been restored to its former glory as part of a major conservation project.

Friday, 25th September 2020, 1:30 pm
Updated Friday, 25th September 2020, 1:44 pm

The work, which was funded through Edinburgh World Heritage’s Conservation Funding Programme and supported by Historic Environment Scotland, involved the restoration of 16 residential dwellings and 5 shops at 195-197 Canongate.

Known as Cordiner’s Land, the building dates back to the 17th century and was once home to a number of skilled trades people, who would have sold their wares from the ground floor premises.

Cordiners were involved in the shoe-making industry and took their name from the French “Courdouanier” meaning “of Cordova”, which was the finest source of leather at the time.

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The tenements date back to the 17th century.

Constructed when the Canongate was a separate burgh, the tenement was partially rebuilt in 1825 and again overhauled in the mid-20th century as part of a substantial restoration of the historic Tolbooth area, but retains much of its original features.

Further conservation work, grant-aided by Edinburgh World Heritage, was completed in 2015 to 183-187 Canongate, a 300-year-old tenement, also known as ‘Bible Land’ after the carved stone cartouche on its frontage, and in 2019 to 189 and 191 Canongate, probably best identified by its striking red lime harling and limewash, reinstated as part of its conservation.

The restoration and conservation was carried out by David Willis at CLWG Architects, and involved repairs to the rubble and dressed stonework, timber-framed multi-paned sash and case windows and the carved panel in one of the central bays between the first and second floors which displays the emblem of the cordiners.

Additional work included repairing chimney heads and gables, overhauling roofs, gutters and flashings, repairing the south external masonry wall, removing loose paint and re-painting the north elevation, and repairing rainwater goods.

Cordiner’s Land dates back to the 17th century and was once home to a number of skilled trades people, who would have sold their wares from the ground floor premises.

Local residents and business owners say they are happy with the results and are keen for further conservation work to be carried out in the area.

Brenda Clark, the representative of the residents of 185 Canongate, said “Edinburgh World Heritage’s support and expertise in the field of restoration of historic buildings was invaluable. We were delighted to see our neighbours in the tenements next door follow suit and the rear elevation of the buildings look very impressive.

"We are now trying to persuade our neighbours in the adjoining building overlooking Gladstone Court to tackle the repairs to their building and would encourage them to approach Edinburgh World Heritage for their help and advice.”

Ray Disotto, owner of the Fudge Shop on the ground floor of 195-197 Canongate said “The generous grant offer by Edinburgh World Heritage made this work possible, and it has revived the look of the building which now blends in with rest of the Royal Mile. I’m sure it will improve business for all in the street.”

Christina Sinclair, Director of Edinburgh World Heritage, said: “Following the success of the conservation work at 195-197 Canongate, we are exploring how to better engage communities in areas outside of the World Heritage Site.”

City of Edinburgh Council Planning Convener Councillor Neil Gardiner said: "The conservation work carried out in the Canongate is a perfect example of a community working together. I hope other property owners see the incredible difference it makes and feel compelled to follow suit.”

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