£500,000 boost for historic Old Town house

Fiona Hyslop announced the funds at Riddle's Court
Fiona Hyslop announced the funds at Riddle's Court
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ONE of the Royal Mile’s most famous landmark’s has received a £500,000 funding boost for repair work.

Riddle’s Court at Lawnmarket which dates to the 1590s, was once home to Sir David Hume and one of the city’s great thinkers Sir Patrick Geddes regularly held summer schools within its walls.

In recent years its condition had begun to deteriorate but now it’s to be brought back to life as the site of the Patrick Geddes Centre for Learning and Conservation allowing the conservation community, the public and tourists alike to revel in its historic past.

Announcing the initial round of funding for the Historic Scotland project Culture Secretary Fiona Hyslop said: “The Patrick Geddes Centre for Learning and Conservation will be an excellent example of heritage regeneration of one of the finest surviving Scottish residences, dating from the late 16th century. It will become a conservation hub providing a platform for sharing resources and best practice advice, as well as practical training on traditional building skills.”

Riddle’s Court comprises a series of buildings set around a small courtyard off the Lawnmarket and is one of the finest surviving merchant’s houses on the Royal Mile.

It will now become a major teaching and learning centre for the city.

John Campbell, QC, chairman of the Scottish Historic Buildings Trust said: “We are absolutely delighted that the importance of Riddle’s Court is being recognised by this highly significant repairs grant from Historic Scotland.

“The first step on the road to the creation of the Patrick Geddes Centre for Conservation and Learning will enable us to start down the road to putting this historic merchant’s house into a better functioning condition, so that scholars, the whole conservation community, the public and visitors can appreciate and enjoy the buildings’ unique surroundings and presence right in the centre of the capital city, where Geddes once lived and worked.”

Born in 1854, Sir Patrick Geddes, is widely recognised as the founding father of the town planning profession, who spent many years conserving and restoring the Royal Mile at a time when most decaying buildings were torn down.

He started work in the National Bank of Scotland but later went to study botany at Edinburgh University.

Geddes hated the formal study and left after a week, going instead to London. It was while he was there that he was influenced by the radical thinker, Thomas Huxley.

In 1880, he returned to work at Edinburgh University. His wide field of interests – including biology, town planning, social thinking, politics and literature – led him into a number of innovative urban renewal projects, including the creation of the first student hall of residence at the university.

He advocated improvements to the environment on the basis that humans prospered where there was fresh air, gardens and good housing.

He obtained a building at the top of the Royal Mile which he converted into a “sociological observatory” - its famous camera obscura is still there today.