Gladstone's Land

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Gladstone's Land with its six storeys clearly in view

Gladstone's Land is a surviving 17th-century high-tenement house situated in the Old Town of the city of Edinburgh, Scotland. It has been restored and furnished by the National Trust for Scotland, and is operated as a popular tourist attraction.

The "Land" (sited at 481 and 483 Lawnmarket) was originally built in 1550,[1] but was bought and redeveloped in 1617 by a prosperous Edinburgh merchant and burgess, Thomas Gledstanes. The work was completed in 1620. Its prominent siting (on the Royal Mile between Edinburgh Castle and the Palace of Holyrood) and the extent of its accommodation mark out the affluence of its mercantile owner. However, not only did Gledstanes reside there, he let out parts of the building to an assortment of tenants of different social classes (another merchant, a minister, a knight, and a guild officer[2]). Thus the restored building allows an insight into varieties of Edinburgh life of the period. The cramped conditions of the Old Town, and the physical size of the lot, meant that the house could only be extended in depth or in height. As a result, the house is six storeys tall.[3]

In 1934, the building was condemned and scheduled for demolition, until it was rescued by the National Trust for Scotland.[4] Under the auspices of the Trust, restoration of the building was carried out by the architect, Sir Frank Mears, in consultation with the Ancient Monuments Department of the Ministry of Works in Edinburgh.[5] Original renaissance painted ceilings were uncovered in the process. Today the restored premises offer a glimpse of 17th-century life, with open fires, lack of running water, and period decoration and furniture. At ground level, there is a French-style arcade frontage and reconstructed shop booth, complete with replicas of 17th-century wares. This would originally have provided shelter for the merchant's customers. On the left of the building, a curved stone forestair with iron railings leads from the street to a door at 1st floor level.[6]

The entrance sign with a "gled" hovering above

The sign above the entrance to the building displays the date 1617 and a gilt-copper hawk with outstretched wings. Although not an original feature, the significance of this is that the name "Gledstanes" is derived from the Scots word "gled" meaning a hawk.[7]

By the late-18th century, Edinburgh's Old Town was no longer a fashionable address. Increasing pressures from population growth encouraged the flight of the affluent from cramped conditions to the developing New Town. Today, visitors to the city can contrast Gladstone's Land to the Trust's restored example of a New Town residence, The Georgian House, at No. 7 Charlotte Square.[8]

Gladstone's Gallery[edit]

The second floor of Gladstone's Land now hosts the National Trust's Gladstone Gallery, which is accessed by an internal turnpike stair lit by small single windows. The space is rented out to artists through the year, and serves as a venue for events during the Edinburgh Festival Fringe.[9][10]


  1. ^ "Gladstone's Land". Retrieved 2007-10-28. 
  2. ^ "Gladstone's Land". Retrieved 2007-10-28. 
  3. ^ "Gladstone's Land". Retrieved 2007-10-28. 
  4. ^ "Gladstone's Land, Edinburgh". Retrieved 2007-10-28. 
  5. ^ Hurd, Robert (1952), Gladstone's Land: The Story of an Old Edinburgh House, The National Trust for Scotland / The Saltire Society, Edinburgh, p. 20
  6. ^ "481 AND 483 LAWNMARKET, GLADSTONE'S LAND". Retrieved 2013-01-26. 
  7. ^ "Gladstone's Land, Edinburgh". Retrieved 2007-10-28. 
  8. ^ "Gladstone's Land". Retrieved 2007-10-28. 
  9. ^ "Gladstone's Land - Restaurants, shop & other facilities Gladstone Gallery Available for Hire for Art Exhibitions". Retrieved 2014-03-15. 
  10. ^ "481 AND 483 LAWNMARKET, GLADSTONE'S LAND". Retrieved 2013-01-26. 

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 55°56′58″N 3°11′34″W / 55.94944°N 3.19278°W / 55.94944; -3.19278