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Victorian villa, Sciennes

Sciennes (pronounced sheenz, /ˈʃnz/) is an area of Edinburgh, Scotland, just outside the city centre to the south of the Meadows, with Newington to the east. Sciennes shares a Community Council with Marchmont, to the west.

Since it is near many different departments of the University of Edinburgh, Sciennes has a large student population, some living in modern university-owned residences. Most of the housing is Victorian tenements or 19th century stone villas in roads which merge into the neighbouring area of the Grange, extending southward.

Sciennes was once part of the Burgh Muir beyond Edinburgh's town walls.[1] This area was known to attract "vagabonds, vagrants and outlaws" who found shelter from the authorities under its large trees.[citation needed]

Concern for the spiritual welfare of these people led to the establishment in 1511-12 of a chapel dedicated to St John the Baptist by Sir John Craufurd, canon of St Giles' Cathedral.[2] This chapel served its purpose for only four years, however, as, following Scotland's defeat at the battle of Flodden, a number of widows requested and were granted, a Papal Bull to establish the Dominican convent of Catherine of Siena, which was built in 1517. It was destroyed in 1559 during the Reformation. The site of the convent is marked by a plaque in the gardens of 16 St Catherine's Place. The name Sciennes derived from the convent's name association with Siena (Sienne in French, which was the court language of Scotland for much of the 16th Century).

Sciennes Hill House plaque

The area contains one of the few Jewish cemeteries in Scotland, dating from 1816.[3] Nearby is the remaining part of Sciennes Hill House, once the home of Professor Adam Ferguson, who hosted a dinner there when Robert Burns and the young Walter Scott met for the one and only time in the winter of 1786-87.[1] Arthur Conan Doyle's family lived in this part of Sciennes while he was a boy.

Another building of note is the Old Braid Fire Station in former Braid Place, renamed Sciennes Hill Place in 1968. This was one of four fire stations established in the 1820s by Edinburgh's famous firemaster James Braidwood. It is now an architect's office.

Nearby, in Causewayside, stands the former 'A' Division Police Station which closed in the early 1980s and has since been converted to apartments. The station is mentioned in an Ian Rankin 'Rebus' novel, as being not far from Marchmont where the fictional detective lives. The building stands opposite the shop of the late Edinburgh antique dealer and noted police historian T W Archibald who wrote the definitive history of the Lothians and Borders Police Force.

From humble beginnings as a workshop in 1821 Bertram's large St Katherine's Engineering Works grew up at the eastern end of Sciennes Road. The works were demolished after their closure in 1985.

The Edinburgh Royal Hospital for Sick Children, known as the "Sick Kids", has been in Sciennes since 1895.[1] It is a listed building with murals by Phoebe Anna Traquair in its chapel. Sciennes Primary School stands next door.



  1. ^ a b c "Sciennes: Overview". Gazetteer for Scotland. Retrieved 4 December 2018.
  2. ^ "Edinburgh, Sciennes, Dominican Convent". Canmore. Historic Environment Scotland. Retrieved 6 December 2018.
  3. ^ "Jewish Cemetery: Overview". Gazetteer for Scotland. Retrieved 4 December 2018.

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Coordinates: 55°56′18.65″N 3°11′12.75″W / 55.9385139°N 3.1868750°W / 55.9385139; -3.1868750