William Henry Playfair

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
William Henry Playfair
Playfair's townhouse at 17 Great Stuart Street, Edinburgh
Playfair's grave, Edinburgh
Statue of William Henry Playfair, Chambers Street, Edinburgh

William Henry Playfair FRSE (15 July 1790 – 19 March 1857) was one of the greatest Scottish architects of the 19th century,[1] designer of many of Edinburgh's neo-classical landmarks in the New Town.


He was born on 15 July 1790 in Russell Square, London, to James Playfair and Jessie Graham.[2] Playfair's father was also an architect, and his uncles were John Playfair, the scientist, and William Playfair, an economist and pioneer of information graphics.

Two of his finest works are the neo-classical buildings of the National Gallery of Scotland and the Royal Scottish Academy which are situated in the centre of Edinburgh. The Playfair Project completed in 2004 joined the two historic buildings with an underground link.

In the 1830s Playfair is listed as living at 17 Great Stuart Street on the prestigious Moray Estate in Edinburgh's west end.[3]

Playfair joined the Free Church following the Disruption of 1843,[4] losing his right to burial in the parish churchyard.

Playfair took David Cousin under his wing and was responsible for the latter part of his training.

Playfair died in Edinburgh on 19 March 1857, and is buried in the "Lord's Row" on the western wall of Edinburgh's Dean Cemetery, where he designed a number of monuments for others, including Lord Jeffrey.

Timeline of major projects[edit]

The unfinished National Monument, Edinburgh, begun in 1826
Fine detailing by Playfair on the Royal Scottish Academy

Gallery of architectural work[edit]


  1. ^ Russell, Colin (2014). Who Made the Scottish Enlightenment?. Xlibris Corporation. p. 385. ISBN 9781499091045. 
  2. ^ Waterston, Charles D; Macmillan Shearer, A (July 2006). Former Fellows of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, Vol. II. Edinburgh: The Royal Society of Edinburgh. ISBN 978-0-902198-84-5. 
  3. ^ "(187) – Scottish Post Office Directories > Towns > Edinburgh > 1805–1834 – Post Office annual directory > 1832–1833 – Scottish Directories – National Library of Scotland". nls.uk. 
  4. ^ Dictionary of Scottish Architects:David Cousin
  5. ^ "Our History – Independent Day and Boarding School – Dollar Academy". dollaracademy.org.uk. Retrieved 8 September 2016. 


External links[edit]

 "Playfair, William Henry". Dictionary of National Biography. 1885–1900.