House Histories

Ever since Julie Myerson’s book  Home: The Story of everyone who ever lived in our house, house history has attracted a growing number of enthusiastic followers.


With a plentiful supply of historical sources to draw on, Edinburgh is an ideal place to pursue this hobby, whether or not it turns into a book or is just for personal interest.

Edinburgh World Heritage recently launched a new area of their site with podcasts and details of a handful of the city’s most well-known buildings: The Assembly Rooms, No.5 Charlotte Square, Riddle’s Court, Lady Stair’s House (now the Writers’ Museum – that would be worth a separate post!), as well as Well Court in Duddingston.

Tomorrow (18 April) marks World Heritage Day, with special events at Gladstone’s Land (a 17th-century house in the Lawnmarket that belonged to the wealthy merchant Thomas Gladstone) and elsewhere.  World Heritage Day apparently dates back to 1983 when UNESCO suggested that 18 April should be set aside as a special day to raise awareness of historic buildings and their settings.

Our house is certainly not comparable in terms of historical importance, but it’s one of the oldest on the street and a bit of quick research some years ago when we moved here revealed an interesting story of changes as the house was enlarged to reflect the social status of its new owners – the Auchinleck family – in the 1830s.    From a rather unremarkable 18th-century rectangular building, it was extended into a square Georgian house complete with elaborate mouldings  and domed ceilings.  I’m sure there’s a story there too – I’d better practise what I preach and get myself up to the Edinburgh City Library and archives.  One feature that I love is that the house was originally surrounded by cherry orchards (wild cherries or gean), but I like to think that it lends a chekhovian feel to the area (especially since they’ve all long gone!).

As an afterthought, here’s what the cherry blossom looks like at the moment.


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