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Seventeenth Century Buildings in Edinburgh

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The art of the Renaissance made slow progress in Scotland owing to the long - drawn troubles of the Reformation period, but the opening of the seventeenth century marked a revival of building activity. The Union of Crowns brought about more peaceful relations with England; French influence declined, while contact with the Low Countries became closer.

Evidence of the new spirit is clearly shown in the architecture of the Tron, Greyfriars', and Canongate Churches, and particularly in George Heriot's Hospital 1628, a notable example of school architecture which should be seen by all visitors.

Close by is the beautiful "Campo Santo" of Greyfriars, where are many remarkable monuments, evidently the work of masons who had been engaged on the school. Contemporary domestic work is preserved in Castlehill, Lawnmarket, and particularly in Whitehorse and Bakehouse Closes, Canongate.

Another and somewhat curious example is found in the Parliament House (1631 - 40), near St. Giles, which shows an attempt to resurrect mediaeval traditions.

In Holyroodhouse, we may trace the same conservative spirit at work in the imitation south tower, begun in 1671, and the rather timid use of classical forms.

Indeed, it may be said that not till after the revolution of 1688 did the modernist spirit come into power in Edinburgh. A striking monument to the change is seen in the front of Milne's Court, Lawnmarket, built immediately after the Revolution, as part of a daring innovation by which several narrow closes were opened up to form a small court.

The Burgh at this time, and indeed for nearly one hundred years after, remained confined within its defences, and expansion was mainly in an upward direction. The older cottage-like houses were pulled down, and their sites and gardens, or "closes," were covered by tall, tightly packed blocks of flats, or tenements as they are called locally, which reached a height of ten or twelve or more storeys - perhaps the tallest dwellings erected by man before the latter part of the nineteenth century.

The new system of court building made slow progress during the early eighteenth century, one of the latest and best examples being that constructed in 1753 for the Royal Exchange, now the Municipal headquarters of the city.

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