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Midlothian County Buildings

A grand building at the corner of the High Street and George IV Bridge in central Edinburgh, Midlothian County Buildings is today an anachronism, the City of Edinburgh having been administratively carved off from its Midlothian hinterland in 1975.

This B-listed edifice was completed in 1905 by architect J. Macintyre Henry (1852 - 1929). Richly decorated pediments face north and west, supported on Ionic columns. On the rear elevation, facing St. Giles Kirk, is a notable frieze by W. Birnie Rhind (1853 - 1933), with reliefs representing the industries of Midlothian at the time; agriculture, fishing and mining. It has been criticised as a pastiche, 'weakly Classical' or 'flabby Palladian', but it acknowledges its historical surroundings which is more than could be said for its extension, built opposite in 1968 and connected by a tunnel running beneath George IV Bridge. This extension was by Sir Robert Matthew (1906-75) in his modern-vernacular style but has now thankfully been demolished.

After 1975 the building became the Lothian Regional Council Chambers but, after Lothian Region was dismantled in 1996, the building no longer had a purpose. It was taken on by Edinburgh City Council and, with the need for a temporary home for the new Scottish Parliament in 1999, it was pressed into use as office space and the visitor centre until 2004.

Inside there is a marble pilastered entrance hall, with a fine plasterwork ceiling. Beyond is grand stairway with a wrought-iron balustrade featuring winged ladies. On the first floor is a galleried and arcaded hall and the fine tunnel-vaulted council chamber, with walnut panelling and Corinthian pilasters.


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