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Andrew Lamb's House

Andrew Lamb's House is a quite marvellous building situated between Waters' Close and Water Street in Leith. Dating from c.1610, it is said to be the best-preserved Hanseatic merchant's house in Scotland. Lamb built his house on a narrow plot of land, hemmed in by existing buildings in the dense patchwork of houses, businesses and warehouses that was typical of a busy port of the time. This substantial building comprises four floors and an attic. It is white-harled with stone margins and many charming features such as multiple crow-stepped and wallhead gables, a steeply-sloping orange pantiled roof, an assortment of chimney stacks, half-glazed windows which are, like the doors, of varying shapes, sizes and positions.

It is a remarkable survival, with similar properties built by other wealthy merchants of the time demolished in the 19th century in the name of progress. Records show that a Dr. Cheyne, who was a descendant of Andrew Lamb, lived in the house between 1800 and his death in 1822. By the early 20th C. the property had been divided to provide homes for eight separate families but had decayed to such an extent by 1933 that it was under threat once again. It was saved by John Crichton-Stuart, the 4th Marquess of Bute (1881 - 1947), a noted conservationist, who bought the building in 1938 for £200. Bute engaged architects Neil & Hurd to restore it in a manner considered sympathetic at the time. The work cost Bute a small fortune and was completed by 1940. The Bute family gifted the property to the National Trust for Scotland (NTS) in 1958. It was leased to the Edinburgh and Leith Old People's Welfare Council, who converted the building into a day centre for the elderly. This work was undertaken 1960-2 by Robert Hurd and Partners, who undertook some further restoration, but also added a modern single storey extension and an equally anachronistic lift-tower to the rear. The day centre was formally opened in 1962 by Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother (1900 - 2002), and the building was A-listed in 1970 owing to its historical and architectural importance. It was rented by Friends of the Earth Scotland as offices before being bought, extended and completely restored 2010-13 as a home and offices for conservation architect Nicholas Groves-Raines and his wife Kristín Hannesdóttir, who also serves as Honorary Vice-Consul for Iceland. The NTS had financial problems and could no longer maintain this property, while Groves-Raines offered to restore it to its former grandeur. Spending more than £1 million on the work, he removed the previous extensions and sympathetically created a new two-storey block to the west, with offices for his architectural practice occupying the entire ground floor, much as the merchant's business would have done in the original house. While these offices are strikingly modern inside, the upper floors have been restored with exceptional care to provide modern living within a historic canvas. The exterior has been restored, wrongly-replaced windows returned to their original style and a vernacular-style hoist positioned next to a door on the top floor, now protected by a balcony.

An older date of 1587 is widely quoted for this building, and it is possible that at least part of the house may date from before even that; part of the evidence being that Mary, Queen of Scots (1542-87) 'remainit in Andro Lamb`s hous beit the space of ane hour' on her return from France in 1561. It may be that Mary visited an earlier house on this site or that there was more than one Andrew Lamb - the Lambs had been a prominent family in Leith since the early 14th C. There was certainly another Andrew Lamb (c.1565 - 1634), who was Bishop of Brechin, then of Galloway and finally Minister at South Leith.

The garden takes the form of a parterre.


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