George Heriot's School

(Heriot's Hospital)

George Heriot's School, Lauriston Place
©2023 Gazetteer for Scotland

George Heriot's School, Lauriston Place

Located in Lauriston Place, on a ridge above Edinburgh's Grassmarket, is the grand 17th Century Scottish Renaissance edifice which is George Heriot's School.

The school, and an associated trust-fund, had been endowed by goldsmith George Heriot (1563 - 1624), who had risen to prominence in the court of King James VI. Heriot had made provision for a 'hospital' for the education of the fatherless sons of Edinburgh Burgesses. The foundation stone was laid in 1628, but it took 22 years for the building to be completed at a cost of £27000. Almost immediately, it was occupied as a military hospital by Oliver Cromwell's army. Thus the school did not open until 1659, when General Monk (1608-70) authorised the return of the building to its Governors. The architect was the Royal Mason, William Wallace (d.1631) and work was continued by his assistant William Aytoun after Wallace's death. Built using stone from Ravelston and with influences taken from Linlithgow Palace, Heriot's Hospital was the first completely regular design for a building in Scotland, with four ranges arranged around a courtyard and corner towers.

The master mason Robert Mylne (1633 - 1710) added to the building in 1693. There are fine interiors including the Great Hall, Council Room and Chapel. The building is replete with classical details, engraved mottos and carvings, including a statue of George Heriot also by Mylne.

By the 19th Century some 180 boys were resident and numbers had been inscribed on the paving stones in the Quadrangle; one number for each boy when the register was taken each morning. George Heriot's Trust was also responsible for a number of "outschools" in Edinburgh. In 1886, boarding ceased and fee-paying boys came to the renamed George Heriot's School. Girls were first admitted in 1979 and new buildings have been developed to continue the school's reputation for sound education. The school maintains playing fields and sports facilities in the Goldenacre district of the city.

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