Register House

(General Register House)

Register House, Edinburgh
©2022 Gazetteer for Scotland

Register House, Edinburgh

Occupying a prominent position opposite the north end of North Bridge, at the east end of Princes Street in Edinburgh, is Register House (also known as General Register House). A fine example of a building by Robert and John Adam (1728-92 and 1721-92), the foundation stone was laid in 1774, with the intention of creating a repository for Scotland's official records and archives, now maintained by the National Records of Scotland. Subsequently, these have over-flowed into several other buildings, including West Register House, New Register House and Thomas Thomson House at Bankhead. The building, in local stone from quarries at Craigleith and Hailes, comprises a Corinthian portico centred within a classical Palladian facade, with a domed rotunda behind. Wings to the east and west are terminated by towers, which were later topped by small clock-towers. Register House was one of the first buildings erected in Edinburgh's New Town. Although opened in 1789, it was not until the 1820s that Robert Reid (1774 - 1856) completed the rear section. Adam designed the building carefully for its purpose, with a central heating system intended to protect the records from fire and thick interior walls intended to inhibit the spread of any fire which did break out.

An equestrian statue of Wellington by Sir John Steell (1804-91) stands in front. Sir James Gowans (1821-90) was responsible for mounting this on a red Aberdeen granite pedestal, designed by David Bryce (1803-76). The statue is often referred to as "The Iron Duke in Bronze by Steell".

The exterior of the building served as a location in the film The 39 Steps (2008), while behind is the Archivists' Garden.

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