Melville Monument

Melville Memorial, St. Andrew's Square, Edinburgh
©2022 Gazetteer for Scotland

Melville Memorial, St. Andrew's Square, Edinburgh

The grand Melville Monument, in the centre of Edinburgh's St. Andrew Square, was erected in 1823 in memory of Henry Dundas, the Viscount Melville (1742 - 1811), otherwise known as the 'Uncrowned King of Scotland' such was his political power. It is perhaps not by accident that Dundas, sometimes called King Henry the 9th, looks down from his monument onto George Street, named in honour of the reigning King George III.

Designed by William Burn (1789 - 1870) and modelled on Trajan's Column in Rome, the monument is 42.6m (140 feet) in height and weighs 1500 tons. It needed substantial foundations and its construction was therefore entrusted to the noted lighthouse engineer Robert Stevenson (1772 - 1850), grandfather of author Robert Louis Stevenson (1850-94). Such was the mass of the monument that Stevenson reused the world's first line balance crane which he had designed more than a decade previously in conjunction with his carpenter, Francis Watt, to build the Bell Rock Lighthouse.

The statue at the top is the work of Francis Chantrey (1781 - 1841) and Robert Forrest (1790 - 1852). It was hoisted into position in 1828.

The cost of the monument was met by contributions from officers and men of the Royal Navy (Dundas was, amongst other positions, Treasurer of the Navy).

The Institute of Civil Engineers placed a plaque on the column in 2003 noting the historical importance of the structure. In 2008 the garden surrounding the monument was opened to the public for the first time in its long history.

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