It always seemed incomprehensible that Edinburgh, one of the greatest neoclassical cities in the world, should have remotely considered the conversion of the Old Royal High School, a great building by Thomas Hamilton on such a prominent site on Calton Hill, into a luxury hotel. But as I have learned during the Inquiry into the future of the Whitechapel Bell Foundry, there are plenty of solemn-faced pundits, including the Commissioners of Historic England, who think nothing of butchering a major historic building in the name of tourist development. One might hope that post-Covid, the mood might turn towards preservation and protection of historic monuments, not that quisling term ‘adaptive re-use’.
2 thoughts on “The Old Royal High School”
Indeed. There was concerted opposition from conservation bodies, local organisations and many individuals among whose number, in a minor way, I count myself. There has been much, if subdued, celebration. The task now is to support St Mary’s Music School which is being backed by the Dunard Trust, in its efforts to take over the building. The plans add to the outside sensitively and preserve much of the interior. I have had the good fortune to see it when it was still operating as a school in the sixties, when derelict but still wind and water tight and finally, bizarrely, at the opening night party for the Edinburgh International Film Festival premier of Trainspotting.
I’m really glad that the Dunard Trust are involved in the alternative proposal – they were very helpful and supportive at the RA.