Acheson House is located just off the Canongate in Edinburgh’s Old Town and is one of the most beautiful stone buildings you will see in the Scottish capital. Acheson House is protected as a category A listed building as an “outstanding example of a large, early 17th century Scottish townhouse.”
The history of Acheson House
Acheson House’s history stretches back to 1633 when it was built by one of King Charles I’s ministers, Sir Archibald Acheson. During the 17th century, the Canongate was the desired residential location for the wealthy elite as it was less crowded than the Lawnmarket or High Street and was much closer to the Palace of Holyroodhouse.
The house was built just off Canongate accessed through Bakehouse Close, the main entrance of the building being hidden behind a walled courtyard. A close look at the stonework rendering reveals the skill that the Edinburgh stonemasons who built the house displayed.
If you look above one of the doorways, you can actually see the Acheson family crest carved into the stone which features a cockerel and a trumpet. You can also see that there is a monogram of Archibald Acheson and his wife Margaret Hamilton’s initials.
When it was built, there is no doubt that this would be one of the grandest residences in the city, reflecting the power and influence of the owner.
Unfortunately, Acheson was not able to enjoy his new residence for long because he died in 1634. Inherited by his son, he quickly sold it to Patrick Wood, a wealthy Edinburgh merchant.
Over the next 200 years it would go on to be sold many, many times and was eventually split up into a tenement. By the 1800s the house had become overcrowded and somewhat dilapidated and was colloquially known as the ‘Cock and Trumpet’ thanks to the Acheson family crest above the doorway.
1924 saw the house bought as part of a slum clearance, as declining living standards saw many buildings in this area overcrowded with a rise in illness and disease. It was then bought by the Marquess of Bute who wished to save it from demolition.
In 1935 he commissioned eminent architects Neil and Hard to restore the building and they and their expert stonemasons worked on both the interior and exterior of this beautiful stone building. Thanks to the Marquess of Bute’s money, the building was restored to its former glory, just like he had done for both Gladstone’s Land and houses on Charlotte Square.
Scottish Craft Centre
Acheson House eventually became the Scottish Craft Centre in the 1950s before returning to the ownership of Edinburgh Council in 1991. After standing empty for the last few years, the ground floor is now to become part of the Museum of Edinburgh and the first floor will be the head office of Edinburgh World Heritage.
If you want to get a real taste of Edinburgh history and experience one of the finest stone buildings in the city, then a trip to Acheson House should definitely be on your itinerary.