Queensberry House is situated in Canongate, Edinburgh. It is now incorporated into the new Scottish Parliament complex.
Whilst the Scottish Parliament is one of the best examples of contemporary 21st century stone architecture, Queensberry House harks back to a previous age. It is over 300 years old and stands in marked contrast to the other buildings in the complex.
Built in 1667
Queensberry House was built in approximately 1667 for Dame Margaret Douglas of Balmakellie. The house was soon bought by the 1st Duke of Queensberry in 1686 to be used as his Edinburgh residence.
It was here that it acquired its name. There is no doubt that at this time, Queensberry House would have been one of the most grand houses in the Edinburgh area.
Queensberry has 52 rooms with hearths whereas the Earl of Argyll’s Moray House had just 18. The house also featured a look out gallery on the roof.
Guests could look out at the fine Edinburgh skyline. The house featured fine formal gardens featuring intricate designs and beautiful plants.
The Queensberry House Scandal
The house is no stranger to scandal. Whilst the Duke of Queensberry was in the Act of Union negotiations in 1707, his criminally insane son was left alone in the house.
When the Duke returned allegedly he found his son finishing off the remains of the kitchen boy that he had roasted. This house has a macabre atmosphere.
Turned into Dwellings
As time went on, the house was divided up into flats/apartments. Its use gradually changed from residential to public.
Queensberry House has over the years been used in a number of ways including as a barracks, a hospital and a refuge for the poor. It became a hospital in 1945 until it was bought by the Scottish government to be an integral part of the new Scottish Parliament building.
Queensberry House was subject to extensive repair and restoration in 1999-2000. Firstly, specialist contractors removed the 19th century plaster from the entirety of the building.
Archaeologists identified and recorded anything of note that was found at the time. Secondly, the external render was removed and specialist archaeologists surveyed the uncovered stonework.
Specialist stonemasons and engineers worked together to ensure that the structure was stabilized. Non-historic elements of the building’s structure were removed.
Stonemasons strengthened the walls in the building and added secondary glazing as a security measure. Where stonework is considered to be of an outstanding quality, it has been left exposed.
Less healthy looking stonework has been covered with plasterboard and painted. Externally, the walls have been re-harled and lime-washed.
Magnificent Fire Place
Parliament’s coffeeshop is the location of one of the most historic features of the house; the wonderful stone fireplace. This fantastic piece of stonework was made by the finest Edinburgh stonemasons.
It is an iconic piece of craftsmanship and could be the fireplace where that poor kitchen boy was roasted and eaten all those years ago – but that’s just speculation!