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High Street, Mercat Cross, Edinburgh

Description: High Street, Mercat Cross

Category: A
Date Listed: 14 December 1970
Historic Scotland Building ID: 27792

OS Grid Coordinates: 325771, 673597
Latitude/Longitude: 55.9497, -3.1902

Location: 2 Parliament Square, Edinburgh, City of Edinburgh EH1 1PW

Locality: Edinburgh
County: City of Edinburgh
Country: Scotland
Postcode: EH1 1PW

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Listing Text

Sydney Mitchell, 1885 (replica of former 15th and 17th century structures - see Notes). Distinctive Market Cross with large octagonal drum platform and narrow shaft. Ionic columns to corners. Keyblocked round arch at each face. Deep parapet with ornately corbelled angle-rounds. Octagonal shaft and moulded capital surmounted by unicorn finial. Painted heraldic panels to parapet faces. Carved inscription above timber door with internal stair leading to platform.

This text is a legacy record and has not been updated since the building was originally listed. Details of the building may have changed in the intervening time. You should not rely on this listing as an accurate description of the building.

Ordnance Survey, First Edition - 1852. Journal - `The Builder' November 21 (1885). Plans in `British Architect' Journal, December 4 (1885). John Gifford et al, Buildings of Scotland - Edinburgh, (1991) p183. Charles McKean, Edinburgh - An Illustrated Architectural Guide (1992). Dictionary of Scottish Architects, (accessed 10.05.2007)

A Group with Nos 2-11 Parliament Square, Advocates´ Library, Signet Library, Parliament Hall, 1 Parliament Square, St Giles High Kirk, Charles II Statue, City Chambers, Alexander and Bucephalus Statue, Queensberry Memorial and Lothian Chambers.

Edinburgh's Mercat Cross is a fine late 19th century reconstruction and re-imagining of its predecessors. It occupies a particularly prominent and sensitive location on the High Street in front of the W side of Parliament Square, beside St Giles Kirk. Representing the centre of social and civic life in the City throughout the centuries, the current Mercat Cross is of considerable contextual and historic interest and offers significant group value with the buildings that surround it.

The shaft and capital head are 1970 replacements of the original 15th century fabric, removed at that time to protect them from further deterioration. Both had been used in a previous rebuilding of the Cross in 1617 by John Tailefer and John Mylne. In 1866 the shaft and capital were erected on a simple stepped base near the present site. The unicorn was added in 1869. The self-consciously artisanal octagonal drum designed by Sidney Mitchell in 1885 was intended to be a replica of Tailefer and Mylnes reconstruction, taken from one surviving 18th century engraving. The renowned Edinburgh-based architect Sydney Mitchell was one of the country's finest 19th century architects, whose reputation has increased in recent years. The completed work, incorporating the 15th century shaft and capital, was gifted to the town by British Prime Minister, William Ewart Gladstone who also composed the Latin inscription above the main door of the octagonal drum. The painted panels includes the Arms of Edinburgh, copied from a panel of the 1617 cross. Other panels from the earlier cross, depicting human heads, also survive. These are currently built into a wall at Abbotsford House in the Scottish Borders. The cross was repaired by the City Architect's Department in 1970.

List description updated at resurvey (2007/08).

Source: Historic Scotland

Listed building text is © Crown Copyright. Reproduced under licence.