The Georgian House, Edinburgh

Very close to my home in Edinburgh is the charming Georgian House museum. I've visited a couple of times and can really recommend it if you want to see more of what life would have been like for those first residents of the New Town. 


A
design competition for a layout for Edinburgh's New Town was held in 1766 and won by James Craig. It had previously been decided that a New Town was desperately needed as Edinburgh's Old Town was incredibly overcrowded with squalid living conditions for its residents. Charlotte Square, where the Georgian house is, was originally named St George's Square on Craig's plans but was renamed in 1786 after King George III's Queen and first daughter to avoid confusion with the George Square in the south of the city. It was the last part of the first phase of the New Town to be completed in 1820 and was eventually built to a 1791 design by architect Robert Adam. Critics at the time had complained that the original designs for the New Town were a little too regimented so Adam was engaged to bring a flourish of grandeur to this first stage of building. The Georgian house is just to the side of what is now the First Minister for Scotland's official residence and the square is now regarded as one of the finest examples of urban design in Europe. When viewed from the road the design creates the illusion of it being one large grand house rather than several smaller residences. I'm sure at the time it was first built Charlotte Square was a pretty sort after address to have.

In this view the Georgian House is just to the left of the photo where the posters are. You can see how the illusion of one large house has been created.

The museum focuses on what the family life of one of the former residents of the house, the Lamont family, who lived there from 1796 - 1815, may have been like. John Lamont was the 18th Chief of the Clan Lamont and a member of the landed gentry. As visitors we learn that whilst they were not poor, their extravagant lifestyle and the need to be seen in the right social circles of the time etc. did find them living beyond their means. The tour of the house gives us an insight into life both above and below stairs. Personally I actually think I found the life of their servants and that part of the house the most interesting, with its large kitchen full of all the latest Georgian gadgets but also showing just how hard the staff had to work to keep the house running, as well as the all important wine cellar and the living quarters of some of the staff too. That said though the family rooms with their beautiful d├ęcor and, for example, the dining room with its table set for a sumptuous meal are just as charming and interesting too. The views from the house overlooking Charlotte Square and its central private garden are pretty lovely as well.





Like many museums the Georgian House hosts a number of special events throughout the year. I recently attended one of the special Halloween events there organised by Mercat Tours, an Edinburgh based tour company. I've done a couple of their walks now in Edinburgh and they've all been very enjoyable. I won't spoil this particular tour as I believe they do these every Halloween but it was a great evening and not like any ghost tour (and I've done a lot) that I've been on. The event is obviously in the house and being there rather than walking around a city really changed how the spooky stories of the New Town came across. Definitely well worth looking into if you're in Edinburgh over Halloween. If you visit during normal opening hours and go during the lead up to Christmas it's worth noting that they have a great selection of decorations and other nice little stocking fillers in their gift shop.

So if you want to get an idea of the day to day life of the first occupants of the New Town the Georgian House is a good place to start. Contrast this with a visit to the Old Town and you'll really get a taste for how life for the wealthier residents of Edinburgh changed as a result.

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