Audio Point Nine – St Andrew’s Square, Melville Monument and Dundas House.

A short sample from Edinburgh Audio Guide – Audio Point Nine.

St Andrew’s Square.

St Andrew’s Square was the first of the two grand garden squares to be completed following James Craig’s design of the New Town.

Construction of the square started in 1772 and when the first buildings were completed it quickly became the most fashionable and prestigious residential area in Edinburgh. The first residents of the square were extremely wealthy landowners, bankers and aristocrats.

For over 200 years St Andrew’s Square gardens served as a as private pleasure grounds for the surrounding properties. In 2008, after an extensive 2.6 million refurbishment these privately owned gardens were open to public for the first time.

Melville Monument.

Standing in the centre of the square is a soaring 44-meter-high neo-classical column. This is a memorial to Henry Dundas, 1st Viscount Melville. The column is topped by a 4-meter-tall statue of Henry Dundas himself. It was erected between 1821 and 1823.

Over a long period at the turn of 18th and 19th centuries Henry Dundas was the most powerful politician in Scotland. He became known as “Uncrowned King of Scotland” or even as the “Great Tyrant”.

Henry Dundas is a very controversial figure in British history, to say the least.

Early in his career he took an interest in the welfare of the Highlands, and founded the Highland Society in 1784. He was instrumental in the encouragement of the Scottish Enlightenment and earned himself a reputation as a liberal in the circles in which he frequented.

As Home Secretary though, he opposed any legislative efforts to abolish the slave trade in the British Empire immediately. Instead, he proposed a gradual abolition over 8 years. Because of his opposition slave trade continued for 15 years until it was abolished in 1807.

When Henry Dundas was the first lord of the Admiralty, he was impeached for the misuse of naval funds, and although found not guilty he never held office again.

Despite all the controversy the monument was funded through the Royal Navy, with the subscription raised by navy officers as tribute to Dundas for his services.

Dundas House.

One of the most interesting landmarks in the square is Dundas House located at No36 St Andrew’s Square. It is a grand Palladian style house fronted with a set of Corinthian rectangular columns. The house was built in 1774 by Sir Lawrence Dundas on the plot of land originally intended for St Andrew’s church.

James Craig’s vision of symmetry and simplicity is reflected in his design of the New Town – two mirroring garden squares with two churches facing one another across George Street. St Andrew’s church looking across the main thoroughfare at St George Church in Charlotte Square.

In 1768, Sir Lawrence Dundas, an extremely wealthy and influential businessman and a distant relative of Henry Dundas, saw James Craig’s plan. He saw a potential in the area and decided to buy a plot of land on the east side of the square which was intended for St Andrew’s church.

Instead of constructing the church Sir Lawrence built a large mansion for his family.

Craig’s idea of symmetry was thwarted but the house built by Sir William Chambers for Sir Lawrence Dundas turned out to be an outstanding example of neo-classical architecture.

Dundas House is now the headquarters of The Royal Bank of Scotland.