Historic tenements and shops restored to former glory | Mitie opens Usher Hall test centre | Gambling giant in double takeover bid

A £500,000 programme of conservation work has just been completed on the last of three historic tenements on the Canongate in the Scottish capital.

The buildings comprise 16 residential dwellings and five shops and the work was led by Edinburgh World Heritage, and funded by the charity’s Conservation Funding Programme, which is supported by Historic Environment Scotland.

Edinburgh World Heritage also provided expertise, advice and support to the residents and shopowners throughout the project.

The restoration and conservation of 195-197 Canongate, a five-storeyed, six-bayed block, was carried out by David Willis at CLWG Architects, and retained the traditional features of the tenement.

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These include repairs to the rubble and dressed stonework, timber-framed multi-paned sash and case windows and the carved panel in one of the central bays between the first and second floors which displays the emblem of the cordiners.

Additional work included repairing chimney heads and gables, overhauling roofs, gutters and flashings, repairing the south external masonry wall, removing loose paint and re-painting the north elevation, and repairing rainwater goods. 


Ray Disotto, owner of the Fudge House on the ground floor of 195-197 Canongate said: “The generous grant offer by Edinburgh World Heritage made this work possible, and it has revived the look of the building which now blends in with rest of the Royal Mile. I’m sure it will improve business for all in the street.”  

Christina Sinclair, director of Edinburgh World Heritage, said: “The Conservation Funding Programme provides invaluable support to residents and owners of traditional buildings in and around the World Heritage Site to help them organise, to provide them with expertise, and to offer practical financial support, from beginning to end. Following the success of the conservation work at 195-197 Canongate, we are exploring how to better engage communities in areas outside of the World Heritage Site.” 

City of Edinburgh Council planning convener Neil Gardiner said: “The conservation work carried out in the Canongate is a perfect example of a community working together. I hope other property owners see the incredible difference it makes and feel compelled to follow suit.”

Also known as cordiner’s land, 195-197 Canongate is a 17th century tenement, which, together with its neighbours, “embodies an important part of the Old Town” and is part of the Old and New Towns World Heritage Site.

The cordiners were tanners, curriers – people who prepared leather for sale – and shoemakers who derived their title from the French “Courdouanier” meaning “of Cordova”, the source of the finest leather at the time. In 1825, they rebuilt the front half of the tenement and it became their meeting-place.

The cordiners would also have sold their goods in the premises on the ground floor of the tenements, known as luckenbooths,’ a purpose these tenements retain.

Throughout this period, the Canongate was its own royal burgh, established by King David I in 1128, and independent of Edinburgh until the two were united in 1865. 

In the mid-20th century, these three tenemant buildings were part of the substantial restoration of the historic Tolbooth area spearheaded by city architect Robert Hurd. His proposals respected the scale and nature of existing buildings and retained much of the original fabric of the buildings.


Further conservation work, grant-aided by Edinburgh World Heritage, was completed in 2015 to 183-187 Canongate, a 300-year-old tenement, also known as Bible Land after the carved stone cartouche on its frontage, and in 2019 to 189 and 191 Canongate, probably best identified by its striking red lime harling and limewash, reinstated as part of its conservation.  

The charity said the tenements “represent nearly 1000 years of Scotland’s history”.

A new walk-in coronavirus testing centre has opened at the Usher Hall concert venue in Edinburgh.

The city centre site opens amid a number of outbreaks at student halls of residence across Scotland, including 120 cases at Edinburgh Napier University, and a small number at Queen Margaret University and the University of Edinburgh.

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Facilities management firm Mitie will run the Usher Hall centre with the UK Government, offering pre-booked tests in a location accessible by people who do not have a car.

A team has been working since Wednesday to transform the Georgian building into a testing centre, with booths set up in the foyer areas.

Ric Fyfe, mobilisation lead at Mitie, said it is an “amazing” venue and staff have been careful to preserve the building.

He said: “We’re in central Edinburgh, we’re in an iconic venue.

“The Usher Hall have very kindly let us use their facility and it’s easy for people to get to.

“It’s an amazing venue with a lot of space.

“It’s about making sure we take what is a beautiful old building and we make sure we preserve the marble floors… But also we make sure it can be clinically cleaned.”

Scotland Office minister Iain Stewart said: “We are pleased to be working with commercial partners and with Edinburgh’s iconic Usher Hall.

“These sites are not possible without the hard work of many people and I would like to thank everyone involved for their incredible efforts.”

Gambling giant William Hill has said it has received two separate takeover bids from private equity giant Apollo and casino group Caesars Entertainment.

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The betting business said it received a written proposal from Apollo on August 27, before receiving further proposals from each party.

It told investors discussions “are ongoing”.

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