Old College

Old College is the home of the Law School, the Talbot Rice Gallery and the Playfair Library.

Old College


The foundation stone of the present Old College was laid in 1789, following the original plan of Robert Adam, who died in 1792, before the building's completion.

Adam was responsible for the magnificent vaulted entrance to the College. Its monolithic Roman Doric columns were built with the largest single pieces ever cut from Craigleith Quarry.

The Napoleonic Wars halted construction, however, in 1816, William Playfair, at the age of 27, was appointed to complete the building.

Playfair made several alterations to the original plan, including the removal of a proposed cross building which would have divided the existing quadrangle.

Playfair’s additions also include the Playfair Library Hall and the Natural History Museum (now the Talbot Rice Gallery).

The Old College dome

The Old College stood domeless for much of the 19th century. The building's substantial budget of £121,000 was not sufficient to pay for the dome shown in Playfair's updated plans.

As the University approached the 300th anniversary of its foundation in 1883, the project was revived and a third architect, Sir Robert Rowand Anderson, was commissioned.

The dome was eventually completed in 1887, at a cost of £3,700.

With the money left over, John Hutchison RSA was commissioned to deliver a 'figure in bronze'. The following year, the statue of 'Youth bearing a Torch of Knowledge' was duly put in place.

Old College
The University of Edinburgh South Bridge Edinburgh EH8 9YL
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