The History of Leith

October 3, 2012

The ancient hall of the Royal College of Surgeons

On the west side of the Pleasance
the ancient hall of the
Royal College of Surgeons,* which, bounded by the
eastern flank of the city wall, was built by that
body when they abandoned their previous place of
meeting, which they rented in Dickson’s Close for
£40 yearly, and acquired Curriehill House and
grounds, the spot within the angle of the wall
referred to. This had anciently belonged to the
Black Friars, but was secularised, and passed successively
into the hands of Sir John and Sir James
Skene, judges of the Court of Session, both under
the title of Lord Curriehill. Sir James Skene
” succeeded Thomas, Earl of Melrose, as President
on the i4th Feb., 1626, in which office he continued
till his death, which took place on the i5th
October, 1633, in his own lodging beside the
Grammar School of Edinburgh.”
After them ,it became the property of Samuel
Johnstoun of the Sciennes ; and after him of the
patrons of the university, who made it the house
of their professor of divinity, and he sold it to the
surgeons for 3,000 merks Scots in 1656.
This house, which should have been described in
its place, is shown by Rothiemay’s plan
in 1647 to have been a large half-quadrangular fourstoreyed
house, with dormer windows, a circular
turnpike stair with a conical roof on its north front,
and surrounded by a spacious garden, enclosed on
the south and east by the battlemented wall of
the city, and having a doorway in the boundary
wall of the High School yard on the north. On
the site of this edifice there was raised the future
Royal College of Surgeons, giving still its name to
the adjacent Square.
On the west side of that square stood the hall of
the Royal Medical Society, which, Arnot says, was
coeval with the institution of a regular school of
medicine in the University ” by the establishment
of professors in the different branches of that
science. Dr. Cullen, Dr. Fothergill, and others
of the most eminent physicians in Britain, were
among the first of its members. None of its
records, however, of an earlier date than A.D.
1737, have been preserved.”

source-Old and New Edinburgh

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