The Hotel

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Dean of Guild Court petition and elevation plan to build the Waterloo Hotel, Waterloo Place, Edinburgh 12 November 1818. From collection held at Edinburgh City Archives.

Dean of Guild Court petition 12 November 1818



Edinburgh is a place that thrives on tourism. From the Hogmanay street party to the Tattoo and festival season, tourists flock to the city. These visitors need somewhere to stay, and so Edinburgh has many prominent hotels.

One of the first large purpose-built hotels in the city was the Waterloo Hotel, situated at Waterloo Place, that opened its doors on 21st August 1819.

Waterloo Place, Edinburgh 1893 – shows the Waterloo Hotel in the distance on the right hand side of the street. Kindly reproduced from the Edinburgh and Scottish Collection, Edinburgh Central Library

The hotel was host to several notable guests during the 19th century, including the 2nd Earl Grey, Charles Grey, British Prime Minister, reformer and the name behind the tea, who received his Freedom of the City honour at a ceremony held at the hotel.  The great Charles Dickens also stayed in the hotel several times throughout 1861 while writing Great Expectations.

Ever city changes over time and many historic buildings in Edinburgh have changed their purpose. So it was with the Waterloo Hotel, which was eventually turned into offices in 1898. Yet things often happen in cycles, and it was once again re-fitted to become a hotel by Apex Hotels in 2009.

Another purpose-built iconic hotel in the city was the North British Hotel, now known as the Balmoral Hotel, which was built by the North British Railway Company in 1902. Built at a time when railway companies were building lavish hotels by their main stations (see Glasgow’s Central Station Hotel, Manchester’s Midland Hotel and the Great Eastern Hotel in London), it has remained a hotel throughout its 116 year life so far.

Waverley Station Hotel 23 April 1896
Dean of Guild Court Plan section for the North British Hotel (now the Balmoral Hotel on Princes Street) 23 April 1896. From collection held at Edinburgh City Archives.
North Elevation drawing of proposed Scotsman Building submitted to Dean of Guild Court in 1903. From collection held at Edinburgh City Archives.

Just across the old Nor Loch is the Scotsman Building. Originally built as the offices of the Scotsman newspaper in 1905, it served as the companies headquarters for over 90 years until the advent of new printing technology made the space unsuitable. It was then sold and turned into a hotel in 2001.

Edinburgh remembers its buildings in architectural drawings, photographs, licensing registers and street directories amongst other records. In particular, the Dean of Guild records stretch back from 1762 onward and cover a whole host of other properties in the city – including theatres, houses, businesses, etc.

Usher Hall Plan
Plan for the Usher Hall on Lothian Road dated 1910 submitted to the Dean of Guild Court for approval. From collection held at Edinburgh City Archives.

We preserve these records to tell us about the past; but we want you to tell us what we should collect about life today for tomorrow: