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  • Writer's pictureRobert Sproul-Cran

Hidden remains of the old Scottish Parliament

So we know that Parliament Hall still exists, but the hidden remains are more astonishing than I could have imagined...

We've discovered that you can see the old exterior from Edinburgh's George IV Bridge. But the main facade looking on to Parliament Square behind St Giles Cathedral seems lost forever. The Robert Reid construction of the early 1820s replaced the much-loved old Parliament, to the disgust of many of the good burghers of Edinburgh.

But look more closely at those windows. The central ones seem real enough - but the ones on either side are fake. The glass is painted black on the inside to disguise the fact that there are no rooms behind them. Remarkably, parts of the old Scottish Parliament building are hidden inside, and access is only possible with special permission. Enter a hidden staircase from a secret location near the entrance to Parliament Hall and you discover that you are inside the original circular tower which used to stand in the 'L' shape of the building!

High on the wall is the Macer's Window. This is where the Macer would shout out announcements of court proceedings to Parliament Hall below. It's still visible from within Parliament Hall, but here we see the inside story.

A window to the outside is really a door...

And once on the balcony you can see how the dummy windows are painted black.

So what's behind these windows? There is an access panel giving a tantalising glimpse of what's behind the Reid facade. Amazingly the original facade still exists. I can look at the original windows - their masonry smashed to make space for the new stonework, but the structure still visible.

On the right of this photo is the back of the fake window. Top centre is part of the window surround. And on the left is the original ashlar facade of the old Scottish Parliament. But there's more...

Head along the balcony and you open a door to enter a small room. It's behind the central window in the first photo in this blog. And the back wall is remarkable.

Exactly two hundred years since Reid's workmen smashed the main door apart and build over the old Scottish Parliament we're looking at the original facade of the building. Study the stonework carefully, and see what you can make out. Here's a print of the building about 1640 which shows the original layout. In the next blog we'll uncover how the historical record and the present-day remains match up. And this is just the start of an eye-opening detective story.


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