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Playfair, William Henry, 1790-1857 (architect)



  • Existence: 1790 - 1857


The architect William Henry Playfair was born in Russell Square, London, July 1789. On the death of his father, Playfair was sent to reside with his uncle in Edinburgh. Professor John Playfair, mathematician and geologist and a leading figure in the Edinburgh Enlightenment, took control of his nephew's education. Following his father's profession, the young Playfair studied under William Starke of Glasgow. His first public appointment was the laying out of part of the New Town in Edinburgh in 1815.

Then, after a visit to France in 1816, he established himself professionally by winning the commission in 1817 to complete the unfinished University buildings (leaving the front as designed by Robert and James Adam). He also designed the city's Royal Terrace and Regent Terrace on the Calton Hill estate; the unfinished National Monument on Calton Hill; and, the Royal Scottish Academy and the National Gallery on the Mound. While Playfair's most important works in Edinburgh have been executed in the Greek revivalist or classical style - earning for Edinburgh the title of 'Athens of the North' - he was competent in other styles too. He designed New College for the ten newly established Free Church of Scotland, a jagged-lined rendering of the Gothic style. He also built country houses and mansions in the Italianate and Tudor styles.

Playfair died in Edinburgh after a long illness on 27 May 1857.

Found in 163 Collections and/or Records:

Furnishings of the Lower Museum, 5th July 1819

Identifier: Coll-13/1/1/129
Scope and Contents

Elevation of the entrance door and details of the architrave and mouldings of windows and doors.

Dates: 5th July 1819

Iron Grating for Windows and Chemistry Cellars, 3rd July 1819

Identifier: Coll-13/1/1/126
Scope and Contents

Plan and sectional detail of iron grating for windows.

N.B. The grating to be of wrought iron with Steel Pivots turning in iron sockets, door nailed and let into the stone and (?) with lead.

Dates: 3rd July 1819

Iron Work for Roofing of Museum, 6th December 1817

Identifier: Coll-13/1/1/25
Scope and Contents Full Size drawing illustrating 2 variations of bolts to be found among the roofing details of the Museum. Details about the different components and materials can be found in the captions. the drawing illustrates in full size the constructive details about the junction between the bolts and cast iron braces. Two different types of bolts are shown both in front and side view. On the reverse of the...
Dates: 6th December 1817

Letter Book of Thomas Graham, 1st Baron Lynedoch

 Collection — Volume Gen.721
Identifier: Coll-1676
Scope and Contents Volume containing summaries of outgoing correspondence from Lord Lynedoch for 1830. A typed sheet inside the front cover lists recipients as: Beford (Duke of), Beresford (Lord), Cathcart (Earl of), Dacre (Lord), Dacre (Lady), Farquhar (Sir T.), Fleming (Admiral), Gardiner (Sir R.), Graham (Robert), Haddington (Earl of), Hare (Colonel), Harrington (Lord), Hill (Lord), Hill (Sir Rowland), Hope (Sir A.), Hope (Sir J.A.), Keith (Lady), Macdonald (General), MacGrigor (Sir J.),...
Dates: 01 Feb 1830 - 20 Sep 1830

Letters, No.4, 1830-1833

Identifier: Coll-1675/1
Scope and Contents

The volume begins with an A-Z index of recipients' names, followed by 498 pages of copies of outgoing letters.

Dates: 1830-1833

Letters, No.7, 1840-1845

Identifier: Coll-1675/2
Scope and Contents

The volume begins with an A-Z index of recipients' names, followed by 516 pages of copies of outgoing letters.

Dates: 1840-1845