Queensberry House

Queensberry House, Canongate
©2022 Gazetteer for Scotland

Queensberry House, Canongate

Located on the Canongate in Edinburgh, backing on to Holyrood Road, is Queensberry House, which now forms part of the Scottish Parliament complex. Built in 1681, it was bought by the 1st Duke of Queensberry in 1686 to provide him with an Edinburgh residence. It is best remembered as the site of the incident whereby James Douglas, the lunatic Earl of Drumlanrig (1697 - 1715), eldest son of the 'Union' Duke of Queensberry, escaped confinement to spit-roast and devour a kitchen-boy in 1707 on the same evening his father was signing the Act of Union. The oven in front of which he was roasted is still visible in the Parliament's Allowances Office. The house was extended in the 18th C., but sold to the government by the Queensberry family in 1801. In 1808 it was converted into a barracks, with the addition of an extra floor, and the gardens removed in favour of a parade ground. More recently Queensberry House became a geriatric hospital, which closed in 1995 and then was redeveloped (1999 - 2004) to incorporate it into the new parliament being built to the east and south. The sympathetic restoration has returned the exterior of the building to its 17th C. appearance, removing the early 19th C. additions and adding a red pantiled roof, together with harled and lime-washed walls. Although none of the original interior survived preceding alterations, it was decided to preserve as much as possible of the historical A-listed structure, despite the considerable cost and the need to strengthen the building for reasons of security.

Thus Queensberry House now provides accommodation for the Presiding Officer of the Parliament, with his deputies, clerk and their staff. The Donald Dewar Reading Room includes books and memorabilia donated in memory of the late First Minister.

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