Cowan's Paper Warehouse

(Royal Bank Stationery Warehouse)

A B-listed architectural gem in West Register Street in the centre of Edinburgh, the Paper Warehouse is hidden behind the Apple Store on Princes Street, just to the west of the Guildford Arms public house.

This Venetian Gothic warehouse and offices were built in 1864 by the architect William Hamilton Beattie (1842-98), for James Cowan (1816-95), head of a successful family firm of papermakers based at Valleyfield Mill in Penicuik. This had previously been the site of Cowan's shop and offices. Beattie was later responsible for two other buildings nearby; namely Jenners Department Store (1893) and the Balmoral Hotel (1895).

Today, rather grubby and unloved, this four-storey building is in polychromatic ashlar, with round-arch shop windows at ground level, pointed-arch windows above and extensive detailing. The decoration includes foliage, birds, reptiles, lions, dogs, goats, squirrels and angels. The former entrances at the SE and SW corners are magnificently carved and feature cartouches with the name 'COWAN' amongst the decoration. Bas-relief plaques on either side of the vehicle entrance are of James' father Alexander Cowan (1775 - 1859) and grandfather Charles Cowan (1735 - 1805), who had started their business. These plaques were the work of William Brodie (1815-81).

The building later became the Royal Bank of Scotland's Stationery Warehouse, has a connecting bridge across the lane to the west and an attic storey under a slated mansard roof is modern.

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