the mid 17th century, there were too many Edinburgh inhabitants
to fit comfortably into the Old Town. Buildings in the Royal
Mile, within the city walls, were high with poor sanitation,
and the closes between them were narrow.
Under Provost Drummond, a competition was held to design a ‘New
Town’. This would extend Edinburgh to the north by building
on the open farmland beyond the Nor’ Loch, about half a
mile to the north of the Old Town. The only road in this area
was Lang Dykes, with its dry stone walls.
Craig, then 22 years old, won
this competition in 1766. His plan was revised the following
year and building commenced in 1767. Craig’s plan
proposed that a new street, George Street (named after
George III) should be built along the ridge to the north
of the Nor’ Loch.
Access to this land to the
north of the Nor' Loch had been difficult, but later the loch
was later drained in 1763 to create what is now Princes Street
Gardens. Six years later, the North Bridge opened, and in 1779
work began on creating the Earthen Mound (now the Mound) to
link the Old and New towns of Edinburgh.
George Street was to be the
grandest and widest street in the New Town, 115 ft broad, linking
two new squares, St Andrew Square and St George Square. It
was subsequently decided that St George Square should be named
Charlotte Square after Queen Charlotte, wife of George III.
The other main streets in
Craig’s Plan were Queen Street and Princes Street flanking
George Street on the north and south, and Castle Street, Frederick
Street and Hanover Street forming a grid.
To encourage Old Town residents
to move to the New Town, a £20 prize was offered to the
first person to build their home in the New Town. This was
won by George Young who laid his foundation stone in George
Street in 1867. His house can now be seen in Thistle Court,
to the north of George Street.
In the late-1860s, as the building
work began, George Street would have resembled a straight country
road with fences on either site. It was to be another two or
three decades before all the houses in George Street were built.
Statues, including one to George IV who visited Edinburgh in
1822 were later added to the George Street junctions with Castle
Street, Frederick Street and Hanover Street.
The street layout around George Street today is still the same
as appeared in Craig's plan drawn up in the 1760s. More streets
have been built following further plans, created between 1802
and 1822, to extend the New Town further to the west, north
Initially, George Street was mainly residential. During the
19th and 20th centuries, several banks and insurance companies
created new offices in the street, but in recent years most
of these have found new use as bars and night clubs, and a
number of new up-market shops have moved into the street.
Other prominent buildings built in George Street
included The George Hotel, The Royal Society of
Edinburgh, St Andrew’s
& St George’s Church, The Assembly Rooms and The