Edinburgh History Insights #1 Dundas House

At 36 St. Andrew Square, flanking the East Side of the Square itself, is
the impressive Dundas House, now the global Headquarters for the Royal Bank of
Scotland, one of the world’s biggest banking firms.

There are few grander places from which to withdraw your cash.

Dundas House was originally built in 1772 for Sir Laurence Dundas of Kerse.
Dundas was a merchant and politician at the time, and owned much of the land
the New Town came to be built upon. It is for this reason that his name was
later given to the street that runs north from Hanover Street to Cannonmills. Dundas
hired Sir William Chambers, one of the foremost architects of his time, to
build the mansion on the site of what was originally going to be St. Andrew’s
Church. Chambers took inspiration from a contemporary Palladian villa in
Twickenham, and built the house out of grey Ravelston stone and cream sandstone
ashlar. In keeping with many Palladian villas, the house was finished with
corinthian pilasters, an impressive central pediment and a three window bow at
the rear. When the building was finally complete in 1779 the Edinburgh
chronicler Hugo Arnot remarked that it was the “handsomest town-house we
ever saw”.

After Dundas died in 1781, the building became the headquarters of the
Scottish Excise Office, before finally being sold to the current occupiers, RBS,
in 1825. Since then the building has been extensively modified and extended,
with a grand banking hall added to the rear of the property in 1861. This
banking hall features one of Edinburgh’s largest interior domes, and is studded
with concentric tiers of glazed stars, letting light flood into the room. The
dome was thought so impressive that the Royal Bank of Scotland decided to place
a drawing of it on their own “Ilay” range of banknotes. Other
Scottish banknotes have also included depictions of the original Palladian

Two monuments standing at the entrance of the building are also worthy of
note. Firstly, an equestrian statue of the 4th Earl of Hopetoun, a hero of the
Napoleonic Wars, stands directly in front of the original Dundas Mansion. This
was sculpted by Thomas Campbell in 1834 and has remained in situ ever since.
Secondly, there is a small devotional dedicated both to the eighty-four Royal
Bank of Scotland staff who died in the First World War, and to the forty-six
staff who perished in the Second World War.

Today Dundas Mansion remains. along with the new Gogarburn complex, the
central headquarters of a multi-national company that employs more than 140,000
people in over 50 countries. It is also used as a banking office for both
personal and business customers, so if you need to use an A.T.M., there are few
grander places from which to withdraw your cash.

This entry was posted in Edinburgh, Edinburgh History. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Edinburgh History Insights #1 Dundas House

  1. Marina says:

    You have really interesting blog, keep up posting such informative posts!

  2. Pingback: Groups We Work With | Hotels In Edinburgh Blog