City Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland

City Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland

General Register House


General Register House
2 Princes St
Edinburgh EH1 3YY
General Register House - Princes Street, Edinburgh
Venue details
Edinburgh Area: 
New Town, Edinburgh
Telephone (info): 
+44 (0)131 535 1314
Telephone (box office): 
+44 (0)131 535 1314
Edinburgh Fringe Venue: 
502

Opening in 1788, General Register House continues to serve the same purpose it was built for as an archive of public records. Robert Adam's landmark, New Town building is one of three Edinburgh archives of the National Records of Scotland (NRS). General Register House is situated at the East End of Princes Street, near Waverley Station and St. Andrew Square, and has a large statue of the Duke of Wellington on a horse in front of the building.

This is a good starting point for genealogists to research their scottish ancestry, solicitors to check on historical records for property, or for any member of the public to dig into Scottish history at its source.

The National Records of Scotland exists "to select, preserve, and make available the national archives of Scotland in whatever medium, to thehighest standards; to promote the growth and maintenance of proper archive provision throughout the country; and to lead the development of archival practice in Scotland."

Two search rooms are housed at General Register House in the Adam Dome and the Reid Room. There are also search rooms at the neighbouring New Register House.

Building History

General Register House, designed and built between 1774 and 1789 by Robert and James Adam, was the first purpose-built public record repository in the British Isles.

Pre-dating both Public Record Office of Ireland (1830s) in Dublin and the Public Record Office (completed 1858) in Chancery Lane, London, it should be seen as a major achievement of the Scottish Enlightenment.

General Register House was arguably the most important public building to be erected in Great Britain between William Kent’s Horse Guards (1751-53) and Sir William Chambers’ Somerset House (1776-96), both in London.

It was also the first public building in Edinburgh’s New Town, occupying a pivotal position at the south end of the North Bridge, which, before the creation of the Mound, formed the principal link between the Old and New Towns.

During the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, royalty and politicians toured Register House when visiting Edinburgh.

It is a tribute to the quality of Robert Adam’s design that almost 225 years later General Register House continues to serve its original purpose.