Collisdean House

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Most high rise blocks put up in the 1960’s suffer from an image problem. Too often they are tainted from being neglected and poorly maintained, and allowed to depreciate to the point that they are fit only to be blown up – to the delight of crowds of cheering school-children bussed in for the photo-shoot.

Some however are a surprise, like for instance Collisdean House.
At first blush you probably wouldn’t give it a second glance. It sits almost at the edge of Edinburgh on the sea coast road to Musselburgh. It’s eleven stories tall and has mixed tenure of 41 flats some owned by their residents and others by Social Housing.

And it’s a gem.

Build in 1966 by Wimpy’s it has retained something of the optimism that came with the times. The entrance hall is small certainly, poky almost, but still pristine. The original tiling is still perfect and intact and the fixings, the varnished and glazed boxes for the notice boards take a pride of place. Even the notices catch a different era with their slightly officious and bossy tone.

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Externally the views are quite superb and amongst the best in the city. Sadly for me there is some upgrading work ongoing and my photo has elements of the scaffolding in the way. At eleven stories high the top flats are not yet too high, too divorced from the community on the ground and the sight of the carefully swept expanse of beach even in December is inviting. Maybe I will come back in summer to see if I can better it!

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Collisdean House is built on the site of an earlier Collisdean House that had a small claim to fame as the occupation of Mrs Grieve one of Edinburgh’s suffragettes. An active WSPU member Mrs Grieve had been imprisoned in London and afterwards was prominent in giving others the shelter of her home as a sort of safe house during the time of the Cat & Mouse Act. In 1913 she refused to pay her taxes and some of her goods were sold off in an auction.

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There are few photographs of the property then but those that survive show us another of those idiosyncratic dwellings Edinburgh once boasted. Looking at it reminds one of “Rockcliffe” in Merchiston which also survived into the 1960’s.

Copyright David Macadam 2015

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