Campus curiosities: 17. The Act of Union, Edinburgh University

December 2, 2005

At the back of Canongate, not far from the tourists on Edinburgh's Royal Mile, is a boarded-up single-storey brick building. The old summer house of Moray House is owned by Edinburgh University and no longer serves a particular function.

But 300 years ago, it was at the centre of a political drama that saw Scotland and England united through the 1707 Act of Union. The Earl of Seafield, Lord Chancellor of Scotland and tenant of Moray House (pictured above), was charged with securing the deal. The summer house at the bottom of his garden was perfect as a central but discreet location for his supporters to meet without attracting too much attention from those opposed to union. After the 18th century, it was converted into a hothouse for growing oranges or vines. For a while it was a sewing room, before being moved a short distance and rebuilt brick by brick against a brewery wall in 1910.

The building was taken over by the university when Moray House, used for some years as a teacher-training facility, became headquarters of its School of Education five years ago.

Steve Farrar

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