Steuartown, Church, North Edinburgh: finished designs for a church, 1788, unexecuted (4)
This unexecuted scheme is for an octagonal-shaped church in the north of Edinburgh. The location of the church had previously been unidentified, however, one of the drawings in this scheme has an inscription which states: Section through the Church for Steuartown [sic] on the North part of Edinburgh (SM Adam volume 44/101). A ‘Steuartown’ is referenced in two survey drawings by John Ainslie for the proprietor and former Lord Provost of Edinburgh, David Steuart, dated 1787 (Historic Environment Scotland). It would appear from these survey drawings that Steuart had intended to develop the land to the north of Edinburgh New Town, below Queen Street, into a new town named after himself. It is possible that Adam, who was likely already acquainted with Steuart through his extensive work in Edinburgh, would have been commissioned to design a church for this new development. Though the survey drawings show only the existing land available for development, providing no further information.
A later plan named ‘David Steuart’s Plan’ in 1796 by Reid & Sibbald show a proposed layout for the vacant land which was built between 1803 and 1823 to a variant of the design (Heriot Trust; Youngson). The plan did include an octagonal-shaped building with a front portico facing the Royal Crescent, similar to Adam’s proposed church, but this was not executed.
David Steuart was Lord Provost of Edinburgh between 1780 and 1782. He was previously a banker, having set up a partnership with Robert Allan, and was elected Merchant councillor in 1778 and third Bailie in 1779. He was also an avid book collector and upon the sale of his library at auction, it was regarded as one of the finest book collections in Scotland.
Literature: A.T. Bolton, The Architecture of Robert and James Adam, Volume II, Index, 1922, p.11, D. King, The Complete Works of Robert & James Adam and Unbuilt Adam, Volume 2, 2001, pp. 58, 63, 66 A. Lewis, The Builders of Edinburgh New Town 1767-1795, 2014; A. Youngson, The Making of Classical Edinburgh, 1750-1840, 1966, pp. 205-207; J. Kay, A Series of Original Portraits and Caricature Etchings, Volume 1 (1838) pp. 42-43; Historic Environment Scotland, Plan of Ground the Property of David Stewart Esquire on which Stewartown is intended to be built, Surveyed by John Ainslie, Catalogue Nos. A 75971 & A 75964, 1787