James Craig (1739-1795)

James Craig (1739-1795)

Architect and designer of Edinburgh's New Town

James Craig won the competition to design a New Town for Edinburgh in 1766. The wide, open, ordered and clean spaces of George Street, Queen Street and Princes Street were in stark contrast to the muddled, dirty, jumble of dwellings that had evolved within the confines of the old medieval burgh. His other work includes Physicians Hall in George Street and St James Square to the east of General Register House. The square was demolished but the pathway beside it, James Craig Walk, was named after him.

Birth in 1739

James Craig was born on 31 October 1739, the son of William Craig, merchant in Edinburgh and Mary Thomson. The entry in the Old Parish Register (OPR) of births and baptisms for Edinburgh is the only one on the page and gives the date of baptism as 13 November 1744. As a result the date of birth was assumed to be 31 October 1744 until another primary source threw doubt on it.

Birth and baptism entry for James Craig

Birth and baptism entry for James Craig (72 KB jpeg)
National Records of Scotland, OPR 685-1/24, page 130

In December 1998 a register of boys being received into George Watson's hospital was found to have two separate entries for James Craig. In both, his date of birth is given as 31 October 1739 and this was accepted for the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. The 'Detailed list of the Old Parochial Registers of Scotland' (9 MB pdf) shows that the OPR for Edinburgh includes a draft or scroll record for the period January 1729 to December 1758. Could the 1744 date be a transcription error? Further information is provided in the article 'James Craig and an Edinburgh baptismal entry' by Alison Mowat ('The Scottish genealogist', volume 47, number 1 (March 2000), pp 3-5).

Death in 1795

James Craig, architect, was buried on 26 June 1795. The entry in the Old Parish Register for Edinburgh includes the place of burial. The first column gives the first letter of the surname (C).

Burial entry for James Craig

Burial entry for James Craig (16 KB jpeg)
National Records of Scotland, OPR 685-1/98, page 251

Testament of James Craig

National Records of Scotland, CC8/8/130 pp 521-545

James Craig's will lists books you would expect to find in a British architect's collection of the period. It also reveals an eclectic taste ranging from religious tracts to the risque writings of the earl of Rochester. The person whose works most frequently occur is the poet James Thomson, who was the architect's uncle.

View transcript (179 KB PDF)

The images of the original document are in jpeg format (approximately 170 KB):

View page 1 of the actual document
View page 2 of the actual document
View page 3 of the actual document
View page 4 of the actual document
View page 5 of the actual document
View page 6 of the actual document
View page 7 of the actual document
View page 8 of the actual document
View page 9 of the actual document
View page 10 of the actual document

View page 11 of the actual document
View page 12 of the actual document
View page 13 of the actual document
View page 14 of the actual document
View page 15 of the actual document
View page 16 of the actual document
View page 17 of the actual document
View page 18 of the actual document
View page 19 of the actual document
View page 20 of the actual document

View page 21 of the actual document
View page 22 of the actual document
View page 23 of the actual document
View page 24 of the actual document
View page 25 of the actual document