Historic school gates restored and revived to Edinburgh’s pre-renaissance landmark

Hidden Door festival manager Hazel Johnson and blacksmith Colin Thomasson at the refurbished main entrance to the former Royal High School in Calton Hill.

Now the gates to Edinburgh’s landmark Calton Hill Old School are set to be revived – more than half a century after the Royal High School moved to another site.

More than two months of delicate repair and restoration work by blacksmiths made it possible to reopen the doors, so encrusted with rust that they had completely seized up.

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The works, initiated by Edinburgh’s Hidden Door festival, mean the building’s main entrance on Regent Road will be able to be used for the first time in decades for the 10-day event next month.

Blacksmith Colin Thomasson and Hidden Door festival director Hazel Johnson at the restored main entrance to the former Royal High School in Calton Hill.

The gates have been brought back to life in the first stage of restoration work on the building, which is set to become a new National Music Center in the next few years.

A spokeswoman said: “The restoration of the old doors of the Royal High School is a key part of the legacy that Hidden Door will leave as part of this year’s festival.

“They are a quirky architectural feature and allowed people to approach the building as architect Thomas Hamilton intended.

“The ongoing restoration work is being carried out in a way that minimizes damage to the doors and surrounding masonry, while retaining as much of the original fabric as possible.”

Hidden Door festival manager Hazel Johnson and blacksmith Colin Thomasson at the refurbished main entrance to the former Royal High School in Calton Hill.

A team of volunteers is carrying out an extensive cleaning of the building for Hidden Door, which will be transformed by a program of music, theatre, dance, spoken word and visual arts.

Festival director Hazel Johnson said: “It’s very exciting to be able to restore and reopen the building’s original main doors.

“These are such beautiful structures and the kind of door people look at and never expect to see what’s on the other side. They were practically rusted – you couldn’t really see where the rust was. stopped and where the door began.

“When we had the opportunity to reopen them, we thought it would be good to get them working properly and looking as good as possible.

“Anyone who comes to Hidden Door will now be able to re-enter the building from Regent Road and explore it from there.

“We will open every nook and cranny”

Blacksmith Colin Thomasson, who led the restoration project, said: “These gates predate the Forth Bridge – it’s amazing they’ve survived so long.

“They were just a mass of rust before any work was done, but I’ve loved working on them for the past two months.”

The Edinburgh World Heritage Trust helped Hidden Door pay for the work on the doors.

Catriona O’Neill, Associate Architect at Simpson & Brown, the Edinburgh-based architectural firm working on the long-term restoration of the Old School, said: “The restoration work on the gate has provided an opportunity to ‘closely inspect the intricacies of the historic gate’s ironwork obscured by decades of rust and paint, and devise a carefully thought-out repair strategy.

“This is important work – not only to provide access to the upcoming festival, but also for the continued conservation of this prestigious building and its enjoyment by future generations.”

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