Old College Quad

Building on greatness

In 2010, £1 million was given to the University to complete a project that began at the start of the French Revolution. The donation has not only transformed Old College quad into one of the city’s most attractive squares, but it has deepened the University’s appreciation of what it is built upon, in every sense.

Before the glistening Clashach sandstone and the Yorkshire grass were laid, the site had much to reveal about its history. An archaeological survey was commissioned and expectations were high. Yet what was unearthed startled everyone.

The probable site of the murder of Lord Darnley, Mary Queen of Scots’ second husband, was uncovered. So too were 80 skeletons from the graveyard of Kirk O’Fields. Archaeologists also retrieved a buried trove of instruments used by Joseph Black, key figure of the Enlightenment, discoverer of carbon dioxide and, from 1766, Professor of Chemistry at the University.

HRH The Princess Royal officially opened the quad in September 2011, in her first official duty as Chancellor of the University.


The whole project has been transformational. It has helped to remind us that the University has always been very much a part of the city. The new quad is open and accessible to all, and students, locals and tourists now use it to interact.

Professor Mary Bownes

Senior Vice-Principal for External Engagement

Get involved

If you are interested in supporting special University projects please contact James Clayton-Jones james.cjones@ed.ac.uk