James Craig, an architect, Burgess and Guild-brother of the town of Edinburgh, was responsible for publishing an iconic, gridiron plan for the New Town of Edinburgh. Following rejection of his earlier scheme of 1766, his amended plan was adopted in July 1767.
Here we see a later 1773 plan by Craig of the area today filled by the splendid Register House, and the modern St James Shopping Centre and associated area. In 1773, much of the area was owned by Walter Ferguson, Writer to the Signet. At the heart of Craig’s plan appears what Craig calls Register Office (now known as Register House), a building in grand classical style by Robert Adam, designed to hold Scotland’s Public Records. It was begun in 1774, a year after this plan was produced.
Craig is at pains to describe on his plan the advantages of a location in this area, not least it being dry and healthy! He includes text about what the planned Register Office would house, for instance the General Records of the Kingdom, the Office of the Chancery, the Great Seal and the Privy Seal, and he also gives a list of the office accommodation needed there, and for whom.