27th August 1822

Foundation stone laid for the National Monument of Scotland

Designed by William Henry Playfair and Charles Cockerell, the National Monument of Scotland, on Edinburgh’s Calton Hill, was intended to memorialise those who had demonstrated bravery in Scotland’s history, and inspire the same in future generations.

National Monument of Scotland at Calton Hill, Edinburgh
National Monument of Scotland at Calton Hill, Edinburgh

It was never completed but, if it had been, it would have been modelled on the Parthenon, in Athens. The influence of classic Greek architecture can be seen in the proportions of the pillars and lintels that remain and, indeed, one of the principal campaigners for its construction, was the Earl of Elgin, who had removed the marble sculptures from the original Parthenon and had them shipped to Britain.

Foundation stone laid

The six-ton foundation stone was laid on 27 August 1822, and the following morning’s Glasgow Sentinel revealed that “besides the various coins of his present Majesty that are to be deposited below the foundation stone… is a small neat silver Medal representing its principal front, with an appropriate inscription, cut by an ingenious young Artist, and struck in this city under the immediate direction of Messrs. Forrest & Sons.”

The work that commenced thereafter was of the highest quality. The structure used the best Craigleith stone and, according to Historic Environment Scotland, “it was reputed to have taken ‘twelve horses and 70 men to move some of the larger stones up the hill’.”

Sadly, by the end of the 1820s, money was running short, and the building was never completed.

National Monument of Scotland at Calton Hill, Edinburgh
National Monument of Scotland at Calton Hill, Edinburgh

Monument designated a listed building

In 1966 the structure, as it existed, was designated a category A listed building, with Historic Environment Scotland explaining that “although by no means complete, it is a building of very high quality and workmanship, and represents work by two of the early nineteenth century’s most eminent architects. It has historical and political significance as a Scottish monument to the Scottish troops that died in the Napoleonic Wars. It is of immense significance due to its architectural style, which causes it to be a cornerstone of Edinburgh’s reputation as the ‘Athens of the North’.”



Other events that occured in August

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