Lothian House is built upon the site of Port Hopetoun, the original Edinburgh port of the Union Canal, which was completed in 1822 linking Edinburgh with the canal junction at Falkirk. This junction then links the canal to Glasgow.
This shows the junction between Lothian Road and Fountainbridge at the South end of Lothian House. Port Hopetoun has already been drained.
It was constructed as a contour canal, avoiding locks but incorporating aqueducts throughout its length. Port Hopetoun was drained in 1922 and lay derelict until Lothian House was constructed there in 1936.
This map shows the layout of the end of the Union Canal showing the planned draining of Port Hopetoun and Port Hamilton.

Take a look outside Lothian House at the building itself. Notice the construction of cast-iron rectangular sections which form an interrupted frieze between piers of stone. Within each panel is a square depicting a worker or tree. Four trees and four trades are used in different combinations. The trees represent the four seasons: one has blossom, one has a rainbow, one has falling leaves, and one has rain and a flash of lightning. The workers are a builder, a brewer, a printer and a mill-worker. (See examples below)


The builder has a trowel and level and is erecting a wall; the brewer has a cask beside him; the printer holds a book in his right hand and operates a printing press with his left; the mill-worker has equipment on either side of him.
Relief from the centre of the East side of Lothian House commemorating Port Hopetoun.
HERE STOOD PORT HOPETOUN 1822-1922
Beneath the central windows above no.134 is a stone relief commemorating the site of Port Hopetoun. It is carved with a horse-drawn canal barge and three men, the above inscription, and the coat of arms of Edinburgh (on the left) and the coat of arms of Glasgow (on the right). On the left of the inscription is the horse with a man on each side of it; on the right is a man on the barge.
Watercolour showing one of the canal buildings in Port Hopetoun. The buildings in the background are on Lothian Road.
In 1922 Port Hopetoun was closed, the canal drained and then filled in from Lochrin through to Hopetoun . The site at Port Hopetoun lay derelict until 1936, when Lothian House was built. It was built for the Inland Revenue Department, which occupied three floors. On the ground floor were shops and in 1938 the Regal Cinema (now the Odeon) was added at the Morrison Street end of the building.
Lothian House today.




The Union Canal
Behind Lothian House on Semple Street (on the opposite side of the road) there is a plaque in the pavement showing some of the history of the Union Canal. There is also a line of stones marking the original path of the canal into Port Hopetoun.

To the right is a copy of the wording on the plaque.
This plaque can be found in the pavement on Semple Street behind Lothian House.
Near the plaque this line shows the original route of the Union Canal into Port Hopetoun.
Designed by Hugh Naird, with assistance from Thomas Telford, the Union Canal follows the 73m contour from Edinburgh to Falkirk. In locations where following the natural contours became impractical, tunnels or aqueducts were constructed to maintain the constant level. These feats of engineering included Scotland's longest and tallest aqueduct, the Avon Aqueduct and Scotland's longest waterway tunnel, the 631m long Falkirk Tunnel. Following the natural lie of the land in this way led to the canal being known as 'The Mathematical River'. Only twenty years after its completion, competition from the newly opened railways set the canal into decline, culminating in formal closure by act of parliament in 1965. Since the 1990s considerable effort has been made to bring the canal back to its former glory. The canal's industrial days are now long past, yet the canal has found a new lease of life, once again providing leisure and recreation opportunities.

DURING the winter of 1879-9 the canal was entirely frozen over for several weeks at a time, and skating was in full swing daily. In the evening many carried lanterns or torches. During an exceptional heavy fall of snow many of the leading butchers and grocers in the city had the wheels taken off their message carts and replaced with sleigh runners. One well known Edinburgh coachman of that day drove a sleigh and a pair of ponies along the canal all the way from Merchiston to Ratho.

R. Carruthers
The Evening Dispatch
January 1937

OPENED IN 1822 THEUNION CANAL CONNECTS EDINBURGH WITH GLASGOW VIA THE FORTH AND CLYDE CANAL. ORIGINALLY THE CANAL TERMINATED IN EDINBURGH AT PORT HAMILTON AND PORT HOPETOUN HOWEVER, FOLLOWING DECLINE OF THE CANAL THE BASINS WERE INFILLED IN THE 1920s. THIS PAVING BAND REPRESENTS THE LENGTH OF CANAL WHICH CONNECTED THE TWO PORTS.
The end of the Union Canal today.
It is worth taking a walk along the canalside from Lochrin Basin away from the city centre. (Walk round the south side of Lothian House towards Fountainbridge - the entrance to the Basin is on your left, beside the Akva café.) It is an area with lots of natural beauty, parks, playing fields, water leisure facilities and a melange of both old and new buildings. You will see it is also an area of redevelopment, moving from the industrial brewery and rubber factories of the past, to offices, residential properties, eating places and even a new secondary school building! If you walk the 2.5 miles to the aqueduct at Slateford, you will benefit from an insight into parts of the city from a unique perspective. If you are feeling adventurous, there are boats to hire at the canal basin in Ratho (7.5 miles but also accessible by road) and it is perfect for cyclists