The main building of the school is notable for its renaissance architecture, the work of William Wallace, until his death in 1631. He was succeeded as master mason by William Aytoun, who was succeeded in turn by John Mylne. In 1676, Sir William Bruce drew up plans for the completion of Heriot's Hospital. His design, for the central tower of the north façade, was eventually executed in 1693.
The school is a turreted building surrounding a large quadrangle, and built out of sandstone. The foundation stone is inscribed with the date 1628. The intricate decoration above each window is unique (with one paired exception - those on the ground floor either side of the now redundant central turret on the west side of the building). A statue of the founder can be found in a niche on the north side of the quadrangle.
The main building was the first large building to be constructed outside the Edinburgh city walls. It sits next to Greyfriars Kirk, built in 1620, in open grounds overlooked by Edinburgh Castle directly to the north. Parts of the seventeenth-century city wall (the Telfer Wall) serve as the walls of the school grounds. When built the building's front facade faced the entrance on the Grassmarket. It was originally the only facade fronted in fine ashlar stone, the others being harled rubble, but in 1833 the three rubble facades were refaced in Craigleith ashlar stone. This was done as the other facades had become more visible with the new entrance on Lauriston Place. The refacing work was handled by Alexander Black the then Superintendent of Works for the school, who later designed the first Heriot's free schools around the city.
The grounds contain a selection of other buildings of varying age; these include a wing by inter-war school specialists Reid & Forbes, a swimming pool, now unused, and a granitewar memorial, by James Dunn (1922) dedicated to the school's former pupils and teachers who died in World War I and World War II.
On his death in 1624, George Heriot left around 25,000 Pound Scots– equivalent to several tens of millions today – to found a "hospital" (then the name for this kind of charitable school) to care for the "puir, faitherless bairns" (Scots: poor, fatherless children) of Edinburgh.
The construction of Heriot's Hospital (as it was first called) was begun in 1628, just outside the city walls of Edinburgh. It was completed just in time to be occupied by Oliver Cromwell's English forces during the invasion of Scotland during the Third English Civil War; the building was used as a barracks, with horses stabled in the chapel. The hospital opened in 1659, with thirty sickly children in residence; its finances grew, and it took in other pupils in addition to the orphans for whom it was intended.
By the end of the 18th century, the Governors of the George Heriot's Trust had purchased the Barony of Broughton, thus acquiring extensive land for feuing on the northern slope below James Craig's Georgian New Town. This and other land purchases beyond the original city boundary generated considerable revenue for the Trust long after his death.
In 1837 the school founded ten "free schools" in Edinburgh, educating several thousand pupils across the city; these were closed in 1885. One of them, with a copy of several of the features of the original Lauriston Place building, is at the east end of the Cowgate (now serving as a Salvation Army hostel).
In the 1880s, it began to charge fees; however, to this day it serves its charitable object, providing free education to fatherless children, referred to as "foundationers". In 1846 there was an insurrection in the hospital and fifty-two boys were dismissed.
The school also provided funds for the establishment of an institution which later merged with the Watt Institution (named after James Watt) in the 1870s to form Heriot-Watt College, a technical college that became Heriot-Watt University in 1966.
Headmasters & Principals
Chronological list of the headmasters of the school, the year given being the one in which they took office.
The George Heriot's School Combined Cadet Force is headed by Lieutenant Colonel Bain, and around 60 pupils participate in weekly activities and summer camps.
This article's list of alumni may not follow Wikipedia's verifiability or notability policies. Please improve this article by removing names that do not have independent reliable sources showing they are notable AND alumni, or by incorporating the relevant publications into the body of the article through appropriate citations.(October 2018)