75 Grassmarket, Edinburgh, EH1 2JR
In the 1870s, Castle Trades Hotel opened here as a lodging house with room for 327 men in the 100 tiny wooden cubicles on each of its three floors. Each cubicle, 28-square feet in area, contained nothing more than a single bed and a nail on the door where the men could hang their belongings. Due to concern at the quality of the accommodation and its deplorable physical conditions, the Castle Trades Hotel was eventually closed in June 1981, more than one hundred years later. After extensive refurbishment, it was reopened as Bowfoot House in February 1983. Replacing the cubicles with more spacious rooms and better bathroom facilities, Bowfoot House was able to provide a wide range of accommodation from self-contained flatlets to cluster flats and a centrally based hostel for just over 100 people. When it opened, the Edinburgh Council of Social Service described it as ‘one of the most exciting developments in accommodation for single homeless people, arguably anywhere in the UK.’ Bowfoot House was in operation until 2006 when it was turned into 17 flats of two, three or four apartments made available for social rent through the Hillcrest Housing Association.
Photo credits: Ema Smekalova, Dave Henniker