The History of The Bonham

Bonham babies and Edinburgh University students.
The three townhouses of The Bonham are steeped in fascinating history

What is now instantly recognisable as The Bonham Hotel, was originally designed by John Lessels in the late 19th Century, as city centre town houses. The Drumsheugh Gardens triangle was built between 1874 and 1882. The three storey residences were quickly recognised as “des-res” with one house being sold for what would seem by today’s standards, as a mere £6000.

The Private Clinic

Title Deeds for the property show that numbers 33-36 were sold to Messer’s Wade and Wilkie who were responsible for their development in the 1920’s. By 1939, the three houses were collectively known as ‘The Private Clinic’ combined and operating as a medical practice that specialised in maternity care. Between 1939 and 1951 hundreds of babies were born on the premises, now fondly known as ‘Bonham Babies’.

Edinburgh University halls of residence

In 1951 ‘The Private Clinic’ was sold to the University of Edinburgh for £30,000 as part of a plan to develop its Halls of Residences. Originally starting life as Muir Hall in George Square, the halls accommodated 62 students which was later reduced to more intimate homely surroundings for around 46 students.

It originally only took female medical students, but in the late 1970s it became a mixed hall. At the same time, it changed from full board to self-catering.

Originally it accommodated over 90 students, with up to four students in some of the very large rooms. There was also an annexe at 1 Rothesay Place. Latterly it took closer to 60 students, as rooms had to be converted to bathrooms and rooms for 4 students were no longer acceptable.

Former residents recount tales of the evening hot water trolley that was left out in the lower hall ensuring students would never be short of a cup of tea or coffee whilst studying long into the night. The girls fondly remember the bathroom units housing rows of baths in individual cubicles-perfect for catching up on the day’s gossip, or for water fights on a Friday evening – perfect for letting off steam after a hard week poring over the books.

The Hall has had it share of famous visitors, even before becoming Edinburgh’s coolest hotel…and was a resting place for those attending the International TV Festival, with celebrities such as Anna Ford and Michael Heseltine’s daughter, making use of the University’s facilities.

The Town House Company

In 1997, the premises were bought by The Town House Company who took infinite care in a complete and historically sympathetic renovation of the buildings. Part of the renovation process involved the installation of luxury private bathrooms in each of the contemporary designed bedrooms.

In 1998 The Bonham opened to great critical acclaim, winning national awards of excellence. One magazine has dubbed it “One of the Coolest Hotels of the Twenty First Century”.

Edinburgh’s most stylish hotel

In 2018, with new owners, The Bonham underwent an extensive renovation. Today it offers guests one of the best places to stay in Edinburgh, and is still true to the original aspiration of providing a homely and friendly base whilst visiting Edinburgh. Discover our bedrooms and restaurant.

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