The Scottish Historic Buildings Trust exists to facilitate new uses for fine properties that have lost their purpose. Having secured their future, SHBT normally moves on, however in addition to achieving sustainable uses at Riddle’s Court it has retained the top floor as its headquarters.
Built in the 1590s by Bailie McMorran, Riddle’s Court hosted a banquet held in 1598 by James VI for the Danish Royal Family. By 1616 Alexander Seton the Lord Chancellor of Scotland was in residence, and in the eighteenth century it became part of Edinburgh's academic quarter, in the 1750s accommodating David Hume. The nineteenth century saw a decline as the well-to-do had moved to the New Town, until Patrick Geddes rescued the neighbourhood, applying what he called conservative surgery for the creation of student residencies. By 1946 Edinburgh Corporation had arrived with some use for housing and in 1951 the Festival Fringe made an appearance, adult education from 1956 leading twenty years later to the presence of the Workers Educational Association but there was a prolonged decline until SHBT came to the rescue in 2011.
Developing its customary approach of analysing the problem, developing a sustainable use and adopting an approach appropriate to the individual building, the Trust identified that Riddle’s Court had been highly packed but with a garden to the south where Victoria Street now cuts through. Drawings showed a courtyard whose space had been filled with rubble, and on coming with plans to check walls for an entrance to an accessible toilet the builders found a large fireplace with ovens, now believed to be the very ones from which James VI's banquet was prepared. The interior had to be shored up for attention to floors, and conservation of painted ceilings had to make separate provision for fire prevention and for acoustics. During treatment to the painted beams of recently unprepossessing appearance, more were discovered. A lift had to be inserted, and old brickwork and masonry including a wall of rubble thus revealed have been left exposed since there is no part of the building that is not significant in helping visitors to appreciate the many many uses and configurations that Riddle's Court has had over the years. Thus the foundations reveal the outline of previous properties on the site, while alcoves inserted by Geddes show how the Seton Room with its plasterwork ceiling was truncated for the construction of Victoria Street. The Geddes Room retains the painted ceiling that tells the building’s history, and both rooms are available for event-hire and for educational purposes, with the Library seating up to 60 dinner-guests, while a flat created out of guest rooms now forms a desirable letting on Airbnb.