There were no purpose built educational buildings in the city before the Reformation. Both school and university teaching was conducted in houses while public events, such as disputations and graduations, took place in either the Cathedral precincts or one of the city's churches. After the foundation of the University in 1451, the regents (professors) seem to have taught both grammar school pupils and undergraduates in tenements which belonged to the Cathedral. The best known in Rottenrow became known as the Old Pedagogy. There was nothing unusual in this as many universities elsewhere in Europe combined school and university teaching.
In January 1460 Lord Hamilton solved the University's accommodation problem by giving his imposing town house in the High Street to found the College of Arts. At the time arts was the foundation of a university education and all students were required to graduate in arts before proceeding to the higher study of subjects such as law and medicine. The terms of the gift required the members of the University to have a common table to share meals and intellectual discussion. Little is known about the house, except that it seems to have been spacious with several outbuildings to the rear.
The High Street site was to become the home of the University for the next four hundred years. The regents and students had to make the best of Lord Hamilton's house until after the Reformation. Alterations were made as money allowed but no substantial works were undertaken. On the contrary many of the buildings behind the house seem to have fallen into disrepair.
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