Listed Building

The only legal part of the listing under the Planning (Listing Buildings and Conservation Areas) (Scotland) Act 1997 is the address/name of site. Addresses and building names may have changed since the date of listing – see 'About Listed Buildings' below for more information. The further details below the 'Address/Name of Site' are provided for information purposes only.

Address/Name of Site


Status: Designated


There are no additional online documents for this record.


Date Added
Supplementary Information Updated
Local Authority
Planning Authority
NT 30579 73975
330579, 673975


Former 'super cinema' designed by architect Thomas Bowhill Gibson in 1939 in the Art Deco/Moderne style. The building is a large, three storey, rectangular plan purpose-built cinema made up of a flat roofed entrance section and pitched and piended roof auditorium behind.

The central part of the symmetrical, principal (southeast) elevation is set forward with rounded towers flanking seven slightly stepped advancing vertical bands. There are single storey sections to each side with full height blank sections set back behind them. There are wide granolithic steps to the main entrance which has a later flat roofed overhanging box canopy with small, curved sections to each side. The side and rear elevations are built in rendered brick and the vertical structural steel frames are exposed. The rear elevation has three boxed sections protruding at low level (the horn chambers).

The main elevation and small side returns have a low level coloured band of render over former mosaic tiles and the towers are rendered on the hard. The rest of the main elevation is clad in timber frame and sheet boards dating to around 1974. The roof is pitched (piended to the rear) and clad in corrugated asbestos sheets.

The entrance vestibule has a coombed ceiling with a fluted frieze, and former ticket booth. There are paired staircases with iron bannisters leading to the balcony. The interior of the main auditorium is subdivided with a lowered suspended ceiling enclosing the public ground floor bingo hall. Decorative architectural details of the proscenium arch remain in the bingo hall and the decoration largely survives above the suspended ceiling. This includes moulded and raised Art Deco/Moderne style motifs set around the screen and horizontal linear chevron details with circular niches. The balcony is intact although seats have been removed; the projection room holes to the auditorium space remain.

There are investigative access holes in the surfaces of the interior decorative scheme made after 2016.

Statement of Special Interest

14 Bath Street, Portobello meets the criteria of special architectural or historic interest for the following reasons:

  • It is a rare survival of an Art Deco/Moderne style cinema which retains its architecturally distinctive character to the main elevation.

  • For the survival and quality of its interior design which includes a substantial amount of 1930s decorative scheme, which is a rare survival in Scotland.

  • It is a notable example of the work of architect Thomas Bowhill Gibson, a foremost Scottish cinema designer of the earlier 20th century.

  • The cinema is a prominent feature in the streetscape and its setting in Portobello

  • It is of social historical significance for the association of the area with seaside leisure in the 20th century.

Historical development

The first edition Ordnance Survey map (surveyed 1853, published 1854) shows a 19th century villa on this site before a building called the Electric Theatre was believed to have been built around 1912 (Baird, Edinburgh Theatres).

The current building is first shown on the mid-20th century Ordnance Survey map (surveyed 1947, published 1950) where it is labelled as a cinema. It was designed as "The County" cinema by Thomas Bowhill Gibson and it opened on March 30th, 1939, showing Snow White and the Seven Dwarves (Baird). An article about the opening of the new cinema in The Scotsman, 25 March 1939 reports that it was built at a cost of £20000 with a capacity of 1600.

The Musselburgh News described the County as a 'super cinema', a palace of entertainment that employed the latest in comfort, safety as well as modern science and invention. So called, 'super cinemas' emerged in Scotland in the late 1920s and were designed to maximise audience numbers and create a pleasant viewing experience, taking inspiration from American 'movie palaces' of the 1920s. (Spotlight on Scotland's Cinemas). Innovative features reported of the new cinema included installation of the latest sound system of Western Electric and the claim of being the first cinema in Great Britain to adopt the 'illuminated screen'. The illuminated screen was a pale illuminated screen border, as opposed to a wide black border, which improved the viewing experience particularly for new colour pictures. (Musselburgh News 24 March 1939).

The cinema underwent refurbishment and reopened in November 1954 when it was renamed the George Cinema after its new owner George Palmer and showed foreign films as part of the Edinburgh Festival that year. On reopening it was the first cinema in the east of Scotland to show widescreen films and offer four track stereophonic sound using 32 speakers throughout the cinema. (Baird, p.247.)

The building ceased to trade as a cinema in 1974 and it underwent alterations around that time to convert it to a commercial bingo hall. These works are understood to have included removal of the 'shockcrete' panels from the front façade walls and replacement with a timber frame and sheet cladding to replicate the former detailing. The central glass brick tower was also removed after this time.

The bingo hall closed in 2016 and the building has not been in use since this date (as at 2023).

Architectural Interest


The Art Deco style emerged in the mid-1920s and was popular for buildings associated with new functions such as modern transport, and sports and leisure buildings including cinemas. By the late 1930s the Art Deco style evolved into a streamlined, 'Moderne' style which included bolder architectural massing and geometrical forms with less ornament, a style which was more closely aligned with emerging Modernist designs in France, the Netherlands and Germany.

The design of the former County cinema is a notable example of this style of architecture with its bold geometric towers and smooth façade treatment. Plans of the building by Thomas Bowhill Gibson in the National Record of the Historic Environment dated 1938 show the building was to be faced with 'Shockcrete' stone facing slabs, an innovative type of pre-cast concrete invented in the Netherlands in 1931 and used widely on the Continent but rarely in Great Britain. While the Shockcrete panels at the former County cinema were removed in the later 20th century, the rare use of this material reflects the innovation and ambition of Tomas Bowhill Gibson in designing the former County Cinema.

Plans of the building from 1938 show that the Bath Street Cinema was designed with a tall illuminated central tower. The original facing was in two shades of blue and the tower was internally lit by changed coloured lights, neon and floodlighting (McKean). This design was inspired by Continental cinema design, in particular Germany and was known as 'night architecture', utilising the possibilities of electric lighting to ensure buildings stood out at night as well as in daylight.

Although the glass tower was removed when the building was renovated in the 1970s, the principal elevation retains its distinctive Art Deco/Moderne form and continues to represent the cinema use and the era in which it was built. Features of the principal elevation which remain and which are characteristic of the Art Deco style of the late 1930s include its geometric form, streamlined minimalist design, tall projecting towers, rendered walls with horizontally emphasised cills and quoins.

We did not see the interior in 2023 but have referred to recent photographs. We understand that the main interior space of the former cinema has been subdivided by a suspended ceiling however the original auditorium space above retains a substantial amount of the original interior decorative scheme dating from the 1930s, including chevron details and strip plasterwork around the stage and details to the ceiling shown on the 1938 plans by Bowhill Gibson. The original balcony and projection room are also intact which adds to the special interest of the design with the overall original design scheme still readable. The survival of the original decorative scheme to the auditorium, above the suspended ceiling, is significant and increasingly rare. The layout of the foyer still survives as does some of the early decorative features.

The architect Thomas Bowhill Gibson (1895–1949) attended Edinburgh College of Art and began his own practice in 1922. By 1939 he was admitted to ARIBA and had entered into partnership with James William Laing as T Bowhill Gibson and Laing. Gibson is recognised for his interest in modern architecture and variations in the Art Deco style as shown by his cinema and theatre design in Edinburgh. He is known as Edinburgh's leading cinema designer and notable works include the category B listed 1937 Dominion Cinema in Morningside (LB27650) and the category C listed 1949 former Lothian Buses in Longstone (LB52441). Gibson also carried out some domestic commissions such as the large 1935 Learmonth House and Court apartment complex which covers a full street block in the west end of Edinburgh.


Most large urban cinemas of the period were designed with elaborate front entrance elevations prominent in the streetscapes in order to advertise the cinema. The Bath Street cinema's elevation was a striking intervention in its largely residential street by its obviously contrasting modern style and large scale. Although the tower has since been removed the overall form, massing and profile of the principal elevation survives and continues to make a distinctive contribution to the setting of Bath Street and immediate area which is a principal thoroughfare leading to the Promenade.

Cinemas of the period were typically located in town or city centre high streets or commercial areas. The setting of the Bath Street cinema is unusual because it sits within a predominantly residential area which makes its height and façade even more prominent.

The building's location within this part of Portobello is connected to area's historical association with seaside leisure and is functionally related to the nearby baths (listed category A – LB27261), and open-air pool and other cinemas which are now demolished.

Historic Interest

Age and rarity

The first cinema showing in Scotland was understood to have been around 1896, and in the following years existing buildings, such as village halls, were often repurposed as 'cinemas' to show films. The Cinematographic Act of 1909 was brought in to regularise construction because of the high risk of fire in the projection rooms. Early purpose-built cinemas were often small scale such as the Cameo Cinema (listed at category B, LB47783) possibly the oldest cinema in Edinburgh built in 1914.

Following a pause during First World War film production and cinema construction developed rapidly in line with the increase in cinema interest. American film studios led the way in film production in the earlier 1920s, following the development of cinema sound and the 'talkies'. From the mid-1920s the studios built their own large 'super cinemas'. They were usually purpose built and had highly stylised entrances fronting a plain brick hall or auditorium. The earlier examples were classically detailed using marble and gilt, before the development of the 'Atmospheric' style in the late 1920s.

From the late 1920s large scale super cinemas were built in Scotland emulating the picture palaces in North America. They were built by film distributers such as Odeon, Gaumont or ABC who usually employed specialist architects to design their cinemas, with the projects often carried to completion by local architects. This was the case at the New Victoria Cinema (listed at category A, LB30028) on Clerk Street in Edinburgh, designed by William Trent but overseen by the Edinburgh architect James Jerdan. Smaller distributers such as Capitol and independent cinemas were typically designed by local architects who followed the trends of super cinemas elsewhere in the country. This was the case in Bath Street although Bowhill Gibson was a more established cinema architect than many who carried out independent cinema designs.

Cinemas were a common building type across Scotland and all cities and most small towns usually had at least one. The George Cinema on Bath Street is not rare within its building type, but it is exceptional for the survival of its striking Art Deco/Moderne design, both internally and externally.

It's streamlined design included innovations in the use of modern materials and up to the minute Continental style. The design of this building is highly representative of the characteristic cinema building type which was epitomised by new modern architecture emerging specifically in the 1920s and 1930s. There are increasingly few purpose-built cinemas of this date and design quality and style which survive. The survival of its interior decorative scheme is also increasingly rare.

Social historical interest

Social historical interest is the way a building contributes to our understanding of how people lived in the past, and how our social and economic history is shown in a building and/or in its setting.

From the first public screening of moving pictures in 1896, cinema quickly established itself as the most popular entertainment activity in Scotland which continued into the first half of the 20th century. The cinema at Bath Street adds to our understanding of the impact of the interwar cinema boom on leisure in a suburban part of Edinburgh. Its subsequent conversion to a bingo hall and continued use until 2016 adds to the social historic interest of the area.

There is special interest of the cinema's location in Portobello and the social historic interest of this area of Edinburgh as a destination for leisure and recreation in the early to mid-20th century.

Association with people or events of national importance

There is no association with a person or event of national importance.

Supplementary information in the listed building record revised in 2023.



Canmore: CANMORE ID 149617


Ordnance Survey (surveyed 1853, published 1854). Edinburghshire Sheet 3, 6 inches to the mile. 1st Edition. Southampton: Ordnance Survey.

Ordnance Survey (surveyed 1893, published 1894). Edinburghshire IV.5, 25 inches to the mile. 2nd Edition. Southampton: Ordnance Survey.

Bartholemew, J G (1939-1940) Post office plan of Edinburgh, Leith and Portobello. Edinburgh: Bartholemew

Ordnance Survey (surveyed 1947, published 1950). National Grid Maps NT3073 A. Southampton: Ordnance Survey.


National Record of The Historic Environment, RIAS/Thomas Bowhill Gibson Collection, DP 228692

Printed Sources

Gifford. J, McWilliam. C, Walker. D, (1984) Buildings of Scotland, Edinburgh. p.652. Yale University Press, London

Gray. R. (2011) Cinemas in Britain, A History of Cinema Architecture. Surrey: Lund Humphries. p.127.

Historic Scotland (2009) Spotlight on Scotland's Cinemas. Edinburgh: Historic Scotland.

McKean. C, (1992) Edinburgh: An Illustrated Architectural Guide. Pillons and Wilson Edinburgh. p.212.

Musselburgh News, Opening Next Week – New Cinema for Portobello, 24 March 1939, p 6.

Peter.B. (2011) Scottish Cinemas. Isle of Man: Lily Publications Ltd. p.96.

The Scotsman, New Portobello Cinema, 25 March 1939, p. 13.

Online Sources

Baird. G, Edinburgh Theatres, Cinemas and Circuses 1820-1963 p.247. [accessed 15/08/2023].

Britain from Above. SAR018921 SCOTLAND (1953). Portobello Edinburgh, Midlothian, Scotland. An oblique aerial photograph taken facing South at

[accessed 27/04/2023].

Capital Collections, The image library for the collections of Edinburgh Libraries and Museums and Galleries, George (formerly County) Cinema, Portobello

Wheelan, Kevin Smith & Wheelan, Henry 1971 [accessed 22/08/2023].

Dictionary of Scottish Architects. Thomas Bowhill Gibson at [accessed 27/04/2023].

Friends of The George, Vision Document, April 2023, pp 14-15 at [accessed 18.09.2023].

Glasgow University in association with Edinburgh University. Early Cinema in Scotland, 1896-1927 Research Project at [accessed 27/04/2023].

Post War Building Materials, entry on 'precast concrete façade panels' [accessed 18.09.2023].

Scottish Cinemas and Theatres Project. Scottish Cinemas Database – entry for County/George 14 Bath Street including a gallery of interior images from 2008 at [accessed 27/04/2023].

About Listed Buildings

Historic Environment Scotland is responsible for designating sites and places at the national level. These designations are Scheduled monuments, Listed buildings, Inventory of gardens and designed landscapes and Inventory of historic battlefields.

We make recommendations to the Scottish Government about historic marine protected areas, and the Scottish Ministers decide whether to designate.

Listing is the process that identifies, designates and provides statutory protection for buildings of special architectural or historic interest as set out in the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) (Scotland) Act 1997.

We list buildings which are found to be of special architectural or historic interest using the selection guidance published in Designation Policy and Selection Guidance (2019)

Listed building records provide an indication of the special architectural or historic interest of the listed building which has been identified by its statutory address. The description and additional information provided are supplementary and have no legal weight.

These records are not definitive historical accounts or a complete description of the building(s). If part of a building is not described it does not mean it is not listed. The format of the listed building record has changed over time. Earlier records may be brief and some information will not have been recorded.

The legal part of the listing is the address/name of site which is known as the statutory address. Other than the name or address of a listed building, further details are provided for information purposes only. Historic Environment Scotland does not accept any liability for any loss or damage suffered as a consequence of inaccuracies in the information provided. Addresses and building names may have changed since the date of listing. Even if a number or name is missing from a listing address it will still be listed. Listing covers both the exterior and the interior and any object or structure fixed to the building. Listing also applies to buildings or structures not physically attached but which are part of the curtilage (or land) of the listed building as long as they were erected before 1 July 1948.

While Historic Environment Scotland is responsible for designating listed buildings, the planning authority is responsible for determining what is covered by the listing, including what is listed through curtilage. However, for listed buildings designated or for listings amended from 1 October 2015, legal exclusions to the listing may apply.

If part of a building is not listed, it will say that it is excluded in the statutory address and in the statement of special interest in the listed building record. The statement will use the word 'excluding' and quote the relevant section of the 1997 Act. Some earlier listed building records may use the word 'excluding', but if the Act is not quoted, the record has not been revised to reflect subsequent legislation.

Listed building consent is required for changes to a listed building which affect its character as a building of special architectural or historic interest. The relevant planning authority is the point of contact for applications for listed building consent.

Find out more about listing and our other designations at You can contact us on 0131 668 8914 or at


There are no images available for this record, you may want to check Canmore for images relating to 14 BATH STREET, THE GEORGE, FORMERLY THE COUNTY

There are no images available for this record.

Search Canmore

Printed: 05/12/2023 06:16