Listed Building

The legal part of the listing is the address/name of site only. All other information in the record is not statutory.


Status: Designated


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Date Added
Local Authority
Planning Authority
NT 25461 73515
325461, 673515


James Gillespie Graham and AWN Pugin, 1839-44; Hardy and Wight, 1893; Benjamin Tindall Architects, 1999. 2-storey, 5-bay rectangular-plan gothic former church and meeting hall on commanding corner site, with entrance tower and tall pinnacled spire to E. Droved ashlar with polished dressings. Pierced parapet. Hoodmoulded windows with quatrefoil tracery and small-pane leaded glazing. Crocketed pinnacles to buttresses. Extension to rear (see Notes) with pierced parapet and crocketed pinnacles to corners.

E ELEVATION: projecting entrance tower to centre: crocketed gablet and hoodmould over 2-leaf clouted timber boarded door with decorative cast-iron hinges in shoulder-arched surround; cusped gablet with foliate carving. Angle buttresses rising to crocketed gablets; tall 6-light windows to each face; lucarned clock faces; 2-stage, lucarned, louvred belfry; pinnacled buttresses linked by flyers to cross-finialled ribbed octagonal spire with diapered bands. Tall narrow 2-light windows to outer left and right.

N (CASTLEHILL) ELEVATION: 5 bays flanked by gabletted buttresses with crocketed pinnacles above to left: squat 2-light windows lighting semi-basement; tall 4-light windows lighting main hall above. 2-storey extension (see Notes) to right: cusped 2-light windows with flat-headed hoodmoulds flanking 2-leaf timber boarded door with gothic fanlight in pointed-arched continuously moulded surround under crocketted gablet; modern additions (see Notes) above.

S (JOHNSTON TERRACE) ELEVATION: 5 bays to right flanked by gabletted buttresses with crocketed pinnacles above; : squat 2-light windows lighting ground floor; tall 4-light windows lighting main hall above. 2-bay 3-storey extension (see Notes) to left: mullioned and transomed windows to ground floor; flat-headed hoodmoulded 3-light windows to 1st floor; pointed-arched hoodmoulded 3-light windows to 2nd floor and to re-entrant angle. Conical-roofed slated turret to rear of library extension. Modern additions above.

W (BOSWELL COURT) ELEVATION: 2-light window below modern extension.

INTERIOR: rib-vaulted outer vestibule. Diagonally ribbed plasterwork to inner vestibule; staircases rising to either side. Central corridor (formerly flanked by offices etc) leading to imperial staircase with decorative cast-iron balusters at W end (Hardy and Wight), rising to bowed landing, library and church/assembly hall at 1st floor. Single-span roof with shallow plaster rib-vaulting to main hall; U-plan gallery supported on cast-iron columns; cusped decoration to gallery fronts; pinnacled and crocketed gothic pulpit (see Notes) with cusped screen behind and decorative balustrade in front.

Statement of Special Interest

Ecclesiastical building, now Edinburgh's Festival Centre (opened 5th July 1999), housing ticket centre, bookshop, cafe, library and hall; additional space, and a service core, has been created at the rear and in the roof space (Benjamin Tindall, Architects). Built to serve as a meeting hall and offices for the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland (to be known as Victoria Hall) and as a church for the Tolbooth congregation. There had originally been an intention to restore the remains of Holyrood Abbey (with designs by Pugin and Gillespie Graham) as a meeting place for the Assembly. The Assembly had been meeting in St Giles, but after the Burn reorganisation this was no longer possible, and the site at Castlehill, where the foundations of Thomas Hamilton's Knox Memorial church had been laid in 1829, was chosen, and the commission given to Gillespie Graham. The design was the result of a collaboration between Pugin and Gillespie Graham; the Dean of Guild elevations may be in Pugin's hand. The upper part of the pulpit incorporates elements of the Lord High Commissioner's chair, a design for which, in Pugin's hand, is in the NAS. The David Rhind drawings show additions to W including library and toilets; although some of the details of these drawings are similar to details of the building as it exists, it is not clear whether these were built. The Hardy and Wight extension housed a new stair-hall and a library at 1st floor level. After the union of the Church of Scotland and the United Free Church in 1929 the building was no longer required as an Assembly Hall. It was used as the Highland Tolbooth St John's Church until the 1980s. The building has major townscape importance, both closing the vista up Castlehill at the top of the Royal Mile, and from the New Town, where its tall spire is framed in the vista up Dundas/Hanover Street by Playfair's Free Church College (William H Playfair, 1845-50, separately listed).



Dean of Guild 4th February 1840 and 28th September 1866. Grant OLD AND NEW EDINBURGH (1885) p90, ill p96. Appears on 1854 OS map. Gifford, McWilliam and Walker EDINBURGH (1984) pp 169-170. SRO/MW/2/50. ARCHITECTURAL HISTORY vol 27, 1984, pp 406-20. CALEDONIA GOTHICA Architectural Heritage Journal VIII (1997) p17, ill p 16.

About Listed Buildings

Listing is the way that a building or structure of special architectural or historic interest is recognised by law through the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) (Scotland) Act 1997.

We list buildings of special architectural or historic interest using the criteria published in the Historic Environment Scotland Policy Statement.

The statutory listing address is the legal part of the listing. The information in the listed building record gives an indication of the special architectural or historic interest of the listed building(s). It is not a definitive historical account or a complete description of the building(s). The format of the listed building record has changed over time. Earlier records may be brief and some information will not have been recorded.

Listing covers both the exterior and the interior. Listing can cover structures not mentioned which are part of the curtilage of the building, such as boundary walls, gates, gatepiers, ancillary buildings etc. The planning authority is responsible for advising on what is covered by the listing including the curtilage of a listed building. For information about curtilage see Since 1 October 2015 we have been able to exclude items from a listing. 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 Historic Environment Scotland Act 2014. 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 current legislation.

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Printed: 25/06/2018 16:42