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- Category: A
- Date Added: 14/12/1970
- Local Authority: Edinburgh
- Planning Authority: Edinburgh
- Burgh: Edinburgh
National Grid Reference
- NGR: NT 25461 73515
- Coordinates: 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.
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