Robert Mylne, 1763, with later extensions John Thin, 1812 and predominantly Ian Lindsay, 1960s (see Notes). 2-storey Classical concert hall on promontory site with 5-bays to S (Cowgate). Ashlar to W (Niddry Street) with some raised margins, droved, coursed rubble with ashlar margins to S. Glass and metal curtain walling and stone base to E. Base course, band course, blocking course to S with central wallhead panel with carved inscription FREEMASONS HALL 1812.
W (former entrance) elevation: off-centre advanced, dentilled pedimented 3-bay section with central 2-leaf timber entrance door with 5-light fanlight above and consoled cornice. Flanking asymmetrical harled bays.
6-over 9-pane timber sash and case windows to upper storey to S. Some blank windows to W. Grey slates.
INTERIOR: (seen 2007). 1960s reconstruction of early elliptical concert hall, with moulded plaster cornice, concave ceiling and central raised elliptical cupola. Pedimented, consoled timber doorpiece with 2-leaf timber panelled door. Flagstones to entrance hall with Roman Doric screen and double curved stair with fluted metal balusters and timber handrail. Lower room with stone segmental arches. Other rooms with simple cornicing and 2-leaf timber doors.
Statement of Special Interest
St Cecilia's was the first purpose built concert hall in Scotland, built for the Musical Society of Edinburgh by the celebrated architect Robert Mylne, although the majority of the fabric today dates from Ian Lindsay's 1960s reconstruction.
The interior of the concert hall contains a reconstruction of the original innovative elliptical room. The shape was likely to have been chosen for acoustic properties. The 1763 original entrance elevation by Mylne to the W retains its simple Classical detailing, redolent of the fashion for the Classical style in Edinburgh at this time.
Begun in 1728, the Edinburgh Musical Society was a group of amateur musicians who met regularly to perform music in Mary's Chapel (demolished 1768). By 1750, the group had grown in numbers and wanted to commission their own concert venue and they appointed Robert Mylne to carry out the work.
The original building as constructed in 1763 consisted of a lobby, a 2-roomed lower floor and the concert room and was entered from a courtyard off Niddry Wynd (which was also demolished in 1768 to make way for the South Bridge (see separate listing
. The West elevation to Niddry Wynd retains this original entrance doorway.
By 1798, the Musical Society had to close for financial reasons. The hall was subsequently converted to a Masonic Lodge in 1809 and they added a 2-storey extension to the Cowgate in 1812. They also converted the concert hall to a rectangular room by removing the inner curved walls. From 1844-1859, the premises were sold to Edinburgh Town Council and it became a school, based on the system of the Scottish Educationalist Dr Andrew Bell. During this period, large windows were inserted into the East wall of the concert hall. The school closed at the end of the 19th century and the building housed a succession of small businesses. It became the Excelsior Ballroom in the mid 20th century and returned to a concert hall in 1959.
In 1966 Ian Lindsay was appointed by the University of Edinburgh to reconstruct the interior of the concert hall and he also built the Eastern elevation which incorporates the current entrance door. It is currently a concert hall and museum (2007).
Robert Mylne (1734-1811) was born in Edinburgh to a celebrated and established architectural family and trained as an architect and engineer. His work includes Blackfriars Bridge in London and the Castle and village of Inveraray. Ian Lindsay (1906-66) was an Edinburgh architect who was one of the foremost authorities in Scotland on conservation and restoration from 1950-1970. He worked on numerous projects throughout the country, restoring both small dwellings and castles, including the historic town of Inveraray and Iona Abbey.
References from previous list description: Inv 45. Old Edinburgh (Lindsay). St Cecilia's Hall (B Frazer Morris). Robert Mylne (Richardson). Country Life Aug 15 1968. OEC v 19.
List description revised as part of the Edinburgh Holyrood Ward resurvey 2007-08.
Formerly a Scheduled Ancient Monument. Descheduled in 2002.
Statutory address updated (2015). Previously listed as 'Niddry Street and Cowgate, St Cecilia's Hall'.
Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland: http://www.rcahms.gov.uk/canmore.html CANMORE ID 52251
William Edgar, City & Castle of Edinburgh, 1765.
1st Edition Ordnance Survey Map, (1849-53).
University of Edinburgh website www.music.ed.ac.uk (accessed 30-07-07).
John Gifford, Colin McWilliam and David Walker, The Buildings of Scotland, Edinburgh, 1984, p187.
Jane Blackie, A New Musick Room, 2002.
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Printed: 18/09/2021 05:45