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

University of Edinburgh, McEwan Hall, Including Railings, Gates and Gatepiers between Hall and Reid School of Music, 15 Bristo Square, EdinburghLB27993

Status: Designated


There are no additional online documents for this record.


Group Category Details
100000019 - See Notes
Date Added
Last Date Amended
Supplementary Information Updated
Local Authority
Planning Authority
NT 25796 73114
325796, 673114


Robert Rowand Anderson designed 1875 as part of University Medical School complex, revised 1886-7, executed 1887-97, roof engineered by DM Westland. 3-storey and attic, symmetrical, D-plan Italian Renaissance graduation hall with paired semi-circular projecting stair towers prominently sited overlooking Bristo Square. Single bay engaged tower to northwest corner and 4-storey tower to southwest corner. Rear (west) of hall attached to the Medical School North Quadrant by smaller internal light well courtyard. Sandstone ashlar. Base course, moulded cill course at ground, entablature with moulded architrave and dentilled cornice at ground, first, second and attic floors (plain frieze at ground and attic, decorated frieze with foliage and figurative carving at first, garland carved frieze at second).

FURTHER DESCRIPTION: Eaves cornice supported by carved volutes, open balustrade with blind plaque, blocking course at attic. Full height square buttresses, shell headed niche with decorative stand at first floor, shell head niche set within pedimented surround at second floor. Oculi at ground, plain first floor except for inscription and corniced and garland frieze surround to stair tower windows, corinthian blind arcade at second floor with red sandstone column shaft, oculi at attic. Predominantly round arched doorways with blind oculi carving to surround, 2-leaf timber panelled doors with blind fanlight. Principal entrance consists of elaborately detailed round arched door surround flanked by Corinthian pilasters, tympanum with carving, 2-leaf, half glazed, entrance doors with rectangular fanlight set within roll moulded and bracketed rectangular door surround.

Fixed pane leaded glazing. Shallow ribbed domed roof surmounted by tall colonnaded decorative lantern; pyramidal slate roofs to flanking towers.

INTERIOR: Very fine original Renaissance interior design and decorative scheme in place. Vaulted entrance hall with stone curved stair (southwest) corner leading to vaulted gallery decorated with mosaic floor tiles, painted heraldry and original light fitting at first floor. Large Greek theatre style D-plan graduation hall with vaulted brick circulation corridors wrapping around the outer edge of the performance space. Timber balustrade

Balconies at first and second floors behind double height stone columned round arched arcade on squared pillars to ground. Round windows surmount each arch. Rectangular apse to stage side housing organ. Fitted timber pews with folding seat to outer edges, parquet floor to main hall space. Ornately coloured, painted, figurative decoration by William M Palin from 1892-7 throughout the main hall space. Timber boarded details to ancillary areas and corridor running behind stage. The riveted cast iron substructure of the internal dome is evident from the upper room in the south tower, accessed through small turned stair.

ORGAN: Designed and installed 1897 by Robert Hope-Jones (1859-1914). Remodelled 1953 by Henry Willis and Sons. Refurbished 2011 retaining original ranks, swell box, resonators and diaphones, and bellows were re-leathered.

Statement of Special Interest

A Group with the McEwan Lantern Pillar (see seperate listing, LB27994).

A very significant highly decorated civic concert hall designed by the eminent Scottish architect Rowand Anderson, surviving in its original form and making an integral component of the development of the University of Edinburgh buildings to the southside of the city. Its refined early North Italian Renaissance style was unique in the United Kingdom when built: a result of the architect's thorough research into public buildings prior to entering the design competition.

The McEwan Hall was built as a two stage development following on from the University of Edinburgh Medical School which was completed a decade earlier between 1876-86 and adjoins it the west (see seperate listing, LB27992).

Carving to principal doorway tympanum by Farner and Brindlay, London, depicting a graduation ceremony. Interior murals, consisting of 15 figures in the dome, 13 of which represent Arts and Sciences and mosaics by W N Palin who also worked at the Science Museum, South Kensington in London.

Sir Robert Rowand Anderson (1834-1921) had limited experience of designing public or commercial buildings when he was included among the six architects invited to compete for Edinburgh University's graduation hall and medical school in September 1874. This he determined to win by making a whirlwind study tour of medical schools and lecture theatres in England, France, Holland and Germany. His submission was selected by the ten relevant professors on 29 January 1875 and had been greatly revised and enlarged by June 1877 following the acquisition of more land.

The Hall was funded by William McEwan (1827-1913) who established the successful Fountain Brewery in Edinburgh in 1856, after learning the brewing trade from his uncle. The products of this brewery were popular both locally and abroad via exports to the British Empire. In 1886 he entered parliament as MP for central Edinburgh with the brewery managed by his nephew. McEwan gave £115,000 to the University of Edinburgh to erect a graduation hall, and upon opening he was presented with an honorary doctorate and the freedom of the city of Edinburgh.

Robert Hope-Jones is recognised as being the inventor of theatre organs in the early 20th century. He designed an organ incorporated an electro-pneumatic action, diaphones and resonator system which created very high wind pressure in order to imitate orchestral instruments. The organ creates a sumptuous and theatrically grand sound and is a very rare survival, only one other Hope-Jones organ is known to exist in Britain in Battersea Town Hall. The room housing the swell box is known as the coffin room because of the shape of the timber-clad swell box housing.

The hall is built from stone from the Prudham Quarry, Hexham Northumberland, the stone was shipped by rail and also used extensively in the tenements in Marchmont. The exterior niches were designed to take statues but these were never infilled.

Listed building record updated at re-survey in 2011-12. Statutory address updated in 2015. Previously listed as '15 Bristo Square, University of Edinburgh McEwan Hall including railings and gatepiers between hall and Reid School of Music'.

Minor updates to Statement of Special Interest (relating to William McEwan) and References in 2017 .



Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland: CANMORE ID 74110

3rd Edition Ordnance Survey Map (1905).

J Gifford, C McWilliam and D Walker, (1984) 'Buildings of Scotland, Edinburgh', p246.

Dictionary of Scottish Architects, (accessed 2012).

McGrail, Steve. (2002) 'A Merchant Prince of Ale', Journal of the Scottish Brewing Archive.

Ritchie, Berry (1999) 'Godd Company; The Story of Scottish and Newcastle', James and James Ltd.

The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, (accessed 2017).

Further information relating to William McEwan courtesy of the Scottish Brewing Archive Association (2017).

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.

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Southeast Elevation, University of Edinburgh, McEwan Hall, Including Railings, Gates and Gatepiers between Hall and Reid School of Music, 15 Bristo Square, Edinburgh
North Elevation, University of Edinburgh, McEwan Hall, Including Railings, Gates and Gatepiers between Hall and Reid School of Music, 15 Bristo Square, Edinburgh

Printed: 25/06/2022 16:02