George Beattie and Sons, 1882. Classical, symmetrical, 4-storey, 5-bay front elevation with modern frontage to ground floor; large late 19th and 20th century extensions to rear. Channelled rustication to 1st floor; polished ashlar to upper floors; predominantly brick with stone dressings to rear. Regular fenestration.
NW (PRINCIPAL) ELEVATION: modern doors in recessed openings to 1st and 3rd bays from left to ground floor. Dividing band between ground and first floor; moulded cill course to 1st floor; dentilled cornice dividing 1st and 2nd floor; moulded cill course to 2nd floor; corbelled moulded cill course to 3rd floor; broken eaves band; eaves cornice; balustraded parapet. To outer left and right to 1st floor, panelled pilasters with segmental pediments crowned by acroters. To 1st floor, recessed, pilastered window surrounds with rosettes to outer left and right to lintels; architraved, corniced windows to 2nd floor, architraved windows to 3rd floor.
TO REAR: large conglomeration of various additions of varying ages; to NE, brick elevation with blocked segmental openings to 1st floor, buttresses defining bays and corbel table to eaves.
GLAZING etc: plate glass to ground floor; predominantly 4-pane glazing in timber sash and case windows to upper floors; plate glass in out -of -character timber 'tilt and turn' windows to 1st, 2nd and 3rd bays from left to 1st floor and 4th and 5th bays from left to 3rd floor. Pitched roof (some flat-roofed sections to rear); grey slates. 2 corniced ashlar wallhead stacks flanking central bay to principal elevation; 1 corniced ashlar ridge stack to outer left; 1 corniced ashlar ridge stack to outer right; circular cans to all stacks.
Statement of Special Interest
A good example of late 19th century classical architecture, and of local historical significance due to its original and subsequent functions. Currently used by The School of Drama and Creative Industries of Queen Margaret University College. Some of the original interior features, including original classrooms, remain within.
40-44 Elm Row is situated on land which was have formed part of the Eastern New Town, laid out and designed by W. H Playfair in the early 19th century. The scheme would have been the largest and most ambitious New Town in Edinburgh, but despite an encouraging beginning the area quickly waned in popularity, mainly due to competition from new schemes in the increasingly fashionable West End. Resultantly, only the southern portion of Elm Row was built according to Playfair's designs. The land to north became occupied by industrial buildings, including a marble works which was situated approximately on the site of 40-44 Elm Row.
In 1882, the site was redeveloped by William Williams, a veterinary surgeon. He asked Beattie and Sons to draw up designs for a large veterinary school, to be called the New Veterinary College, of which he was to be the proprietor. Beattie produced two designs for the Elm Row elevation of the college; the scheme chosen shows two pedimented doorpieces to ground floor, with a horse sculpture to centre. However, because the original ground floor was considerably altered in the later 20th century, it is uncertain how closely the original building followed Beattie's plan at ground floor level. The section of the building fronting onto Elm Row accommodated a shop, with large saloon behind, to the S side of a near-central pend. To the right of the pend were professors' rooms and offices; to the upper floors, residential quarters were provided. Concealed behind the Elm Row elevation was a large courtyard around which were ranged 2-storey buildings incorporating stalls, a byre, forge, harness room, coach house and drug room to ground floor. To 1st floor, the accommodation included laboratories, dissecting room, reading and class rooms, lecture hall and a museum and bone room.
Following Williams' death in 1899, the College changed hands and was sold in 1905, when it seems to have become billiard halls.
In 1909, 40-44 Elm Row became the Bellvue Skating Rink, which featured a suspended bandstand hanging from the roof. It was at this point that the open courtyard to the rear was roofed, to increase the size of the building. The billiard rooms were retained. However, just over a year later, in 1910, the rink area was converted to a 'Cinematograph Theatre' by a Ralph Pringle, and was for some time known as Pringle's Theatre. By 1921, the theatre and billard rooms were owned by Elm Row Palace Edin. (1914) Ltd., a company registered in Nottingham. In 1945, the building was obtained by the Church of Scotland who converted the billiard rooms to a community centre but retained the theatre, calling it the 'Studio Theatre'. By 1963, however, the theatre was referred to as the Gateway Theatre. In 1969 the Church of Scotland sold the theatre area (although it retained the front tenement and community centre rooms) to Scottish Television Ltd, who converted the area to a television studio. Queen Margaret University College took over the building in 1988 and the building was adapted to become an International Drama Centre by Law Dunbar-Naismith Architects.
References and notes updated as part of the Cinemas Thematic Study 2007-08.