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- Category: A
- Date Added: 12/12/1974
- Local Authority: Edinburgh
- Planning Authority: Edinburgh
- Burgh: Edinburgh
National Grid Reference
- NGR: NT 24893 73315
- Coordinates: 324893, 673315
CJ Phipps, 1883, with later alterations and extensions, including . 3-storey classical theatre; blocking course and mansard-roofed attic to 5-bays to Grindlay Street and 1st bay to left in Cornwall Street. cream-painted stucco, channelled to Grindlay Street and 1st bay to Cornwall Street. Dividing band between ground and 1st floors; modillioned eaves cornice. Giant Corinthian pilasters between bays from 1st floor. Later brick fly tower.
SW (GRINDLAY STREET) ELEVATION: slightly advanced 3-bay pedimented centrepiece: ground floor obscured by later glazed foyer (see Notes); corniced windows to 1st floor, aproned round-headed windows to 2nd; engaged Corinthian columns flank centre bay, Corinthian pilasters outer bays; ROYAL LYCEUM THEATRE carved in blocking course; Diocletian window in moulded surround in pediment; pediment surmounted by lyre. Corniced windows in moulded surrounds to 1st floor in flanking bays; pedimented windows flanked by Corinthian pilasters to 2nd. Narrow windows flanked by Corinthian pilasters in outer bays.
SE (CORNWALL STREET) ELEVATION: slightly advanced bay to outer left: high base course; 2-leaf glazed timber door in round-arched surround flanked by channelled pilaster strips; corniced, aproned window to 1st floor, pedimented window flanked by small Corinthian pilasters to 3rd. Remaining bays (with mezzanine levels) plainly treated.
INTERIOR: glass foyer (see Notes) with ground floor arcade on channelled piers to rear. Marble-floored inner foyer; compartmented ceiling; decorative plasterwork with anthemions and urns; chimneypiece with pedimented mirror over; 2-leaf timber panelled doors to curved bar space. Auditorium: 3 horseshoe-shaped balconies supported by slim fluted cast-iron columns with gilded foliate capitals; 3 boxes to each side of proscenium at 1st balcony level, divided by cast-iron columns with Corinthian columns; decorative gilded plasterwork to circular roof, coffered ceiling, pilasters, balcony fronts and frame to consoled proscenium arch; painting in tympanum (Apollo and the Muses) by Ballard.
Statement of Special Interest
Lit by electricity from its outset in 1883, the Royal Lyceum Theatre is an excellent example of C J Phipps's skill as a theatre architect. Designed in a classical style in keeping with the predominant architecture of the city, it was built at a cost of £17,000 for John B Howard and Frederick W P Wyndham, who would later form the famous theatre owning and production company, Howard & Wyndham Ltd. It has an imposing and grand street elevation of cream-painted stucco with giant Corinthian pilasters to the first and second floors. There are three tiers of horseshoe-shaped balconies in the auditorium supported by finely detailed cast-iron columns, and the decoration is classical to match the exterior. A single-storey glass extension erected in 1986 by architects Simpson & Brown as part of a wider renovation project provides foyer and box-office space.
Charles John Phipps (1835-1897) was born in Bath and began his practice there shortly before moving to London, where he remained based for the rest of his career. He is likely to have studied theatre design on the continent as part of his training and he became best known for his theatre commissions. A catastrophic fire at his Theatre Royal in Exeter in 1887, where around 150 people lost their lives, damaged his career in later life.
The 1st theatre in Britain to be fitted with an iron safety curtain. Opened with Henry Irving and the London Lyceum Company in 'Much Ado About Nothing', 'Hamlet' and 'The Merchant of Venice'. Refurbished 1977 (Edinburgh District Council). Important Edinburgh Festival venue.
List description updated as part of the Theatres Thematic Study 2010.
Dean of Guild 15th March 1883. Peter SCOTLAND'S SPLENDID THEATRES (1999) pp 31-36. Gifford, McWilliam and Walker EDINBURGH (1984) p261. www.theatrestrust.org.uk (accessed 23 March 2010).
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