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


Status: Designated


There are no additional online documents for this record.


Date Added
Local Authority
Planning Authority
NJ 93748 6368
393748, 806368


Frank Matcham 1904-6; masonry by A Anderson, slating G Farquhar, joinery Henry & Keith, sculpture Mr Arrowsmith and W Buchan. 1933, refurbished D MacAndrew & Co; 1980-82 refurbishment city architect Ian Ferguson, project manager Bill Moir, building contractor Taylor Woodrow Construction (Scotland); 2005 refurbishment and extension Trevor Smith city architect's department; building contractor Robertson Construction Group, project manager David Steel; painting and decoration contractor Lawrence Milne & Sons of Ellon.

Remarkable finely detailed Free Renaissance style, 4-storey theatre with domed 4-stage tower, on steeply falling ground to N, retaining outstanding interior, overlooking sunken gardens at heart of Aberdeen City. Symmetrical 7-bay façade and 2-bay tower; giant order dividing pilasters, dominant copper capped dome, portico, pierced stonework and ball-finialled balcony, 6-light tripartite window over 2 floors below oval window in segmental-arched and keystoned frame over 3 floors, semicircular pediment crowned by reinforced concrete statue of Tragedy and Comedy. Kemnay granite ashlar front, with Tillyfourie granite to sides and rear. Ground floor cornice, frieze and 1st floor cill course, eaves cornice with panelled blocking course and ball finials. Round-arched doors and windows; Some Gibbsean style window surrounds, some to tower with stylised pediments; oculi, keystones, voussoirs.

FURTHER DESCRIPTION: principal S elevation with arcade-effect window and door openings at ground, part-glazed 2-leaf panelled timber doors; regular fenestration to 1st and 2nd floors with taller windows at 2nd oculi to outer bays at 3rd floor. Tower at outer right has similar door and window detail, latter with additional pediments in keystoned frames over both floors giving way to corbelled aedicules at drum. Later E wing adjoining beyond to right.

Multi-pane glazing patterns in timber sash and case windows; much coloured glass throughout.

INTERIOR: spacious well preserved interior, handsomely treated throughout in mixed baroque and neo-Jacobean strapwork decoration, much alabaster and marble. Panelled foyer with Ionic columns, richly decorated ceiling and bronze bust of Frank Matcham leads directly to the dress circle. Large auditorium with 3 cantilevered galleries, dress circle also with 2 columns, raked stalls area has decorative ceramic tiling around stalls area for enhanced acoustics. Elaborate aedicular treatment of boxes, with statues of Tragedy and Comedy above, flanking proscenium arch with frieze depicting 'The Goddess of Drama'. Circular Dress Circle Bar with marble counter enclosing gantry. Horseshoe-shaped Stalls Bar copied from original.

Statement of Special Interest

The very high quality of design exhibited at His Majesty's Theatre is supported by an outstanding interior in almost original condition. It is an important work by the renowned theatre architect Frank Matcham. The building contributes significantly to the streetscape with the strong visual impact of the iconic façade owing much to its elevated position on Rosemount Viaduct overlooking Union Terrace Gardens, with a steep drop behind to the Denburn Valley.

Originally designed in 1901 with two small towers flanking a centre pediment, the final design has a single much larger dome, possibly to balance the dome on the nearby church. The building, which cost £35,000, was complete by 26 November 1906. The opening show on 3 December was a pantomime, Sweet Red Riding Hood, which played to a full house. After the show Mr Robert Arthur, who had written a complementary booklet entitled The Playhouse of Bon Accord told the audience "This is an Aberdeen playhouse built by Aberdeen workmen and is a credit to their handywork". At that time "the backstage accommodation was of the highest standard. A wide stage, running from the proscenium to the back wall, was graced by an onstage paint frame with a glazed sloping roof. The flying grid, with forty-two sets of lines of hemp rope, towered some sixty feet above the stage. A tall scenery dock door at stage level alongside the property store allowed easy access for awkward scenery arriving from the Schoolhill Station next door. Twelve dressing rooms at the Prompt Side of the stage..." (Swan, pp39-40).

After passing into Local Authority ownership, the 1974 Health & Safety Act led to necessary changes and in 1980 the theatre closed for refurbishment. New technical equipment was introduced and the auditorium was redecorated, seats were re-padded and repositioned and a new chandelier designed by Peter Rice was commissioned from the Royal Opera House workshop. Other changes included new lettering above the main door and replacement of some 200 panes of stained glass. HRH the Prince of Wales re-opened the building on 17 September 1982. His Majesty's was again closed for refurbishment and extension in 2005 at a cost of £7.8 million.

Prolific theatre designer Frank Matcham trained in Torquay before joining Jethro T Robinson in London and he took over the firm in 1878. Swan states that "he developed a very personal style that is instantly recognisable. He was a supreme example of the unacademic architect who became a master of his craft". Matcham kept costs under control and was technically skilled. He took out patents on lifts and concentric cantilevers for theatre balconies.

List description updated as part of the Theatres Thematic Study 2010.



Edi Swan His Majesty's Theatre - One Hundred Years of Glorious Damnation (2006). Aberdeen Daily Journal 14 Sept 1901, 3 October 1904 and 26 November 1906. Bruce Peter Scotland's Splendid Theatres (1999), pp184-189.

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.

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Printed: 20/01/2022 13:58