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Listed Building

The legal part of the listing is the address/name of site only. All other information in the record is not statutory.


Status: Designated


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  • Category: A
  • Date Added: 14/12/1970


  • Local Authority: Edinburgh
  • Planning Authority: Edinburgh
  • Burgh: Edinburgh

National Grid Reference

  • NGRNT 24969 72745
  • Coordinates324969, 672745


JD Swanston (Kirkcaldy) and James Davidson (Coatbridge), 1905-6, alterations 1951, and refurbishment schemes 1985 and 2012-13. 4-storey 5-bay Edwardian Baroque theatre. Dumfries red sandstone ashlar. Base course; moulded dividing bands at 1st, 2nd and 3rd floors; mutuled eaves cornice; balustered parapet. Stone-mullioned windows in moulded surrounds.

W (LEVEN STREET) ELEVATION: projecting centre bay; paired 2-leaf timber (teak) panelled glazed doors with bevelled glass in swirling Art Nouveau frames and Art Nouveau brass door furniture inlaid with enamel decoration, in Ionic-columned timber surround; Art Nouveau stained glass in windows above; original canopy replaced 1950; Diocletian window to 1st floor; consoled keyblock (female figure) supports 2-storey oriel window; corniced 3-light windows with prominent keystones to 1st and 2nd floors; scrolled pediment and balusters to 1st floor; pediment to 2nd and ribbed stone roof; flanked by paired enriched Ionic columns on medallioned pedestals; dentilled segmental pediment over. Glazed openings between channelled pilaster strips to outer ground floor bays (originally intended as shops), pedimented windows (now blocked) with bolection mouldings to inner flanking bays; bracketed and corniced 2-light windows in outer bays at 1st floor; aproned 2-light windows with scrolled pediments to 2nd floor; 2-light windows to 3rd floor with carved masks of tragedy and comedy between. Splayed corner bays with matching fenestration (single windows).

N (TARVIT STREET) ELEVATION: dividing bands, cornice and balustrade carried round from principal elevation. Outer right bay red sandstone, channelled at ground floor; glazed opening to right (previously shop window) and small door to left at ground floor; bipartites to right, single windows to left at 1st, 2nd and 3rd floors, treatments echoing those on principal elevation. Rear bays red sandstone to ground, with entrance to steep stairs to 'gods'; rendered above, irregularly fenestrated.

S (SIDE) ELEVATION: left bay red sandstone, channelled at ground floor; dividing bands and cornice carried round from principal elevation; glazed opening (previously shop window) at ground, single window to 1st, bipartites to 2nd and 3rd, treatments echoing those of principal elevation. Bays to right brick; irregularly fenestrated; metal fire escape built out to rear.

INTERIOR: 2-leaf mahogany doors with oval panels set with stained glass (see Notes) to all public areas. Paired wooden kiosks with Ionic colonettes in foyer; terazzo floor; decorative ('fibrous') plasterwork (now painted yellow and gilded), coffered ceiling. 'Tudor' bar/smoking room; dark wood panelling, fire with decorative metal hood. Polished marble staircase with marble handrails and alabaster balusters to circle; brass handrail to centre. Bar at mezzanine level: ornate doors to right and left, with gilded female figures atop segmental pediments. Triple staircase to circle. Finishes at upper level varnished oak, still of very high quality. Oak panelled Director's room at SW corner of 3rd floor. Gilded 'French Renaissance' style plasterwork to auditorium, with trumpet-playing putti etc; 3 tiers of boxes with caryatids representing music and the arts between; 2 tiers of seating. 2012-13 refurbishment scheme included repainting of auditorium dome mural by artist John Byrne entitled "All the Worlds a Stage" (see Notes).

Predominantly plate glass in timber sash and case windows. Grey slates; finialled lantern to centre of roof.

Statement of Special Interest

Site, previously Drumdryan Brewery, acquired in 1905. Built by Edinburgh Construction Company, which failed during construction. Thereafter WS Cruikshank, masons in Duff Street, who were the contractors, took over as developers. Memorial stone laid by Andrew Carnegie 18th August 1906. THE BUILDER states that the seating was 'built on the cantilever principle,' with 'not a single pillar.' Opened 8th December 1906 (with 'Cinderella'); from 1928 under the management of Howard and Wyndham. A touring venue, 'in the vanguard for revue, opera, drama, ballet and pantomime.' Noel Coward's Private Lives was premiered at the King's on 18th August 1930, with Coward himself, Gertrude Lawrence, Lawrence Olivier and Adrianne Allen. Other famous names who performed here include Anna Pavlova, Maria Calls, Maggie Smith and Sean Connery. The upper gallery had to be rebuilt in 1951 (due to a structural problem which had developed) amalgamating the gallery and the family circle. The theatre was purchased by Edinburgh Corporation in 1969. Refurbished (seating, curtains, orchestra pit) 1985. The ceiling of the auditorium was given its trompe l'oeil painting (by William McLaren) at this time. Exceptional interior, largely surviving intact. Stained glass of very high calibre set in doors, screens etc (possibly by Stephen Adam of Glasgow), Art Nouveau in style; peacocks, Arthurian legend subjects, girls with roses etc. Fig 2.11 in Peter shows the theatre with its original canopy.

Major refurbishment scheme to upgrade the theatre completed by Smith Scott Mullan Associates Architects 2012-13. Project included general maintenance and repairs to roof, stonework, windows, doors and ornamental plaster repairs to the decorative boxes. Alterations included redesigning the separately accessed box office to internally link it to the foyer allowing ramped and level access through to the main auditorium; installing a platform lift to the stalls, redecoration to foyer, installation of new seats and handrails to the stalls and dress circle, carpeting and general refurbishment of fire prevention and ventilation systems throughout.

A new painting for the dome was commissioned in 2013 from renowned contemporary Scottish artist John Byrne to replace a 1980s trompe l'oeil. Executing the work was time critical due to theatre opening times and so the design was projected onto the dome in sections, traced and painted by a team of painters in June 2013. Byrne's design is called 'All the Worlds a Stage' and depicts a boldly coloured swirling celestial scene with a black harlequin carrying the sun and a woman in star- cloth banner pushing the moon through the sky. It plays on the duality of day and night and is rich in theatrical motifs and references including the famous lines from Jaques' monologue in 'As You Like It'.

List description updated 2013.



THE BUILDER 1st April 1905 and 22nd December 1906. Dean of Guild plans missing (1999). Gifford, McWilliam and Walker EDINBURGH (1984) p259. Easton (ed) BY THE THREE GREAT ROADS (1988) pp 84-5. Bruce Peter SCOTLAND'S SPLENDID THEATRES (1999) pp46-51, figs 2.11, 2.12 and 2.13.

Simmonds, R. (2013 The King's Theatre Edinburgh. AHSS, The Magazine of the Architectural Heritage Society of Scotland, No 34, pp. 24-7.

About Designations

Listed Buildings

We list buildings of special architectural or historic interest and these are selected according to criteria published in the, Annex 2, pp74-76.

The information in the listed building record gives an indication of the special architectural or historic interest of the listed building(s). It is not a definitive historical account or a complete description of the building(s). The format of the listed building record has changed over time. Earlier records may be brief and some information will not have been recorded.

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