This website uses cookies. Find out more.OK

Listed Building

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

University of Edinburgh, McEwan Hall, Including Railings, Gates and Gatepiers between Hall and Reid School of Music, 15 Bristo Square, EdinburghReference: LB27993

Status: Designated


Print this record

There are no additional online documents for this record.


  • Category: A
  • Group Category Details: A - See Notes
  • Date Added: 14/07/1966
  • Last Date Amended: 17/07/2015


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

National Grid Reference

  • NGRNT 25796 73114
  • Coordinates325796, 673114


Robert Rowand Anderson designed 1875 as part of University Medical School complex (see NOTES), 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 NW corner and 4-storey tower to SW corner. Rear (W) 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, 1st, 2nd and attic (plain frieze at ground and attic, decorated frieze with foliage and figurative carving at 1st, garland carved frieze at 2nd).

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 1st, shell head niche set within pedimented surround at 2nd. Oculi at ground, plain first floor except for inscription (see NOTES) and corniced and garland frieze surround to stair tower windows, corinthian blind arcade at 2nd 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 (see NOTES), 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 SW 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 separate listing). 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 stage two 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 separate listing).

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 Sir 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 son. 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.

(List description updated at re-survey 2011-12).

Statutory address updated (2015). Previously listed as '15 Bristo Square, University of Edinburgh McEwan Hall including railings and gatepiers between hall and Reid School of Music'.



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, Buildings of Scotland, Edinburgh (1984), p246.

Dictionary of Scottish Architects, (accessed 2012).

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.

Enquiries relating to works to listed buildings should be made to the local authority in the first instance. Listed building consent is required for works which a local authority considers will affect its character as a building of special architectural or historic interest and local authorities also decide if listed building consent is required.

Listing covers both the exterior and the interior. Listing can cover structures not mentioned which are part of the curtilage of the building, such as boundary walls, gates, gatepiers, ancillary buildings etc. The local authority is responsible for advising on what is covered by the listing including the curtilage of a listed building. For information about curtilage see

Legislation introduced on 1 October 2015 allows us to state that: an object or structure fixed to the listed building; any object or structure within the curtilage of the listed building; and, any part or feature of the listed building that is not of architectural or historic interest may be excluded from a listing. If part of your building is not listed under the new legislation, the part will be excluded in the statutory address and in the statement of special interest. The statement will use the word 'excluding' and quote the relevant section of the Historic Environment Scotland Act 2014. 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 current legislation.

Find out more about listing and our other designations at