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Publication Account

Date 1951

Event ID 1097732

Category Descriptive Accounts

Type Publication Account


45. St. Cecilia's Hall, Niddry Street.

According to Arnot, (1) in the time of George I some gentlemen had been in the habit of meeting weekly in the Cross-Keys tavern, then kept by a Mr. Steil who was himself a lover of music and an accomplished singer, for the purpose of performing the concertos and sonatas of Corelli on harpsicord and violin. Their numbers grew, until in 1727 they formed themselves into a society of seventy members pledged to hold a weekly concert during eleven months of the year. Having outgrown the tavern, they held their meetings in St. Mary's Chapel, now covered by the buildings of the South Bridge; and in 1762 they subscribed jointly for the erection of St. Cecilia's Hall on an adjacent site. The Hall was designed by Robert Mylne, the architect of Blackfriars Bridge in London, and is said to have been modelled on the Farnese Theatre at Parma, though on a much reduced scale.

This building still stands in Niddry Street near the corner of the Cowgate. The front, which is of polished ashlar, has its central part advanced. At the base two projecting belts form a ground course. In the centre is a doorway with projecting margins, surmounted by a delicately moulded cornice supported at each end by a scroll-shaped bracket. On either side there is a window with similar margins, the one to the N. having a keystone. In the S. recessed part of the front there is another window, also with a keystone, while in the corresponding part to the N. there is a doorway. On the upper floor a tall window rises in the centre between two blind windows from a projecting belt. There are also blind windows in the recessed parts at each side. The front is completed by a moulded cornice, enriched on the soffit with modillions and surmounted in its turn by a central raking pediment. The lower storey is now a store and the upper one has been altered for use as a dancing-hall. The upper storey was the original concert-room of which Arnot (2) says "It is of an oval form; the ceiling, a concave elliptical dome, lighted solely from the top by a lanthorn. Its construction is excellently adapted for musick; and the seats ranged in the room in the form of an amphitheatre, besides leaving a large area in the middle of the room, are capable of containing a company of about five hundred persons. The orchestre is at the upper end, which is handsomely terminated by an elegant organ." All that survives of this arrangement is the coved ceiling with a great elliptical recess opening to the "lanthorn" or cupola light. Plans of the building before its alteration are published in St. Cecilia's Hall, by D. Fraser Harris, 1899.


(1) History, p. 379. (2) Ibid.

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