The Building Repairs

Building News 11 December 1914

The Town Hall has been repaired over the years in response to problems, rather than a full scale refurbishment which many old buildings seem to need at least every 50 years or so. This has the benefit of keeping many original features (the grand chandeliers are original – although the shades have been replaced).

A Chandelier in 1914

The current closure was triggered by an incident of falling plaster, probably on the stage, and probably quite minor. In order to reopen, various surveys have been financed by the City of Edinburgh Council, with the results largely endorsed by an independent report commissioned by Portobello Central from Munro Allison Architects and Rob Robinson Heritage Consultants (and financed by the Architectural Heritage Fund).

The main focus has been on what works are necessary to open the building safely, removing any problems that might lead to another closure. The Scottish Government has set up the Place Based Investment Programme which aims to allow people to transform and find new uses for town centre buildings – including encouraging town centre living – and laying the foundations for a future that’s stronger, greener, healthier and fairer.

The Programme for Government states: “Through repurposing of land and buildings, the investment will revitalise town centres, provide new space for local businesses and jobs, and support the resilience and wellbeing of communities across Scotland.”

Under the Programme the City of Edinburgh Council allocated £350,000 for the repair of the Town Hall on the basis that the community supported the proposals for use and management made by Portobello Central. Given the effects of the pandemic on the building industry, Portobello Central agreed with CEC that the Council should use its framework agreements to deliver a swathe of repairs.

The Council conducted a tendering process and awarded a contract to Cornhill Building Services Ltd; the work to start on 1 June 2022 and will be completed in early 2023.

The Works

The Work Zone

Despite the comprehensive reports and surveys, it was accepted that the extent of the work needed would need to be assessed once the building team is on site and up the scaffold. Scaffolding has been a major cost in the programme; the priority is to make the top of the building robustly protected against water ingress and to ensure structural stability. The works include:


  • Scaffold access internally to the main hall and stage areas plus others areas where instructed
  • Scaffold access externally to all elevations


  • Areas of movement noted in external walls.  Most render was removed to enable repointing of rubble walls, the render was reinstated.
  • Stonework, open beds and joints repointed, defective stonework checked and remedial work carried out.
  • Windows – external surfaces decorated and minor repairs carried out.   Mastic pointing checked and replaced where needed.
  • Cast iron pipes and gutters checked, repaired and painted.
  • Flat roof areas cleared of debris and checked. Remedial work will be instructed if needed.
  • Main roof, missing and broken slates will be attended to.  Roof flashing, cladding and gutter linings will be inspected and remedial work instructed if needed.
  • The drainage system is to be fully surveyed once the building is in use and systems flushed through


  • Existing partition at balcony to be removed
  • Main hall ceiling and remedial works done, followed by repainting.
  • Stage ceiling  – the fragile ceiling has been made secure