What did they build?

The Scotsman 1912

Opened 30 October 1914

As has already been announced the ceremony of laying the foundation stone of the new Town Hall for Portobello will be performed on Friday afternoon by Lord Provost Sir W S Brown. It was by the provisions of the Edinburgh Extension Act of 1895 under which Portobello was amalgamated with the city, that Edinburgh gave an undertaking to build and maintain the town hall in Portobello, and in February of this year the Corporation decided to implement the bargain. In view of the imminence of the erection of the new building, the Corporation acquired some time ago the property of Inverey House situated on the south side of the High Street and about 40 yards westwards from Bath Street and Brighton Place. The site is therefore a central one, easily accessible from all parts of this displayed other city.

The new hall occupies the north-eastern section of the property acquired, and is set back about 45 feet from the present front boundary wall. The Corporation decided, however, as a recent meeting to widen the High Street at this point to 60 feet. This will result in an encroachment of 10 feet on the property of Inverey House, thus making the front of the whole building about 35 feet distant from the street frontage line. This ground will be laid out as an ornamental approach to the new building. The hall is designed to accommodate 1000 persons, allocated equally to the area level and the balcony respectively. Access is by an outer vestibule, giving entrance to a crush hall 45 feet long by 15 feet wide. At either end of this hall staircases lead to the galleries, while conveniently placed are cloak and retiring rooms for ladies and gentlemen. On the right and left corridors lead to side doorways giving access to the hall. These corridors are taken out of the width of the hall, having been so devised as to preclude drafts, which are nearly always experienced where the access to the hall is direct from the front vestibule. The arrangement has the further advantage that and projection or “overhang” of the galleries is materially reduced, thus sparing the audience the discomfort engendered by the presence of a wide overhanging gallery, while the arrangement is accompanied by greater architectural elegance and more healthful conditions in the hall when occupied.

Galleries and balconies occupy three sides of the hall, a back gallery being formed of the entrance vestibule. The galleries connect at the further end of the hall with two emergency staircases which in turn join the corridors above referred to at the ground floor level and give access also to the platform and the artistes rooms in the rear. At the first floor level – accessible by the principal staircases – a small hall or committee room is placed capable of accommodating about 120 persons.

PLATFORM AND HALL ACCOMMODATION

The platform of the Town Hall is capable of seating about 70 persons, and its dimensions, with an ornamental proscenium opening of 36 feet, will be sufficient to permit of the performance of amateur theatrical and other like entertainment. To obtain the full advantage of the depth of the platform or stage, it has been decided to utilise the southmost portion of the old Inverey House and in this accommodation has been found for retiring rooms for both sexes – a large kitchen for use in connection with soirées, et cetera, and a steam boiler house for the heating plant. Separate access doors are provided for this part of the building.

The Town Hall itself is a fine chamber, 80 feet long by 58 feet wide and 38 feet high. It will have a roof semi-elliptical in section which will be pierced by semi circular lunettes on outside. The roof will be of steel construction, and finished in plaster with sunk coffers panelled with moulding slightly enriched. At the summit of each Bay into which the roof is divided longitudinal there will be a large circular and perfect perforated panels for the extraction of vitiated air. This will be operated on by means of a large fan electrically driven, so as to secure a sufficiently frequent change of air in the building. The floor will be laid on timber joisting for acoustic reasons and to this important matter considerable care and attention has been given.

In the roof

Externally the building has been treated on a simple and broad scheme of Renaissance to the details of which degree a certain degree of Grecian feeling has been imported. This style of architecture it is thought, will harmonise with a good deal of that which preponderates in some of the better part Portobello, especially those where buildings were erected in the first part of the last century. The entrance front consists of a portico of four three-quarter columns, flanked by two pylons more plainly treated. The entrance doorway forms a central feature in the scheme of fenestration, and a balcony is placed over the central doorway, access to which is obtained from the small hall over the entrance vestibules. In the rear of this portico the gable of the large hall rises, and this is flanked by solid tower-like features which contain the staircases. The centre of the hall gable is pierced by a large semi-circular window 16 feet in diameter, the details of which are emphasised in the masonry.

So far estimates have been accepted amounting to £6100. Allowing for the remaining work still to be provided for, it is expected that the whole building will be completed for at least £1000 less than was anticipated when the scheme was approved by the Town Council. The whole work is being carried out from designs prepared by the city architect, Mr James A Williamson ARIBA.