Queen's Hall, Edinburgh
|Hope Park Chapel|
|Address||89 Clerk Street
The Queen's Hall is a 900-capacity music venue, situated on Clerk Street in Edinburgh, Scotland. Originally built in 1823 as Hope Park Chapel, it was converted to its current role in 1979 and was formally opened by Queen Elizabeth II on 6 July 1979.
It now plays host to all types of live music, and presents approximately 200 performances every year. It is the year-round Edinburgh performance home of the Scottish Chamber Orchestra and also plays an important role for the Edinburgh International Festival, Edinburgh Festival Fringe and Edinburgh Jazz and Blues Festival.
The Kirk Session of St Cuthbert investigated the southern districts of the parish and found that for a population of 20,250 people, there were only 6,274 seats at places of worship. An appeal was launched, the site was located and the Edinburgh architect Robert Brown (d.1832) was appointed to design the new church. He was responsible for laying out some of Edinburgh's urban extension and designing buildings such as the Easter Coates development, including Melville Street, Coates Crescent and Manor Place. The original cost of the building was £6,111, and in 1834 it was renamed the Newington Parish Church. The Forster and Andrews organ was installed in 1873 and was only the second organ introduced into an established church in Edinburgh.
Towards the end of the century, Victorian modifications were made to the interior of the building. Tinted glass was put in the windows, the pulpit was lowered, the high box pews were replaced with more comfortable seating, and the overall number of seats was reduced. During this time, Newington Parish Church became a fashionable kirk for owners of the new villas in the southside of Edinburgh.
The reunification of the Church of Scotland and the United Free Church meant that there were now 13 congregations between the Meadows and the Queen's Park, south of the old city wall. In 1932 the General Assembly reunited the parishes of Newington and St Leonard's. The original St Leonard's was sold to the Church of Christ for £3,000 (it is now St. Margaret's and St. Leonard's Catholic Church) and the money used to create a new development which is now the bar area. It was designed by J. Jeffrey Wardell and opened on 8 December 1934. A declining congregation lead to the closure of Newington and St Leonard's Church on 31 July 1976.
The closure of the church coincided with a search by the Scottish Baroque Ensemble (now the Scottish Ensemble), Scottish Philharmonic Singers and the Scottish Chamber Orchestra for performance and rehearsal premises. An appeal was launched in 1977. The architect was Larry Rolland of Robert Hurd and Partners, and the main contractor was Melville, Dundas and Whitson. The total costs amounted to £850,000 and The Queen's Hall was officially opened on 6 July 1979.
|“||A great deal of thought went into choosing a name for the Hall. It was considered important to make a clean break with its ecclesiastical history (St Leonard as the patron saint of prisoners did not seem entirely appropriate anyhow)... The name of 'The Queen's Hall' seemed appropriate for a capital city, and continued the tradition of the Queen's Hall in London which, before its destruction in the blitz had fostered such a surge in popular appreciation of classical music. Permission was sought from Her Majesty The Queen to use this name, and she graciously consented early in 1979, and agreed to open the new concert hall during her visit to Edinburgh in July.||”|
Further development of the backstage areas took place in 1982 with the opening of the Canada Room (now named the Tunnell Room, in honour of John Tunnell, the former leader of the Scottish Chamber Orchestra). In 1991, a new mezzanine level - called the Hope Scott Room - was created above the bar area. The Hall was further improved in 1996 with the installation of the piano lift, refurbishment of the pews, lighting and carpeting at a cost of £700,000.
Fixtures and Fittings
The clock in the clock tower was provided by subscriptions in 1827 and its original workings were replaced in 1883. These workings were stolen - probably for scrap - during the refurbishment in the late 1970s.
The two 14-foot (4.3 m) high plaques located in the stairways to the balconies ('The Creed' and '10 Commandments') were not part of the original fabric of the building. They were gifted by the Kirk Session in June 1949 from Buccleuch Parish Church.
The 1873 Forster and Andrews organ was relocated to Nicholson Square Methodist Church. The William Gray chamber organ was built in 1810 for the Jerningham family in Norfolk. It was purchased for £6000 from Christopher Dickens (Organ Builder) and relocated to The Queen's Hall. Its inaugural concert was 13 July 1979. It was sold at Phillips Auction in November 1991.
- Howard Colvin, A Biographical Dictionary of British architects, 1600-1840, 3rd ed. (Yale University Press) 1995, s.v. "Brown, Robert", gives an extended list.
- Burnett, Rosemary (ed) The History of the Queen's Hall.