Assembly Rooms (Edinburgh)

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Assembly Rooms
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Assembly Rooms
Location in central Edinburgh
Address54 George Street
LocationEdinburgh, Scotland
Coordinates 55°57′11″N3°11′57″W / 55.9530°N 3.1991°W / 55.9530; -3.1991 Coordinates: 55°57′11″N3°11′57″W / 55.9530°N 3.1991°W / 55.9530; -3.1991
Public transit St_Andrew_Square, Princes Street, Edinburgh Waverley
Owner Edinburgh City Council
Operator Assembly (Fringe)
Typemeeting halls
Capacity Music Hall: 788
Ballroom: 400
Opened11 January 1787 (1787-01-11)
Renovated1818, 1907, 2011-2012
ArchitectJohn Henderson
Listed Building – Category A
Designated13 January 1966
Reference no. LB27567

The Assembly Rooms are meeting halls in central Edinburgh, Scotland. Originally solely a meeting place for social gatherings, it is now also used as an arts venue and for public events, including the Edinburgh Festival Fringe and the Hogmanay celebrations. There are four rooms, with moveable chairs or tables, that are used year-round and are available for private functions: Music Hall, Ballroom, Supper Room and Edinburgh Suite.

Edinburgh Capital city in Scotland

Edinburgh is the capital of Scotland and one of its 32 council areas. Historically part of the county of Midlothian, it is located in Lothian on the Firth of Forth's southern shore.

Assembly rooms public gathering space in which social events and balls were held

In Great Britain and Ireland, especially in the 18th and 19th centuries, assembly rooms were gathering places for members of the higher social classes open to members of both sexes. At that time most entertaining was done at home and there were few public places of entertainment open to both sexes besides theatres. Upper class men had more options, including coffee houses and later gentlemen's clubs.

Edinburgh Festival Fringe Arts festival

The Edinburgh Festival Fringe is the world's largest arts festival, which in 2018 spanned 25 days and featured more than 55,000 performances of 3,548 different shows in 317 venues. Established in 1947 as an alternative to the Edinburgh International Festival, it takes place annually in Edinburgh, Scotland, in the month of August. It has been called the "most famous celebration of the arts and entertainment in the world" and an event that "has done more to place Edinburgh in the forefront of world cities than anything else.


The total meeting space, as remodeled in 2012, covers 4,600 m2 (50,000 sq ft). [1] The building is protected as a category A listed building as "an outstanding example of the late 18th century public building, continuing its original use". [2]


The Assembly Rooms opened on 11 January 1787 for the Caledonian Hunt Ball. [3] The building was funded by public subscription, costing over £6,000. [2] The prominent site at the centre of George Street, in the centre of the recently established New Town, was donated by the town council. [2]

The Royal Caledonian Hunt is a Scottish racing club dating back to 1777.

New Town, Edinburgh central area of Edinburgh, Scotland

The New Town is a central area of Edinburgh, the capital of Scotland. A masterpiece of city planning, it was built in stages between 1767 and around 1850, and retains much of its original neo-classical and Georgian period architecture. Its best known street is Princes Street, facing Edinburgh Castle and the Old Town across the geographical depression of the former Nor Loch. Together with the Old Town, the New Town was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1995.

The Assembly Rooms was designed by John Henderson, who was selected as architect having won a competition in 1781 for the design of the new Assembly Rooms. The original design went through three revisions before construction eventually began in 1783. [4] Henderson died on 16 February 1786, before the building was completed. [2] [5]

In August 1822, a Peers Ball was held in the Assembly Rooms on the occasion of a visit by King George IV to Edinburgh. [4]

The building was extended several times during the nineteenth century. In 1818, 22 years since the opening of the Assembly Rooms, the grand portico was added by architect William Burn. [4] Burn and his partner David Bryce went on to design the Music Hall in 1843. [2]

Portico Type of porch

A portico is a porch leading to the entrance of a building, or extended as a colonnade, with a roof structure over a walkway, supported by columns or enclosed by walls. This idea was widely used in ancient Greece and has influenced many cultures, including most Western cultures.

William Burn Scottish architect

William Burn was a Scottish architect. A talented architect, he received major commissions from the age of 20 until his death at 81. He built in many styles and was a pioneer of the Scottish Baronial Revival.

David Bryce Scottish architect

David BryceFRSE FRIBA RSA was a Scottish architect.

Finally, in 1907, new side wings were completed to designs by Robert Rowand Anderson and Balfour Paul. [2] The extension also saw the inclusion of a new Supper Room, relocating the kitchen to the newly established eastern wing. [4]

In 1945 The Assembly Rooms were sold to the Edinburgh Corporation. The Local Government (Scotland) Act 1973 put Edinburgh under the control of a City Council who took ownership of The Assembly Rooms, with whom they have remained ever since.


In 2011, a £9.3M refurbishment project began, resulting in modernised spaces that retain the Assembly Rooms' original character.

Funding for the project came from Edinburgh Council, with additional contributions from the Heritage Lottery Fund, Historic Scotland, the Scottish Government and Creative Scotland. The renovation was managed by LDN Architects while construction was managed by Balfour Beatty. [6]

Current use

The Assembly Rooms in Edinburgh is a multi-purpose event space, regularly hosting conferences, dinners, performances, exhibitions and weddings.

The venue has two major event spaces, The Ballroom and the Music Hall, and another nine drawing rooms. The venue is decorated throughout with crystal chandeliers, gold leaf and gilt mirrors while also incorporating modern technology. [7]

Room Details [8]
RoomMax capacityArea
Music Hall788481m²
Ball Room400342m²

Edinburgh Festival Fringe

Every year the Assembly Rooms are used as one of the venues for the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. The Assembly Rooms were originally operated by the Assembly Festival group, who took their name from the building. Assembly grew from that base to operate from venues such as Assembly Hall, an 840-seat theatre on the Mound (the largest and oldest operating Fringe venue) that was formerly the home of the Scottish Parliament. [9] and buildings around George Square.

For a short while, Assembly (the company) lost the contract to operate the building during the Fringe to Salt 'n' Sauce Promotions, operators of The Stand Comedy Club. However, from 2016, the contract returned to them. [10]

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  1. "RIAS - The Assembly Rooms". 2016. Retrieved 12 March 2016.
  2. 1 2 3 4 5 6 Historic Environment Scotland. "54 George Street and 53a Rose Street, Assembly Rooms and Music Hall  (Category A) (LB27567)" . Retrieved 18 March 2019.
  3. "Assembly Rooms Edinburgh - The History". Archived from the original on 1 June 2009. Retrieved 19 May 2009.
  4. 1 2 3 4 "The Assembly Rooms - History of the Building". 2016. Retrieved 7 April 2016.
  5. John Henderson, Scottish Architects website
  6. "The Assembly Rooms - Refurbishment". 2016. Retrieved 20 April 2016.
  7. "The Assembly Rooms". 2016. Retrieved 20 April 2016.
  8. "The Assembly Rooms - Venue Details". 2016. Retrieved 20 April 2016.
  9. Bennett, Steve (12 May 2005). "BBC - Comedy Blog - For Odd's Sake". Archived from the original on 13 February 2006. Retrieved 20 May 2009.
  10. "Assembly Rooms". Edinburgh Guide . Retrieved 18 March 2016.