The Music Hall and Theatre History Site
Dedicated to Arthur Lloyd, 1839 - 1904.

The Gaiety Theatre, Kirkgate, Leith, Edinburgh

Formerly - The Princess Theatre / The New Gaiety Theatre

See Also - The Gaiety Theatre, Chambers Street, Edinburgh

Edinburgh Index

Above - The Gaiety Theatre, Kirkgate, Leith - From an early postcard

In October 1886 the United Presbyterian Church in the Kirkgate moved to new premises and the old church building was bought by a Mr Edward Edgar who ran it as a Music Hall. This was relatively short-lived as the building was burned down in March 1888. In 1889 Mr Edgar leased the site to H. E. Moss who built his new Princess Theatre on the same plot. The opening was on 30th December 1889 and Moss ran it for ten years until the lease was taken over by Julian Malvern. The Theatre was then reconstructed and it reopened as the New Gaiety Theatre on the 30th October 1899.

However, by April 1903 the Theatre had been closed again having been acquired by the Grand Theatre and Opera House Glasgow LTD. The Building News and Engineering Journal reported briefly on this in their December 11th 1903 edition saying:- 'Some eight months ago the New Gaiety Theatre, Leith, was closed, the property having been acquired by the Grand Theatre and Opera House, Glasgow (Limited). At the same time other premises in the Kirkgate, and adjoining the old theatre, were purchased, and since then a scheme of construction has been carried out, so that the buildings have been entirely metamorphosed. The accommodation has been more than doubled by gutting the interior, heightening the roof, and erecting two galleries. New furnishings have been introduced, the stage has been enlarged, and the entrances increased.

Altogether, there is now seating accommodation for 2,000 persons - in the pit, pit stalls, and orchestra stalls, 900; in the dress circle, 300; and in the gallery, 800. There are also three tiers of boxes on either side of the proscenium. In the centre of the proscenium there is a painted subject, symbolic of the drama and poetry, above the names of Shakespeare, Burns, and Scott. The proscenium front to boxes and the main ceiling are constructed in ornamental fibrous plaster work. On each of the floors there are bar-rooms and smoking-rooms, and, in addition, at the dress circle there are ladies' rooms. The galleries, built on the cantilever principle, are constructed entirely of steel and concrete, and, along with the staircases, are fireproof. A special staircase runs right up to the gallery, to be used only in cases of panic. The whole building is lighted by electricity. The plans were prepared by Bailie Davidson, architect and measurer, Coatbridge, under whose personal superintendence the work has been carried out. The new theatre, which was opened on Monday, has cost, including site, reconstruction, and furnishings, £25,000.'

The above text in quotes was first published in the Building News and Engineering Journal, December 11th 1903.

The Gaiety went over to cinema in about 1913 but re-opened as a Variety Theatre in 1944. The opening ceremony was by Will Fyffe on the 3rd of July. The final closure of the Theatre came in September 1956.

Some of the information on this page was kindly sent in by Archie Foley.

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