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


The Royal Lyceum Theatre, Grindley Street and Cornwall Street, Edinburgh, Scotland

Edinburgh Index

The Royal Lyceum Theatre, Grindley Street, Edinburgh in 2003 - Photo M.L.

Above - The Royal Lyceum Theatre, Grindley Street, Edinburgh in 2003 - Photo M.L.

The Royal Lyceum Theatre, in Grindley Street, Edinburgh was designed by the well known Theatre Architect C.J Phipps, opening on Monday the 12th of September 1883 with the London Lyceum production of 'Much Ado About Nothing' with Henry Irving and Ellen Terry. The auditorium was built on four levels, Stalls and three horseshoe shaped Balconies, which were not cantilevered but supported by columns. The auditorium today, which can currently accommodate 658 people, also has three stage boxes on either side, each decorated with plasterwork scrolls and painted panels, and the circle fronts and proscenium are also decorated with delicately reserved plasterwork.

The Lyceum's original owners, the actor managers J. B. Howard and F. W. Wyndham, also became lessees of the Royalty Theatre Glasgow from the end of 1884, and took over the Theatre Royal Hope Street Glasgow in 1888. In 1895 the new firm of Howard & Wyndham Ltd was created by Michael Simons of Glasgow and would become the largest Theatre group in Britain of high quality Theatre. The four founding theatres were the Royalty Theatre Glasgow, the Theatre Royal Hope Street Glasgow, the Royal Lyceum Edinburgh and the Theatre Royal Edinburgh. In 1928 the King`s Theatre Edinburgh joined the burgeoning group.

A Plan of the First Tier of the Lyceum Theatre, Edinburgh - From 'Modern Opera Houses and Theatres' by Edwin O Sachs, Published 1896-1898, and held at the Library of the Technical University (TU) in Delft - Kindly sent in by John Otto.Shortly before the Lyceum Theatre opened the ERA reported on the building in their 1st of September 1883 edition saying:- 'Within a fortnight an important addition will be made to Edinburgh resources of public amusement in the opening, under the management of Messrs Howard and Wyndham, of the Lyceum Theatre. The new house has been about six months in course of construction, and, for completeness of appointments and convenience of arrangement, may fairly challenge comparison with any similar establishment in the country.

Embodying in its design - the work of Mr C. J. Phipps, London - the fruits of experience gained in planning nearly forty theatres, the structure has been erected by Messrs W. and D. M'Gregor, in a thoroughly substantial and purpose-like style; while the cost has been kept down to a figure - within £17,00 - which compares favourably with the large expenditure incurred in a former West-end theatrical venture.

Right - A Plan of the First Tier of the Lyceum Theatre, Edinburgh - From 'Modern Opera Houses and Theatres' by Edwin O Sachs, Published 1896-1898, and held at the Library of the Technical University (TU) in Delft - Kindly sent in by John Otto.

The site selected, at the corner of Grindlay-street and Cornwall-street, affords the advantages of ample room and complete isolation. The architect had thus at his disposal facilities for lighting and ventilation, ingress and egress, which have been turned to capital account. With a view to attain the utmost possible security, the building has been designed in three parts, practically cut off from one another. The auditory, with its entrances and staircases, forms one block; the stage and its appurtenances another, divided from the former by means of a solid brick wall and iron curtain; while a third block, outside the main walls that inclose the other two, is occupied with the dressing-rooms and workshops. Another special feature of the design is the duplication, in all parts of the house, of entrances and exits, so as to insure the safety of the public frequenting the theatre.

From the suitable configuration of the ground, it has been possible to secure stage arrangements of an unusually satisfactory character. Occupying the north end of the building, the stage has a depth of 44ft. from footlights to back wall; the width, including a spacious scene dock on the east side, being 78ft. The height to the gridiron, or framework for supporting scenery, is 60ft.; and there being underneath the floor an available depth of 20ft., it will be understood that whole scenes can be readily raised or lowered out of sight. The basement floor is concreted, so as to exclude damp; and the carpentry, designed by Mr Syme, and constructed under his supervision, comprises all the latest improvements in stage machinery. In the ample space under the floor there have been provided on one side a master carpenter's room and orchestra room, and on the other a gas engineer's workshop. Lighting and ventilation are here obtained by means of windows opening into the lane, while a door affords ready exit for the employees in case of accident.

The iron curtain for closing the proscenium opening is an elaborate piece of work, consisting of two complete screens of boiler-plate metal, placed eight inches apart. It weighs three tons, but is so counterpoised that it could be easily raised or lowered by a single man, in the event of the hydraulic apparatus provided for the purpose getting out of order.

In the lighting of the stage, whether with gas or lime light, no pains have been spared to secure the utmost efficiency. In close proximity; to the stage, on the side next Cornwall-street, are a hand property room, and carpenters' shop; the same floor affording, near Grindlay-street, space for a large property-making room. Over the workshops are dressing-rooms, twenty-four in number, occupying four floors, with windows to Cornwall-street. These are reached by a staircase solidly constructed of concrete, and corridors running parallel with the street. The rooms are of different sizes, one and all being fitted with fire-places, wash-hand basins, and other appliances calculated to promote the comfort of the theatrical corps. At the south end of one of the corridors is a commodious and tastefully-appointed green-room; while at the north end of the range, with outlook towards the Castle, there are provided, on the several floors, a manager's room, a wardrobe and a ballet room, on the furnishing of which latter no little pains have been bestowed. Care has been taken to secure ample daylight in the staircase, and, indeed, wherever it can be possibly rendered available, thus ensuring, it is calculated, a saving in gas to the amount of about £150 per annum...

Auditorium of the Royal Lyceum Theatre, Edinburgh in 1999 - Courtesy Ted Bottle

Left - The Auditorium of the Royal Lyceum Theatre, Edinburgh in 1999 - Courtesy Ted Bottle.

...Passing now to the auditorium, we find in the usual position, immediately in front of the stage, accommodation for a powerful orchestra. Of orchestra stalls there are five rows, affording 121 seats. In the pit, which rises with a pretty steep slope, there are seventeen rows, capable of accommodating over 600 persons in armed seats, suitably upholstered. Adjoining the proscenium, on either side, are three private boxes, with front projecting as an independent curve. The central portion of the frontage shows the horse-shoe outline; and the corresponding section of the circle is fitted with seven rows of arm-chairs, of the architect's registered pattern, covered with peacock blue velvet; accommodation being thus provided for 209 persons.

Round the back of the circle runs a wide corridor, separated from it by a partition, whose upper portion consists of seven large squares of plate-glass, and which is pierced by as many ventilating apertures. The circle is entered from the corridor by four doors, partly glazed ; while to the corridor itself, in which a gentleman's cloak-room is provided, access is had by a wide swing door direct from a staircase exclusively appropriated to this part of the house, as also by a similar door from the foyer, that forms a notable feature on the Grindlay-street side of the building. This is a handsome apartment, measuring 28ft. by 18ft. 6in., and lighted by three French casement windows opening on to a balcony overlooking the street. It is entered from the upper landing of the dress circle staircase, and at the opposite end communicates with a refreshment-room and ladies' cloak-room. The windows are to be hung with cardinal plush velvet, the walls and panelled ceiling being attractively decorated, and the apartment furnished as a drawing room and lounge.

A pleasing scheme of decoration is also carried out in the vestibule, entered by three doorways from Grindlay street, and giving access on the right to the circle staircase, and, straight in front, to the corridors leading to the orchestra stalls. A mosaic pavement and oaken mantelpiece enhance the effect of this beautiful hall.

The Side Elevation of the Royal Lyceum Theatre, Edinburgh in 2003 - Photo M.L.In the amphitheatre, whose front recedes to the extent of four or five feet at the centre from the line of the dress circle, the two foremost rows are set apart as stalls, comprising 120 divided seats. The remaining space will seat 500 persons, who will enter at the back from a spacious and airy corridor or promenade, which also communicates with a refreshment bar, accessible on another side to the gallery audience. From all parts of the amphitheatre a good view of the stage can be obtained; and the same may be said of the upper gallery, which has been constructed with a more gentle slope than is commonly adopted, yet so as to accommodate about 1,000 persons.

Right - The Side Elevation of the Royal Lyceum Theatre, Edinburgh in 2003 - Photo M.L.

In the decoration of the interior, which has been carried out by Bailie Hall, the ceiling forms a dominating feature. This is constructed in a circular form, the central space, which is flat, being divided into panels enclosing tasteful ornament in relief, the circumference taking the shape of an elegant cornice. The ornamental details are left of a pleasing ivory-like tone, the remainder of the surface being treated with gliding and delicate colour. The coving which connects the ceiling with the proscenium is diversified with gilt ornament; and in a lunette over the proscenium opening is a painting by Ballard, a French artist, resident in London, of Apollo and the Muses. To the opening itself, which measures 28ft. square, there has been given the character of a picture frame, the surfaces being relieved with dainty scrollwork of Renaissance type, and the whole enriched with gilding. A corresponding style of decoration has been employed on the fronts of the Dress circle, amphitheatre, and gallery, the material employed here, as in the ceiling and elsewhere, being a patent fibrous plaster. A curtain of maroon colour, arranged to open in the middle will close the proscenium opening, and, when drawn, will disclose an act-drop, presenting, in monochrome, a reproduction of part of Alma Tadema's picture of Sappho and Alenons. For the private boxes, close by, are provided hangings of claret-coloured plash. The general effect of the interior promises to be at once rich and chaste. The theatre is to be lighted with incandescent electric lamps.'

The above text in quotes was first published in the ERA, 1st of September 1883.

A Google StreetView Image of the Lyceum Theatre, Edinburgh - Click to Interact.The Lyceum Theatre opened on Monday the 12th of September 1883 with the London Lyceum production of 'Much Ado About Nothing' with Henry Irving and Ellen Terry. In 1929 major alterations to the Theatre were carried out, and in 1935 furthur improvements were completed, which you can read about below. The FOH areas were later improved in 1996 and 2001 to 2003, when the Theatre received funding from the Scottish Arts Council, the National Lottery, and the City of Edinburgh Council capital grants scheme.

Right - A Google StreetView Image of the Lyceum Theatre, Edinburgh in which you can also take a tour inside the Theatre - Click to Interact.

You may like to visit the Lyceum Theatre's own Website here.

If you have any more information or images for this Theatre that you are willing to share please Contact me.

Archive newspaper reports on this page were collated and kindly sent in for inclusion by B.F. Some information on this page is courtesy Graeme Smith. You may be interested to know that the history of Howard & Wyndham Ltd forms a major part of Graeme's book about Glasgow`s Theatre Royal: 'Entertaining a Nation.' Details here.


Lyceum Improvements Scheme

From The Scotsman, Edinburgh, Thursday 10th of October 1935

Structural improvements are being carried out at the Lyceum Theatre, Edinburgh, without, however necessitating interruption of the repertory season. The theatre was recently reseated, renovated, and redecorated, and the present alterations concern the approaches to the auditorium and circles and the general comfort of the patrons between acts.

When the alterations are complete there will be spacious cloakrooms and ladies retiring rooms, equipped with the latest fittings.

The present pit bar is being transformed into a lounge bar.

The big Item is a staircase which will link the auditorium with the dress circle floor. It is an interior stair for the convenience of patrons moving about the theatre at intervals.

It starts from the stalls corridor and mounts to the dress circle on the side where the manager's offices and cloakrooms are situated.

Retiring rooms have been built under the stage for the staff. These include a sound proof rest room for the scene shifters.

Ventilation is being given special attention and the lighting of all these additional apartments will be appropriately up-to-date, while the fittings and furnishings will also be of the latest type.

The estimated cost is between £3000 and £4000. Messrs W. S. Cruikshank & Son are the contractors, with Mr J. Cameron in charge.

The above text is from The Scotsman, Edinburgh, Thursday 10th of October 1935 - Kindly sent in by Sue Dirk whose Great Uncle was William Stewart Cruickshank, builder of the King's Theatre, Edinburgh.

Other Pages that may be of Interest