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LEGO helps secure future of historic Riddle’s Court Edinburgh

South east corner of the courtyard of Riddle’s Court © Dave Morris

century courtyard house, tucked behind the Royal Mile, and with a rich history to match. The building has had many incarnations, including as a merchant’s house, slum tenement, library, university hall and theatre venue. In its earlier, grander, days King James VI held a banquet here. As many of you will know, it has also become a home for the AHSS, and regularly hosts events for members. The latest vision for the site is an


THE MAGAZINE OF THE ARCHITECTURAL HERITAGE SOCIETY OF SCOTLAND AHSS Founded in 1956 – Over 50 years of Commitment I Spring 2014 I No. 35


exciting one; to create The Patrick Geddes Centre for Learning and Conservation. SHBT are now in the final fundraising stages of this ambitious plan. We have worked closely with the design team led by LDN Architects to make sure the proposals for the building improve accessibility and legibility of the building, and provide improved facilities. Riddle's Court has great importance, beauty and complexity. LDN’s response has been to sensitively conserve all rooms and elements of high cultural significance, and to design the new interventions needed, most obviously the new lift lobby. This will add a clear 21st century layer to the building, and greatly enhance the experience of visitors to the building. In addition to the building proposals, a

team of consultants have prepared activity, interpretation, audience development, business and branding plans, that will guide the work and ensure the sustainability of the new Centre. We’ve have been managing Riddle’s

Court day-to-day for the last two years, gaining valuable experience of the practicalities of running the building. We have widened the group of users of the building through promoting new uses, such as hosting student groups and theatre productions, reviving the building as a Festival Fringe venue. It has also been used as a backdrop, or 'set' for film and photography. All this will stand us in good stead when the building opens as the Patrick Geddes Centre.

cottish Historic Buildings Trust (SHBT) own and manage the A listed Riddle's Court in Edinburgh. It is a rare 16th

Broken doll photo shoot © Lee Howell Photography We are getting ready to move into the

delivery phase of the project, and anticipate that the main contractor will begin their work in autumn. However, before we can appoint the contractor, we still have some more funding to raise. Over the next few months, we are planning a number of events and initiatives to secure this support. Please consider contributing to the public appeal through our website at or by using the following link to go directly to our donate page Riddle’s Court is also hosting a rather

unusual exhibition. As part of this year’s Science Festival, SHBT are proud to present ‘Brick Wonders’, artist Warren Elsmore’s latest creation, featuring LEGO models of the ancient, historic, modern and natural Wonders of the World. Though made entirely from LEGO, these fabulous models are closely modelled on the real thing! All profits will go towards the Patrick Geddes Centre project. The interactive exhibition runs from the 5th-20th April. Tickets are £2- £4 per person and family tickets available. In addition to the exhibition, Warren will

explore, through fun and informative talks, what makes these simple plastic constructions so popular, how strong LEGO bricks are and how the plastic choice affects stability and colour. The talks will take place over four evenings during the festival. Warren will also be available for signings of his new book 'Brick Wonders'. Ticket prices for these talks range from £5 to £10 per person and should be booked in advance due to limited availability and wide appeal.

Audrey Dakin, Project Officer Scottish Historic Buildings Trust

For further information about these events please visit or call us on 0131 220 1232.

To see more of Warren Elsmore’s work visit

The Lighthouse of Alexandria, detail © Warren Elsmore SPRING 2014 I THE ARCHITECTURAL HERITAGE SOCIETY OF SCOTLAND I 9

Interior perspective showing the lift lobby © LDN Architects

Old London Bridge © Warren Elsmore

We also provide a full design, production and distribution service for a number of clients including The Architectural Heritage Society of Scotland.


Dalmoak House The Brandy Castle of West Dunbartonshire

FEATURES PROJECTS The King’s Theatre, Edinburgh

concealing a greater treasure. This category A listed building, between Dumbarton and Renton in West Dunbartonshire, was built in 1866-69. The listing text says it was for James Aitken, but I understand it was by John his father, possibly as a wedding present for his son and his new wife. Monograms for them are found throughout the house. My source also corrects the spelling as ‘Aiken’. James was known as a local brewer, but the father also sold wine and spirits and the nickname of Brandy Castle was applied by the local community. It was to change hands and, during the


Second World War, the Royal Air Force used it as a local headquarters. At the end of the war it accommodated homeless families and later even cattle, becoming rather derelict. But in the late 1960s, it was restored by a new owner. Then in 1989, it became a nursing home, the role that it has today. The official listing describes it as “2-

storey, 5-bay, broad U-plan castellated Tudor gothic mansion. Battered base course with gunloop details; hoodmoulds; crenellated parapet on billetted corbelling; chamfered reveals; curved corners; corbelled bartizans; rope moulding, 2- storey, 5-bay, broad U-plan castellated Tudor gothic mansion. Battered base

eyond a gate and lodge house, and hidden from view by large trees, is a large stone house, fairly imposing in itself, yet

course with gunloop details; hoodmoulds; crenellated parapet on billetted corbelling; chamfered reveals; curved corners; corbelled bartizans; rope moulding”. Listing descriptions can be quite a mouthful, but it continues telling us that the interior has “scagliola Corinthian columns; coffered ceiling, modillioned cornice; heavy decorative cornice, paired brackets. Wooden Imperial stair”. The stable building behind it has stepped gables incorporating a doocot and it, as well as the gate lodge, walled garden and west gatepiers are listed separately. The ceiling and hearths of the main

rooms are grand, but it is the stained glass windows that are its real treasure. The three round arched panels depict mythical characters. The central one is of the Red Hand of Ulster, indicating John Aiken's origins. On each side stand legendary figures in medieval armour, somewhat menacing, somewhat theatrical. All of this is set off within richly designed borders, floral, geometric and architectural. As elsewhere, the family initials appear in the design. The detail is extraordinary. The fine work is attributed to William

and James Kier. Michael Donnelly in his book describes the firm of David Kier (1802-64), their father, as perhaps the most important of Glasgow's early stained glass producers. Known collectively for their extensive work on Glasgow Cathedral, they were induced to install Bavarian glass instead of British, with a


Jeremy Watson, Chairman of the Strathclyde Group of the AHSS, has been investigating hidden built heritage in West Dunbartonshire. Here he presents some of his findings.



resultant influence of a more pictorial and detailed style on local stained glass design. Perhaps the windows here express that influence and prove what can be done locally instead of importing stained glass. This Dalmoak House window is also

thought to be the largest in a private house in Scotland. The pictorial and decorative detailing is outstanding and it seems as if all the family members have been represented in the entwining monograms.

References: • Michael Donnelly, Glasgow's Stained Glass, (1981). Glasgow Museums and Galleries. Reprinted 1985 by Smith Brothers (Kilmarnock) Ltd.

• Listed building text sc-45600-renton-dalmoak-house-cardross

And many thanks to “Lairich Rig” for comments and references

four seasons, and externally some stonework repairs were carried out. The King’s continued to be well used, especially during

In this article Rachel Simmonds reflects on the King’s Theatre refurbishment project. Rachel acted as a Consultant for Smith Scott Mullan Associates. She has an RIAS Accreditation in Conservation Architecture and also teaches at Edinburgh College of Art.


n 1906 a fabulous new theatre opened on Leven Street, in the Tollcross area of Edinburgh. Part of the well known Howard and Wyndham chain, it was a variety theatre with 2,500 seats over four levels. It was designed by two architects, James Davidson, who was responsible for the

red sandstone exterior, and J.D.Swanston, who designed the more elaborate interior. This was the only theatre they collaborated on, which gives it a uniqueness compared to the more prevalent Matcham theatres of this time. From its opening, the theatre has been in near constant use,

hosting a variety of different performances. Many famous faces have graced its stage over the years, including Katherine Hepburn, Sir Harry Lauder, Sir Lawrence Olivier and Anna Pavlova. By the 1950s it was in need of upgrading, and in 1951 the first major programme of refurbishment works was undertaken. This included the replacement of the entrance canopy with the cantilevered one that we see today, and the

removal of the upper balcony area. This allowed the upper circle to be extended back and its rake altered to form an enlarged upper circle. The intention was to improve the sight lines, which although partly successful, has resulted in the rear section of this area feeling somewhat detached from the rest of the auditorium. In 1969 the building was bought by the City of

Edinburgh Council. They continued to run it as a theatre, but by the 1980s the building was again in need of further work. In 1985 it underwent an eight month refurbishment programme. This included replacing all the seats with new tip-up seats in a cinema or ‘Pullman’ style. Sight lines were further adjusted, and the central aisle in the stalls was removed and replaced with two side aisles. The orchestra pit was enlarged, and the Viennese baroque auditorium was restored to its original colour scheme. The dome in the centre was repainted with a new design based on the

the pantomime season, when upwards of 80,000 visitors came to performances. This extensive patronage began to take its toll on the building and by the turn of this century it was evident that a further major refurbishment was required. In 2010, the City of Edinburgh Council (CEC) appointed Smith Scott Mullan Associates to undertake a £2million refurbishment of the building. This was joint funded by CEC, Historic Scotland and The Nancie Massey Trust. Their brief was based on undertaking essential fabric repairs, along with improving access and general visitor experience. The running of the theatre is undertaken by Festival City Theatres Trust (FCTT), who has a lease agreement with the council. Their input was vital in relation to prioritising works within the relatively small budget. There had been a number of previous proposed

projects prepared on the building, none of which had been realised. We reviewed these and proposed a scope of works that would address all the main issues. These included a full roof replacement with insulation, extensive stonework repairs, refurbishment of windows and doors, formation of a new box office with level access to the foyer, installation of a platform lift to the rear of the stalls, redecoration of the foyer, and installation of new seats to the stalls and dress circle. The works had to be completed by the end of July


All images are © Jeremy Watson

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