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Assembly Rooms

Located on Edinburgh's George Street, between Hanover and Frederick Streets, is the Assembly Rooms and Music Hall. The Assembly Rooms were built in 1782-7 by public subscription and designed by John Henderson. They became the centre for the capital's social functions, hosting glittering dances and dinners. The arcaded Doric portico, which overhangs the pavement, was added in 1818 by William Burn (1789 - 1870). The Music Hall was built behind the existing building in 1843 by Burn and his partner David Bryce (1803-76). The architectural practice of Rowand Anderson and Paul extended the building towards the east and west by building over the flanking lanes.

Internally the Assembly Rooms are grand. The rooms feature enormous chandeliers and mirrored walls. The ballroom, on the first floor at the front of the building, is particularly sumptuous. It was here in 1827 that Sir Walter Scott (1771 - 1832) was finally acknowledged as the mystery author of the Waverley Novels, many of which he had written in his nearby George Street home. Other authors such as Dickens and Thackeray have given readings in the Assembly Rooms. Prime Minister William Gladstone (1809-98) spoke there and the Polish pianist Paderewski played there.

The building is owned by the City of Edinburgh Council. During the First World War it acted as a recruiting centre and later a labour exchange. However, by the 1950s it was restored as a regular venue for concerts, functions and conferences, particularly during the Edinburgh Festival.


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