Gateway Theatre (Edinburgh)

The Gateway Theatre (built as the New Edinburgh Veterinary College) was a Grade C listed building in Edinburgh, Scotland, situated on Elm Row at the top of Leith Walk.


Veterinary College

The building was purpose-built by George Beattie and Sons in 1882 for the relocated New Veterinary College[1] (not to be confused with the Royal (Dick) Veterinary College, which is still extant, elsewhere in the city). In 1904, the College vacated the building, with a professor and eleven students relocating to the veterinary faculty at Liverpool.[2] The college buildings were sold to William Perry in 1908, who then applied for a roof to be built over the courtyard to create a roller-skating rink.[2]


Perry's rink did not last long and the building was converted again in 1910, by architect Ralph Pringle, into a cinema[1] known as Pringle's New Picture Palace.[2] It was also for a period in 1929-30 known as The Atmospheric.[3]

Rep Theatre

When the cinema closed in the 1930s, the building was used as a theatre by an amateur dramatics group.[4] During this time, it was known as Millicent Ward's Studio Theatre and the Festival Theatre, before being renamed the Broadway in 1938.[3] Shortly after the war, the premises were gifted to the Church of Scotland who formed their own repertory theatre company based in the venue.[4] The building re-opened as a theatre in 1946,[1][3] with seating for 542.[5] This was the first time it became known as The Gateway.[3] It was a venue at the first edition of what would become the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, the world's largest arts festival,[6] hosting the Pilgrim Players who performed two T.S. Eliot plays, The Family Reunion and Murder in the Cathedral.[7]

By 1953, the Church handed the theatre over to an independent, professional theatre company, with the playwright Robert Kemp in charge.[4] The company included many of Scotland's finest actors (Tom Fleming was a co-founder) and its repertoire included many plays by contemporary Scottish dramatists.[4] Between the years 1953 and 1965, this company produced 150 plays.[5]

As Edinburgh Corporation was acquiring the Royal Lyceum Theatre to establish a civic theatre in 1965, the Gateway, then back in use as a cinema, closed once more.[3][4] It was then purchased by Scottish Television in 1968.[8] It was converted into the Scottish Colour Studio.[1][9]

Queen Margaret University

In its final public incarnation, it was one of three sites that comprised the Queen Margaret University campus and was the last part of that university within the City of Edinburgh boundary. It was bought by the university in 1988 and converted back into a theatre for the expansion of the conservatoire drama school and the theatre arts courses it offered. Alterations, by Law and Dunbar-Nasmith, were completed in 1994 at a cost of £5m. The theatre began to get a reputation as a top venue for productions during the Edinburgh Festival Fringe.[1] Extensive refurbishment work took place in 1998, funded with £1.5 million of National Lottery money.[10] Then, in 2004, it launched an initiative with the Scottish Arts Council to promote Scottish talent during the Fringe.[10]

In May 2005, the University was forced to close the building after a safety inspection declared it unsafe, with an estimated £3 million cost to make it so.[9] This deprived the city of both a major Fringe venue and its principal drama school. In the immediate aftermath, it left three theatre companies - Scottish Dance Theatre, Theatre Cryptic and Vanishing Point - without a base for that year's Fringe.[10]

Discussions were entered into as to whether to carry out the repairs to the main auditorium, or to relocate to the university's Craighall campus, which was opening in 2007. The possibility of using the Brunton Theatre in Musselburgh was also discussed.[10] Part of the Drama School transferred to the university's Corstorphine campus, while the Gateway continued to host QMU drama students in the Pend studio space each term.[9][10]

In 2006 the University obtained planning permission for demolition of the building to create residential accommodation. The building finally underwent conversion to accommodation in 2012.[1]

The site is now a student housing block, valued at £8m.[11]


  1. "Gateway (Edinburgh)". Theatres Trust. Retrieved 23 March 2016.
  2. Warwick, C.M.; Macdonald, A.A. (27 September 2003). "The New Veterinary College, Edinburgh, 1874 to 1904" (PDF). The Veterinary Record. Retrieved 23 March 2016.
  3. "Edinburgh, 40, 41, 42, 43, 44 Elm Row, Gateway Theatre". Canmore. Retrieved 23 March 2016.
  4. "Gateway Theatre". University of Glasgow. Retrieved 23 March 2016.
  5. "Edinburgh Gateway Theatre". The Laughing Audience. Retrieved 23 March 2016.
  6. Fisher 2012, p. 95.
  7. King, Brian. "A History of the Edinburgh Festivals". Retrieved 22 March 2016.
  8. "Gateway Theatre sold to Scottish Television". The Glasgow Herald. 17 October 1968. p. 13. Retrieved 28 October 2017.
  9. "Gateway Theatre". Edinburgh Guide. Retrieved 23 March 2016.
  10. Smith, Alistair (16 August 2005). "Edinburgh Gateway may close as cost of safety upgrade rises". The Stage. Retrieved 24 March 2016.
  11. "Gateway Theatre Edinburgh". Watkin Jones. Retrieved 23 March 2016.


  • Fisher, Mark (2012). The Edinburgh Fringe Survival Guide: How To Make Your Show A Success. London: Methuen. ISBN 978 1 408 13252 4.

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