Teviot Row House opened its doors in 1889, making it the oldest purpose-built student union in the world. It was the inspiration of the university’s new ‘Student Representative Council’ formed a few years before, who saw an urgent need to provide facilities catering to all the students’ needs. The essential requirements of a Victorian student were quite different to those of today, and the building was to include billiard rooms, a servants’ hall, tea and luncheon rooms, a writing room, library, dressing room, ‘retiring room’, barber, and a fives courts in the basement.
Many generations of students at the University of Edinburgh will have fond memories of time spent in Teviot Row House, others will remember the Fringe Club of past years and the Gilded Balloon of today. It is one of the city’s most important cultural venues.
Designed by Sydney Mitchell, Teviot Row House is a good example of his great interest in Scottish buildings of the renaissance period. Its distinctive frontage has twin drum-shaped towers, inspired by the sixteenth century palaces of Holyrood and Falkland. Inside there are turnpike stairs, gothic windows and a magnificent hammerbeam roof for the Debating Hall.
In 1981 the building became home to the Fringe Club, where every night audiences could see snippets from shows across the programme. Since 2003 it has been used by the Gilded Balloon as a major venue for their brand of stand-up comedy and cabaret, hosting over 100 shows per day from local and international performers.
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