The Bedlam Theatre is an old building, that was used for many different purposes over the years. It is older than Teviot, Mcewan Hall, and Germany. It mainly used to be used as a church.
A proposal to change the building into a thrust theatre space for the university. Eventually was abandoned because of lack of financial support.
It got used a few times during Fringe by the Traverse Theatre, as an overspill house. But it was the Bradford University Drama Group, during the 1977 Fringe Festival who showed what could be done with the Old Chaplaincy Centre. Under Faynia Williams, they did a mega-conversion of the interior into a '20s Russian Constructionist set for a satanic number, Richard Crane’s adaptation of Bulgakov’s novel “The Master and Margaritta” - “Satan’s Ball”. The audience sat at gallery level and the scaffolded machine a jouer dipped down the the ground and soared to the higest organ pipe.1
It seems that in January 1957 it started to be used as the University of Edinburgh Chaplaincy Centre. When the chaplaincy grew, they moved to the purpose-designed New Chaplaincy around 1975, which still exits next to Potterow now.
During the time that it was the Chaplaincy Centre it was the Fringe Club ticket office. How long we’re not sure, but it was definitely doing that in 1967:
In 1961 and 1962 it was also the location of the University Glee Club’s yearly show. There’s some photos from that time here.
Someone also got married during this time.
The building was gifted to the University of Edinburgh around 1937. We don’t really know what happened with the building between 1937-1957, however we are assuming it was used for furniture storage, as well as getting renovated at some point in the 1950’s before being used as the Chaplaincy centre
In 1846 the building we currently inhabit was built, the first service not being till the 23rd of June 1848. It was designed by Scottish architect Thomas Hamilton, who also designed the Burns Monument. The Church was used until the congregation, finding the building “ugly and inconvenient” left for another location. The closing service of the church took place on 7th November 1937.
1913 Bedlam. Notice the windows above the doors and fence being present.
The area has been home to workhouse, a Bedlam, and the Darrien House, the headquaters for the Company of Scotland to lead the ill-fated Darrien Scheme/
Before Forrest Road existed, there was a mental asylum, the first in Scotland in the location where Bedlam now stands. It was known as the Bristo Bedlam, and this is the reason our theatre is now called ‘Bedlam’. It lay behind the city wall, which ran along the present Lauriston Place, Teviot Place and Bristo Port. The Bedlam eventually consisted of two buildings. The Darien House, formerly the offices of the ill-fated Darien Company, which had sought to establish a Scottish colonial empire in South America, and Molly Buntin’s House, previously the home of a noted Edinburgh beauty, both of which had become disused by the early eighteenth century. Conditions for patients in the Bedlam were apalling. This was exposed when the Edinburgh poet Robert Fergusson died there in 1774, aged only 24 years. His physician, Doctor Andrew Duncan, campaigned successfully to have the Bedlam closed down.1
The building was demolished in 1871. This means that this building was still here whilst the church that turned into Bedlam existed for 30 years whilst this mental assylum was still here as well.
The building was removed of patients in 1844
1784 Map of the Area. Note the lack of existance of the George IV Bridge.
1864 Map of the Area
Around the 1870’s a plan was made for a tram for Forrest Road (and a lot more roads but yeah). You can see the tracks on the 1913 photo. Apparently trams were around more widely from around 1871 to 1956, but they declined in use from WW2 onwards and because busses became more popular. link
The image is from 1954, made from someone basically standing in front of what now is Bedlam.
So, according to the 1991 Theatre Manager manual we pumped heat through this building very occassionally so we didn’t completely freeze. The question is, what on earth was the building at the time…
In an 1860 map it seems to be the men’s ward of the Bedlam, and in an 1877 map it seems to be the ‘City Parish Chambers’
It has been the Royal College of Physicians Laboratory, which if this building is the lab their website is talking about (which I am going to assume), was opened in 1887, and closed in 1950 because the NHS came into existance..
We know that in 1991 the building was sold to someone by someone, but that’s not a lot of info…
Up until Hotel Du Vin got the building, it was a Blood Transfusion centre.
Since winter 2008 it’s the Hotel Du Vin
Up until the 1950’s there was a full triangle of buildings where Potterow/the informatics building are now, which is interesting. Also most of the south and like half of the east side of George Square were knocked down around the same time. (rip for the uni knocking down a lot of cool old buildings)