Proposals for a

New Bandstand

In Princes Street Gardens to replace the Ross Bandstand

History and Background

The First Bandstand

I don't know when the first bandstand was installed in West Princes Street Gardens.  There was certainly a bandstand there in the 1870s, when the gardens were private and only open to the public on special occasions.

In 1878-80, 'The Scotsman' newspaper reported that Edinburgh Councillors had been discussing how this old bandstand should be removed and where to.  The councillors were making plans for creating the gardens as we know them today with their broad straight walk at the foot of a bank sloping up to Princes Street, and installing a new bandstand in 1880.

When the new (1880) bandstand was installed, it was proposed to re-locate the old one "in a grass plot not far off as a shelter to the young from the rain, and to the old from the sun."


1880 Bandstand

This is the bandstand that can be seen in many of the early postcards of Edinburgh.  It was an octagonal bandstand, 28 ft in diameter, paid for with a 500 donation from the Princes Street Proprietors, west of Hanover Street.

  Postcard  -  P W & M Velco series  -  Bandstand in Princes Street Gardens

The acoustics of the bandstand were tested by the band of the 50th (Queen's Own) Regiment on March 11, 1880.

The first public performance from the bandstand was given by the 71st Highlanders on 16 June 1880.  Then, throughout the summer, there were performances every Wednesday.

By the summer of 1881, three evening performances and two afternoon performances were being held each week.

1934 Bandstand

In 1934, the bandstand in West Princes Street Gardens was replaced by a larger bandstand, The Ross Bandstand, which had fixed seating for 2,500.

The Ross Bandstand was  gifted to the city in 1877 by William Henry Ross, Chairman of Distillers Co Ltd.  It is still in use today, but is considered to be no longer suitable for the wide range of events and the sizes of audience that the city would like to accommodate.

The Ross Bandstand in West Princes Street Gardens and Edinburgh  Castle  -  during the 'Scotland v England' Rugby International Match on 22 March 2003


A Bandstand for the 21st Century?

In recent years, Edinburgh Council has made a number of statements about the possible replacement the Ross Bandstand, particularly following its failure in high winds on Hogmanay 2003 which caused Edinburgh's main New Year event to be cancelled.

The council announced, in April 2006,  that it wishes to see a new multi-functional performance space created on the site of the Ross Bandstand.  It proposes to bid for lottery funding to contribute towards the cost.


Three Designs

  A possible new bandstand for Princes Street Gardens.  Style:  grassy knoll  -  daytime illustration  

A possible new bandstand for Princes Street Gardens.  Style:  leaf  -  daytime illustration  A possible new bandstand for Princes Street Gardens.  Style:  shelll  -  daytime illustration

Architects, Make Ltd, have provided illustrations of possible designs, each featuring a 'new bandstand' built into the landscape.

Three designs have been prepared in order to stimulate debate. Each design is shown by day and by night.  They are described as:

-   a leaf

-   a shell

-   a grassy knoll (or landform).

All the daytime illustrations and one of the night-time illustrations include a couple of shapes, coloured red, yellow or white, on each side of the arena.  These apparently represent canopies over the entrances to new public toilets which are buried into the slope.

Make Ltd also propose that a new bridge should be built over the railway to give vehicle access to the back of the bandstand, and that there should be lifts giving access for disabled from Princes Street to the gardens.

Size and Timescale

The 'new bandstand' is expected to hold 10.000 spectators for the larger events, including 4,500 on the grassy banks on either side of the main seating.  The total cost might amount to 14m and it may take five years from 2006 to complete the project.

What Next?

Edinburgh Council and other stakeholders are now considering the results of the feasibility study that accompanied the three designs. 

A brief for this development is to be drawn up. An international competition. will be held to select the firm to take the project forward.

The notes above are based on:

1. The Scotsman:

-  Mar 30, 1878, p.8
-  Oct 17, 1878, p.6
-  Dec 26, 1878, p.1
-  Jan 29, 1879, p.8
-  May 6, 1879, p.3
-  May 9, 1879, p.4
-  Mar 12, 1880, p.4
-  Jun 16, 1880, p.6
-  Jul 9, 1881, p.6

2. Edinburgh Evening News,  April 19, 2006,  pp.1,10,11,12

3.  Brief description of the three proposals from architects, Make

4.  Edinburgh City Council News Release, April 21, 2006


A New Bandstand

Three Designs


Princes Street Gardens   other proposals

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