Theatre Images

Theatres in Ayrshire ~1800 - 2013

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The Opera House, Kilmarnock

1. Facade of Opera House showing scaffolding protecting the structure and stone carvings. The mask keystones, inner columns, floreate spandrels and central blind balustrade are clearly visible in this illustration of the building facade.  It appears that the balustrade above the second floor has been lost

Date; 18 February 2010
Photographer: ©Mike Bailey


2.   Facade of Opera House after restoration. The mask keystones, inner columns, floreate spandrels and central blind balustrade have been retained. The balustrade above the second floor, visible in historical images, has not been restored.  An unattractive upper storey, zinc faced, has been added.has been added.

Date; 22 November 2012
Photographer: ©Mike Bailey



Commentary on the structure

The rear view of the building reveals a complex structure that has altered over the years.

The wall adjoining number 4 John Finnie Street shows the original roof line with the gable ends added when number 4 was constructed.  The changes in the roof structure are revealed in a comparison of the roof profiles shown in the 1875 image and the 1935 image.   The rear of the building was lower than the facade which suggests that the auditorium was parallel to the facade, on a north - south axis.

A small section of the rear wall, overlooking Strand Street, remains.  This wall contains a doorway at street level.  The height of the lintel, and the width of the doorway, suggests that this might have provided access to a scenery dock or directly on to the stage.  On this basis, it is probable that the stage was located at the northern end of the site, hard against the Strand Street wall.  This view is supported by the absence of any joist holes on the northern wall below first floor level.  A further factor favouring this argument is that the site tapers from south to north and the roof profile visible in one of the images (page 4) also fits with this argument.

There is some evidence of a blanked-out window overlooking the site of number 4, at the front of the building.  The construction pre-dates the introduction of stage lanterns, the roof structures introduced to combat the risks attached to fire on the stage.  By comparison, There is clear evidence of a stage lantern on the Palace Theatre (built 1901).

A recent summary of the history of the site and the sequence of development plans can be found in the Scottish Register of Buildings at risk:

Condition: Ruinous;          Category of Risk: High
Site Visit History: 21/01/2010;  01/09/2003; 01/12/2002; 01/02/2000

Reason for Risk/Development History:
1989: The building is severely damaged by fire.

January 1992: The majority of the building is demolished following a Dangerous Buildings Notice, leaving only the façade standing.

March 1993: SCT receives information that a feasibility study into the mixed development of the whole block (Nos. 6-38) has been finalised. A working group has now been established to investigate possible funding packages.

23 December 1994: The Kilmarnock Standard reports that Kilmarnock and Loudoun District Council are keen to negotiate the voluntary purchase of several buildings on John Finnie Street, although Compulsory Purchase may also be invoked. The working group has met with Scottish Homes, Enterprise Ayrshire and Historic Scotland.

November 2000: Local planners report that East Ayrshire Council has appointed consultants to update the previous feasability study.

8 February 2002: The Kilmarnock Standard reports on East Ayrshire Council's initiative against vacant and deteriorating buildings throughout John Finnie Street.

15 November 2002: The Kilmarnock Standard reports that East Ayrshire's Housing Committee has discussed the rehabilitation of John Finnie Street. Negotiations are continuing between local planners and Historic Scotland with a view to finalising a development brief for the area.

December 2002: An application is submitted for a hotel and retail development by Klin Homes, incorporating the remaining façade.

28 March 2003: The Kilmarnock Standard reports that Outline Planning Permission has been granted. Plans include a basement retail unit of 546 sq. m. with a 5 floor hotel above.

April 2003: Historic Scotland reports that the group of listed buildings along John Finnie Street have been upgraded to an A- listing.

October 2006: Historic Scotland report that this building has been identified as a key project in the Kilmarnock Conservation Area Regeneration Scheme.

January 2010: Local planner reports that planning permission and listed building consent was granted in April 2009 for a facade retention scheme and erection of a retail centre behind with food and drink centre and hotel and public bar premises. No work has yet started on site.

January 2010: External inspection finds there is very little change to the condition of the Opera House since the last SCT visit.

March 2010: Applications are sought for redevelopment behind retained facade for erection of office accommodation.

June 2010: Local planners advise planning permission has now been granted for the facade retention and development of office accommodation.

November 2010: The Herald reports local development and investment company Klin Group has signed a contract with East Ayrshire council to redevelop the former Opera House into bespoke office space. The project will house finance and IT staff.

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