8 Edinburgh buildings that are gone but not forgotten
Edinburgh 1950

In a city as historic as Edinburgh we’re bound to lose a building now and again, despite the normally strict conservation rules.

In this post we pay tribute to eight Edinburgh institutions we have loved and lost over the years – top marks if you remember all of them.

Ritz Cinema

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Opened in 1929 and demolished 54 years later, the first film screened at the Ritz Cinema in Canonmills was part-talkie musical The Singing Fool, starring Al Jolson. The cinema was refurbished in 1969, with the removal of the seating in the circle and the addition of new luxury seating – it could hold up to 1,200 moviegoers.

Before closing its doors in 1981 the Ritz showed final screenings of The Exorcist II: The Heretic and Mad Max, starring Mel Gibson.

After applications to convert the cinema into a bingo hall were refused the building was demolished in 1983. The space where the Ritz Cinema once stood on Rodney Street is now occupied by a block of modern flats.

McGoos

Originally opened as the Palace Picture House in 1929, this building on the Royal Mile was most famous for housing McGoos nightclub in the 1960s.

In 1966 and 1967 McGoos hosted legendary rock bands of the era – from The Kinks and The Troggs to Wayne Fontana and The Who – on its stage. It cost six shillings (30p) to see The Who play live at McGoos, and tickets could only be bought on the door.

Not long after McGoos abruptly shut its doors for the last time after it was apparently deemed unsafe by the fire brigade. The building was later demolished, although the facade of McGoos and the Palace Picture House still remains on the High Street opposite the Scottish Storytelling Centre, with the word ‘pictures’ carved into the stonework.

Holyrood Brewery

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Holyrood Brewery was built in the mid-1800s by William Younger & Company brewers, more commonly known as Younger’s. Local legend has it that the workers here would gather around the clock tower in the yard at noon to drink their ‘horn’ – a daily free pint provided by the management.

Grand and almost castle-like in its architecture, the brewery operated for a century or more – seeing Younger’s merge with McEwan’s and become Scottish & Newcastle – before closing in 1986.

The building was torn down in the mid-1990s before the area was incorporated into the site for the new Scottish Parliament.

Fat Sam’s

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Most Edinburgh residents of a certain age will have fond memories of Fat Sam’s restaurant in Fountainbridge, which closed down in the mid-1990s and was finally put out of its decaying misery and demolished in 2007. The gangster themed Chicago-style diner opened its doors in 1986 in the former Edinburgh meat market building and was a favourite of local children.

Fat Sam’s incorporated the iconic 1884 stone meat market arches, sign and carved bull heads into its exterior, all of which have since been restored and re-homed a little further up Semple Street. You may still stumble upon the odd branded ‘I survived Fat Sam’s’ pin badge, but sadly the much-loved restaurant itself did not survive.

The Grand Theatre

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Once located on St Stephen Street in Stockbridge, the Grand had many functions and leases of life in its 90-odd years. First built in 1900 as a theatre, the building was soon converted into a riding academy and then later opened up as a cinema in 1920 which could seat over 1,600 people. Some accounts even suggest that the Grand was used as a roller skating rink at some point in its early existence.

The Grand Picture House closed for good in 1960 but the building lived on, used as a restaurant, music venue and nightclub under various names. Whether you knew it as The Pentland Club and Tiffany’s, some Edinburgh locals may remember frequenting here in the ’60s, ’70s and ’80s to see acts like Little Richard, Deep Purple and Iggy Pop play live.

In 1982 the name changed again to Cinderella Rockerfella’s and was an extremely popular nightclub before sadly burning down in 1991. The 90 year old Grand Theatre building was demolished shortly afterwards in the early 1990s and a row of modern flats now stand on St Stephen Street in its place.

The Cas Rock

Another popular and more modern Edinburgh gig venue was the Cas Rock which opened in 1992, replacing the long-standing Lord Darnley pub in the West Port. Smaller (but no less talented) names of all genres would perform here, with local acts meeting, sparking up friendly rivalries and becoming pals thanks to the unique community atmosphere of the Cas Rock.

Bands like Idlewild, Mogwai and Arab Strap that have gone on to become a part of modern Scottish music history are just a few of the legendary acts who performed here in their early days. The Cas Rock closed in 2000 and less than a decade later the building had been demolished to make way for a more modern structure.

London Road Foundry

In operation from 1867 until the early ’90s, Miller & Co Foundry on London Road produced high quality metal castings on a huge scale. After closing down in 1991 the various foundry buildings slowly deteriorated until they were finally all pulled down in 1996.

Meadowbank Retail Park now occupies the unrecognisable former Miller & Co site which opened just one year after the foundry was demolished.

Goldbergs Department Store

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Opening its doors to the public in 1960 Goldbergs in Tollcross was once a bustling department store, well ahead of its time. Part of a chain that grew from a single store in Glasgow in 1908, the grand Edinburgh shop consisted of five levels with a café, roof garden and exotic bird menagerie on the top floor.

Goldbergs mostly sold fashionable clothing, but some Edinburgh locals of a certain age may remember visiting Santa Claus there in their childhood.

Sadly – and despite dominating Edinburgh’s retail scene in the ’60s and ’70s – Goldbergs ceased trading and shut down for good in 1990. The huge and iconic building at High Riggs was demolished in 1996 and replaced with Bank of Scotland offices and modern flats.

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Main image via Getty Images