Opening of McEwan Hall, 1897
Until the end of the 19th century, Edinburgh University had no discrete hall for graduation or other university ceremonies. Before the Universities (Scotland) Act 1858, the number of students graduating was small, and graduations could easily be held in one of the University's classrooms. The passing of the act, however, saw a huge increase both in the size of the student populace and in the percentage of students actually graduationg. The University was increasingly forced to hire external venues like Assembly Hall. This was clearly unsatisfactory, and in 1874 the University sought funding for a graduation hall which was incorporated into Sir Robert Rowand Anderson's plan for a new Medical School. A public appeal raised £82,000 and an application was made to the Government for the rest of the money. The Government voted the University £80,000 but on condition that the the graduation hall be dropped from the plan.
Further attempts to raise public money for a graduation hall it was only due to the munificence of brewer and politician William McEwan (1827-1913) that the University was finally provided with a graduation hall. William McEwan of the Edinburgh Brewing family, offered to fund the building work if the University would find money for the designated site at Park Street. The sum needed was £12,000 but the University was unable to find this amount. A University deputation went to London to ask the Government to include this sum in the Parliamentary estimates for the year. The Treasury finally offered £8,000 in two instalments in Mar 1887, and William McEwan provided the other £4,000. In June 1888 the University announced that the building would be name in honour of McEwan.
The exterior of the was completed in 1894. A further three years works were required to complete the Italian Renaissance-style interior which features murals by William M. Palin (1862-1947). The room was also equipped by an organ built by Robert Hope-Jones (1859-1914). McEwan handed the building over to the university in 1897.
Other University Events in 1897
- Robert D. Anderson, 'The Construction of a Modern University', in Robert D. Anderson, Michael Lynch, and Nicholas Phillipson, The University of Edinburgh: An Illustrated History (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2003), pp. 103-207.
- Sir Thomas Henry Holland, 'Introduction', in A. Logan Turner (ed.), History of the University of Edinburgh 1883-1933 (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 1933), pp. xiii-xxx.
- David Bayne Horn, A Short History of the University of Edinburgh, 1556-1889 (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 1967)