Opening of University Union, 1889

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Edinburgh University Union in Teviot Row House was opened on 19 October 1889. Following its formation in 1884, the Students' Representative Council set as its first priority the opening of a University Union, to provide recreational and social facilities for students and staff. Buoyed by its successful contribution to the Tercentenary Festival, the SRC set about public fundraising. Letters were sent to prominent figures in Edinburgh and public subscription lists were opened. £5000 was raised in this manner, and further contributions were received from the Senatus Academicus (£500) and Town Council (£100). In November 1886, a Fancy Fair at Waverley Market brought in a further £10,000. Funds were now sufficient to engage an architect Sydney Mitchell (1856-1930) and to begin construction on a site adjoining the newly opened Medical School.

Teviot Row House is the oldest purpose built student union in the world. The building (in a distinctive fifteenth-century palace-block style) was officially opened on 19 October 1889. It was very much designed on the lines of a Victorian gentleman's club. It included a restaurant, library (with books donated by academics and former students), gymnasium (later converted into a billiards room), and a debating hall, which would become both a meeting place for many university societies and a venue for dances and other social events. Membership was by subscription, however, and only a small minority of students joined. Unsurprisingly, given the proximity of the Union to their classrooms, medical students were initially in a great majority.

See Also


  • 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.
  • Iain Catto (ed.), 'No spirits and precious few women': Edinburgh University Union 1889-1989 (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Union and Iain Catto, 1989)
  • 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.