The Leith Conservation Area was designated in February 1998. It comprises the former Madeira and Old Leith Conservation areas with extensions at Leith Walk, Kirkgate, Albert Dock and the Citadel. The Old Leith Conservation Area was designated in 1977, with a number of subsequent amendments and the Madeira Conservation Area was designated in 1975. The Conservation Area boundary was amended on 30 August 2013 to transfer part of Leith Walk and Pilrig Street to the Pilrig Conservation Area.
Conservation areas are designated under the Planning Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas (Scotland) Act 1997. Conservation areas are areas which have special architectural or historic interest that are considered worthy of protection.
In April 2020, an enquiry was submitted requesting that consideration be given to an extension of the Leith Conservation Area to include areas to the east and west of Leith Walk, on Manderston Street and Jane Street. The buildings comprise the railway arches associated with the former Leith Walk West Goods Yard and the abutment of the former railway bridge over Leith Walk (see plan above). It was considered that this would assist in securing the long-term future of Stead’s Place and protect the railway heritage of Leith.
The former Leith Walk West Goods Yard was on the Caledonian Railway’s Leith New Lines from Newhaven to Leith Docks. The goods yard occupied a large area to the south of Jane Street. Built because of intense rivalry with the North British Railway, it was opened for goods traffic in 1903. Stations were partly built at Newhaven, Ferry Road and Leith Walk but by then street tramway competition had removed the chance of passenger services being viable and they were never completed. By 1917 the line had been single-tracked and became in effect a long and underused goods siding.
Threading through a mainly built-up area involved expensive heavy engineering. The buildings fronting Leith Walk formed the abutments of one of the three massive lattice girder bridges on the line. The bridge was removed in 1980. Considerable demolition was also involved; in this case, the row of tenements which fronted 106–154 Leith Walk and the entire south side of Manderston Street.
The arches are now occupied by a variety of uses. The present bingo hall at 24 Manderston Street was formerly the Leith Capitol Theatre and Cinema. It was the largest cinema in Edinburgh, seating 2,300, when it was opened in September 1928 by Gaumont British Theatres/General Theatre Corporation. The architects were J.M. Johnston and J.A. Ross. The entrance is through one of the railway arches, which leads to the auditorium. The cinema closed and reopened as a bingo hall in July 1961. It was then converted to a Top Rank Bingo Club and is a now a Mecca Bingo Hall. The building retains elements of the original interior Art Deco decoration.
The buildings reflect Leith’s railway history and are considered to be of sufficient architectural and historic character to merit designation as an extension to the Leith Conservation Area.
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