The appearance of the Corn Exchange is quite curious, it is a fine but modest building which is executed in an architectural style little-used in Scotland. It is described as Tudor or Jacobean, a style more commonly associated with England.

The Building
The choice of a hammer beam roof, to avoid intermediate columns, may have influenced the choice of architectural style for the building. The style chosen has been implemented both externally and internally with some considerable skill and delicacy. The front elevation facing the High Street with its steep gables, small central bell tower, tall narrow clustered windows, with small panes and articulated window drip hoods and simply moulded pointed arches is charming.

The scale of the internal space is only hinted at by the presence of the central gable, set back behind the frontage. The rear elevation facing St Andrew Street is simpler and very robust, with a muscular barn-like presence. The building form is very simple; a single ridged market hall set behind the twin gabled 3-storey office building on the High Street (although only 2 storeys were ever intended for occupation) the upper windows were lit the attic space. Internally the building is a revelation, the market space is surprisingly large and impressive, the complex roof structure and top lighting – only half of which remains – increases the sense of drama. The office with its exposed 1st floor balcony over-looking the hall and access stair hidden behind the side wall to the hall, is relatively simply laid out. It has fine decorative features, with low pointed moulded arches and simple octagonal stone columns, although unfortunately the original balustrade to the balcony has been lost.

The Dalkeith Corn Exchange is an unusual but eloquent and consistently detailed building, by a well-known and respected Scottish architect – David Cousin. He trained under William Playfair – one of Scotland’s finest architects – and was capable of producing plain and robust classical buildings, such as the University of Edinburgh Reid Music School, but equally was prepared to work in a variety of other styles ranging from Norman to Jacobean depending on the commission. This approach is described as Victorian freestyle.

The Jacobean style was used particularly successfully for the Free Church Offices and Savings Bank on the Mound and for the India Buildings in Victoria Street, both in Edinburgh. He was architect for the Edinburgh Corn Exchange, located in the Grassmarket, but now demolished. It was the success of this building that led to further commissions for Corn Exchanges at Dalkeith, Kelso and Melrose. Dalkeith is significantly larger than the other two, but the frontage of Kelso is similar in appearance to that of Dalkeith, albeit simpler in design.

The sheer size and scale of the main space has made it a struggle to find a suitable and financially sustainable purpose for it, after it was no longer required as a grain market. Therefore although the fabric has not been regularly maintained there has been no inappropriate use resulting in the loss of significant architectural fabric or features. The only use that has resulted in any major change was when Ferranti used it as an industrial training centre. Nevertheless the mezzanine floor – added at the east end – has been subsequently removed with minimal impact on the original building fabric. The outbuildings to the north were added at the same time and still remain, but the construction is of very poor quality and no architectural merit. It is therefore recommended that these outbuilding should be removed if the opportunity arises.

The building has recently had considerable structural and fabric repairs carried out, but these works remain incomplete. There are also incomplete alterations to the offices and both of the outbuildings to the south and the north, again this work is of little merit. To summarise, although the building is still in need of repairs to eliminate water ingress and prevent the further deterioration of the building fabric, it remains remarkably intact and the original architecture is still visible for all to see and appreciate.

History

“The scale of the internal space is only hinted at by the presence of the central gable, set back behind the frontage. The rear elevation facing St Andrew Street is simpler and very robust, with a muscular barn-like presence.”

“David Cousin, architect of the Corn Exchange was one of the most outstanding architects of his generation. Find out more about him.”
Read more