If you’re visiting the South East of Edinburgh, you might expect to see a few breathtaking sights. Arthur’s Seat, The Hermitage of Braid, Craigmillar Castle ruins or even the impressive Prestonfield House. But driving along Peffermill Road, you might be surprised to come across a hidden architectural gem, situated in a mainly industrial area.
Castlebrae Business Centre is managed by Create Business Properties and is currently used as a thriving hub for local businesses. However, this striking B-listed Art Deco building has a long history and, at over 90 years old, it continues to serve as a landmark and cornerstone to the business community in Castlebrae.
The building itself is a stunning reminder of the Art Deco movement in Scotland and comes as a pleasant surprise to many visitors to the area. But to locals, the former school building is a reminder of a bygone era, as many of the buildings from the past that existed in Craigmillar and Niddrie have been entirely demolished and rebuilt, with just a few notable survivors from the 20th Century still standing.
It was built by Scottish Architecture firm, Reid and Forbes, who specialised in school buildings in central Scotland from 1920 to 1964. They had a very distinctive style and many of their buildings are now listed buildings, including Leith Academy and Inverness High School. The firm won the contract to design the new Niddrie Marischal school in an open competition in the early 1930s. The design shows the influence of the German open-air school movement, emphasising the importance of daylight and fresh air.
The school was created with north and south-facing classroom blocks to aid airflow, and massive horizontal windows maximising daylight. But the most striking aspect of the design is the Art Deco influence, still evident throughout the building and on the unique detailing on the building’s tower. The design is said to have been influenced by American Indian motifs used by renowned architect Frank Lloyd Wright.
Niddrie Marischal was a Junior Secondary School, providing what was then considered a ‘practical education’ (metal and woodwork, motor mechanics and electrical science for boys, laundry, cookery and sewing for girls) for statutory school leavers. The building incorporated specialist classrooms for these subjects were provided, giving the building a factory-like layout.
The school closed in the early 1980s and, being owned by Edinburgh Council, was leased by Create Business Properties in the early 1990s, who saw the potential of the building for business and industrial use and it became Castlebrae Business Centre, providing start-up businesses in East Edinburgh with working units, providing welcome employment opportunities for local people.
As you’d expect with any property of this age, the Business Centre has benefitted from extensive refurbishment and now provides bright, modern and attractive business properties, whilst still retaining many of the stunning Art Deco features of the original design.
Still in evidence as you walk through the building are the school corridors, flat-roofed classroom blocks, the single-storey school gym and the Art Deco style tower with the school bell still in place. The floor, windows and corniced canopies to doors also reflect the design style of the architects.
During their time managing business units at Castlebrae Business Centre and other nearby properties in Craigmillar, Create Business Properties has not only provided affordable and flexible business premises to a range of established and start-up businesses, but they have created a tight business community that offers support to one another and shares skills and knowledge.
The Castlebrae Business Hub building is ideally situated close to Edinburgh city centre and has a wide range of units, including large industrial spaces and smaller office and storage units. Their tenants include home renovators, furniture restoration, a bakery, personalised gifts, care services, a leading UK Telecommunications Network Provider, florists, child play services, a beautician and even its own chocolate factory!
Create’s Chief Executive Sharron Stanton is a familiar face to the business owners and workers who use the historic building on a daily basis and in her 27 years working with Create Business Properties, she has offered her experience to support them, especially when the pandemic hit in 2020 and many of the tenants found themselves in uncharted waters.
“Over the years I have been here, I’ve seen many businesses thrive and grow, in part thanks to the location and support provided by Create Business Properties and I am very proud of that. But by far the best thing about this stunning building we call home is the sense of community and pulling together between all the businesses here. Create Business Properties has big plans to adapt for the future and I hope at Castelbrae Business Centre we’ll continue to be supporting local enterprise in East Edinburgh in another 90 years time!”
See the full list of tenants at the Castlebrae Business centre at www.createbusinessproperties.co.uk