IN the same week that the gardens of Coldingham Priory were officially re-opened to the public, another important step was taken in the shaping of the village’s future.
Crowds gathered at the Priory last Thursday for a special ceremony, just days after work began on a building which will help educate people further on the famous monument and other notable sites in Coldingham and the surrounding area.
At the moment, what is to be the home of a a Priory Interpretation Centre and a new Post Office, is still just a public toilet block but on Tuesday, May 17, SBC handed the keys over to Coldinbham Community Company and a team of architects who will be tasked with turning the structure into a facility which will be well-used by both residents and visitors.
The starting date on the development- known as the Luckenbooth Project- has been a long time coming, but after the Community Company received a massive funding boost from LEADER, impetus has gathered and developers are now keen to press ahead with building works.
A plumber and electrician carried out work on site last week and the toilet block is due to be demolished in the next few days.
Community Company member, Dave Jones, said it was fitting that it was now full steam ahead with Luckenbooth, just as the Priory was entering a new era.
“There is a real buzz around the village at the moment, and rightly so,” he told ‘The Berwickshire News’.
“For long enough locals have known about the worth of the Priory and its history and we all feel that Coldingham as a whole is something of a hidden gem.
“There are a series of interpretation boards dotted around the Priory now and we’re hoping that once the new centre is open, people will be able to find out more from the information and artefacts we’ll have on show.
“I’m confident that the interpretation centre will be the icing on the cake for the Priory.
“But we won’t just focus on the Priory we plan to install touch screen technology so people can discover the history of Coldingham at the touch of a button.
“We’re not saying we’re going to reinvent the wheel; we just want to give people the information they needand direct them to existing websites.
As well as being a hub of local history, the Luckenbooth centre will also house Coldingham Post Office which has been operating from a portable cabin next to the Village Hall ever since its former home was sold after its owner passed away.
But Dave said there was no way the Community Company would let postmistress Anne Kerr suffer another winter in the cabin.
“We all felt for Anne over the winter, it must have been like working in a fridge!
“We were also worried that the cabin would get unbearably hot with all the warm weather recently but fortunately it’s in the shade so she’s been OK.
“As well as running the Post Office, Ann has been selling a number of other goods but trade on these has been quite minimal. Hopefully this will pick up when the new centre opens.
“It will also include a coffee shop and we’re hoping it will become a real meeting place for residents and a first port of call for tourists.”
Ever since plans for the Luckenbooth were drawn up, a major priority for the Coldingham Community Company was to support local traders and this has been bourne out in the choice of the contractor for the development- Alan Cook who will be supported by local architect Allan Swan who has been with the Company every step of the way so far.
The Community Company has raised £242,048 to cover the costs of the project, 90% rom the EU-funded LEADER programme. However, because this funding is only payable once project costs have actually been incurred, the company’s cashflow situation may be compromised.
They are currently looking at other sources of funding to alleviate cashflow difficulties but initial feedback from banks has not been positive, even though banks now promote their willingness to work with communities.
Dave added: “If there are an financial institutions reading this out there that could help with an interest free overdraft we would happily transfer the Community Company’s account or if any philanthropic individual is able to help then please contact myself on 018907 71852.”