Renovated Town Hall puts heart back into Greenlaw

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AFTER years of falling into disrepair, new life has been breathed back into Greenlaw Town Hall and it has already welcomed the first tenant to one of its new office spaces.

The building has had numerous guises over the years including a World War II billet, court house and swimming pool but in recent years has been firmly closed to the public.

A group of Trustees formed the Greenlaw Town Hall Project Committee with the aim of firstly halting the building’s decline and latterly to explore the options for its long term future.

Once these possibilities were addressed the Committee, chaired by Peter Leggate set about gaining funding for the Town Hall’s restoration and one of their first ports of call was BBC Two’s ‘Restoration Village’.

Unfortunately the project didn’t progress further than its first TV heat despite gathering high praise from Duns Oscar winner Tilda Swinton who dubbed it a “beautiful and elegant” building.

But this setback didn’t set the tone for further funding applications and after the Scottish Historic Buildings Trust took hold of the project at the end of 2007, sizeable grants arrived from Historic Scotland (£500,000) and the European Regional Development Fund (£475,000).

And the restoration work received a further boost to the tune of £255,000 at the end of 2008 after Scottish Borders Council purchased land from the Historic Buildings Trust for affordable housing.

The land originally belonged to Mr Leggate, but he donated it to SHBT for the benefit of the Town Hall.

Other funders included the Monunment Trust, Viridor, various local farms and estates as well as residents of Greenlaw and the surrounding area.

After a total of £1.8 million of funding was secured, contractors Campbell & Smith Construction Group took possession of the site on June 26 2009 and Una Richards, director of the Scottish Historic Buildings Trust said it was fantastic to be able to “put the heart back into the village.”

“There have been various stumbling blocks over the past year,” she explained.

“The harsh winters in January and December didn’t help but the whole story of Greenlaw has been a massive success and effectively we finished at the right time as we’re beginning the new year with a new start for the building.

“Local charity Equibuddy have become our first tenant in the West Pavillion and we’re hoping in the weeks and months to come we’ll have enough tenants to create a thriving hub.

“The main hall looks stunning and the only sad thing is that we still need to raise around £75,000 for toilet and kitchen facilities before it can be fully hired out for public functions.

“We’ve started to explore funding opportunities for these and once we’ve done all the promotion for the offices we’ll switch focus to the main hall.

“At the moment we’re holding our breath to see who wants to use it but the feedback we’ve had so far has been very positive and interest has come in so far from a local amateur dramatic group and a local food group as well as the committee of Greenlaw Fayre who are keen to use it for the Fayre itself and an installation dance.

“Because of all the snow we had over Christmas there is still some work to be done on the grass surrounding the Hall but having had it lit up at night I have to say it looks stunning. It really has to be seen to be believed. I’m so pleased that we’ve been able to put the heart back into the village.

Long serving trustee Lady Brigid McEwen, who has taken a keen interest in the future of the Town Hall, since it was earmarked for demolishment by the council back in 1969, said she was thrilled the project was now nearing the end of the line.

She commented: “I am absolutely delighted that the Hall is now ready to be open to the public once again.

“I’ve been involved since 1969 when the council threatened to bulldoze it and use the space for carparking. To lose it then would have been devastating and it’s been a hard fight ever since to firstly maintain the building and then develop it.

“Peter Leggate has been tremendous throughout as have Berwickshire Civic Society, led by colonel Simon Furness. We’ve made endless funding applications over the years and if it hadn’t have been for their persistance we would never have got to where we are now. To have the building looking good once again is what we wanted all along.

“I remember when Princess Margaret came up to see the Town Hall in 1971 when it was being used as a swimming pool and many Berwickshire Hunt Balls were also held in the hall in years gone by.

“It would be great to have weddings, dances, concerts and the like in the hall again as well as using it for the Greenlaw Festival and I know the local community are very keen to see Greenlaw put back on the map.”

Anyone interesting in taking up one of the office spaces or using the Hall itself when it is open should contact property manager Elizabeth Mackay on 01389 750005.