New Director appointment

New Director appointment

Home > New Director appointment

Scottish Historic Buildings Trust, the charity dedicated to regenerating significant historic buildings across Scotland, has appointed Dr Samuel Gallacher as Director.

Riddle’s Court exteriors, July 12, 2018. Photo credit: Sheila Masson

Scottish Historic Buildings Trust plays a unique role in preserving and promoting the nation’s heritage and in its 40-year history has so far restored over 30 buildings and raised more than £30 million. SHBT’s wide portfolio of restored buildings include Riddle’s Court in Edinburgh, Liberton Bank House in Edinburgh, Strathleven House in Dunbartonshire, Law’s Close in Kirkcaldy, and most recently, Port House in Jedburgh.

Photo credit: Laurenzo Mefsul

Sam joins the Trust from his role as Keeper of The Burrell Collection in Glasgow, the category A-listed modernist museum building and home to the world-famous collection of fine and decorative arts amassed by shipping merchant Sir William Burrell which was named Art Fund Museum of the Year in 2023 following a major refurbishment project. Formerly Assistant Director of the Medici Archive Project in Florence, Italy, more recently he worked for the National Trust for Scotland in Glasgow, Dumfries & Galloway and the Scottish Borders managing a broad range of historic buildings, capital projects, natural and designed landscapes, and art collections.

Passionate about Scotland’s architectural heritage, he has written and lectured on the subject, as well as consulted for Glasgow City Heritage Trust on buildings at risk, is a trustee of the Provan Hall Community Management Trust in Easterhouse and is a fellow of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland. He has recently been appointed a judge for the European Art Museum of the Year awards, with a special interest in the use and refurbishment of historic buildings as museums.

Maggie Wright, chair of Scottish Historic Buildings Trust, said “We are delighted to welcome Sam to the Trust and look forward to working with him to bring buildings in decline back to life for the benefit of communities across Scotland. Under his leadership, our very talented team will continue work on our current projects at the Tron on Edinburgh’s Royal Mile and at Leith Custom House which we are operating as an arts hub while we develop restoration plans. This is an exciting appointment for the Trust that will shape the next phase of our development as a key player in Scotland’s heritage community.”

A view of the Tron Kirk looking down the Royal Mile
Colin McLean Photography

Sam Gallacher said “Scotland should be rightly proud of its incredible collection of built heritage ranging across our towns and cities, our countryside and coastlines. These historic buildings are a tangible connection to our past, but I believe they also have an important role to play in our future. As we seek ways to foster civic identity, community access to the arts and heritage, more sustainable building practices, regenerated high streets, and dare I say it, nourish more broadly an appreciation of why beautiful historic architecture matters still today, I am excited at the potential of Scottish Historic Buildings Trust to make a lasting contribution across the country. Building on the Trust’s outstanding track record for delivering significant restoration projects, its championing of the ever-relevant ideas of Patrick Geddes and sharing widely its knowledge and expertise amounts to a huge responsibility, but one which I am honoured to take on as Director.”

Scottish Historic Buildings Trust

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Concrete Conversations: the conservation of scottish modernism

Concrete Conversations: the conservation of scottish modernism

Home > Concrete Conversations: the conservation of scottish modernism

This Autumn, SHBT bring you ‘Concrete Conversations: The Conservation of Scottish Modernism’. In this six-lecture series, guest speakers will discuss how modern architecture was borne of a particular moment: reflecting faith in progress and optimism about the possibilities of the contempory world. How it embraced change as it looked to the future – sometimes controversially.

So why would an Historic Buildings Trust be talking about New Towns, post-war hospitals and concrete? Nearly a century after the “white villas” appeared, and some five decades after the apparent certainties of Modernism began to be challenged, Modernist buildings are very much part of our built environment. Some are decaying, but others have been recognised and protected fro their architectural significance.

Conservation is all too often thought of as a conservative practice, but these ‘Concrete Conversations’ will explore how this new challenge invites us to rethink not just modernism, but historic preservation, too. Please join us to re-imagine a new future for the past.

Edinburgh: Twentieth-Century city

Edinburgh’s architectural heritage is usually defined in terms of the medieval Old Town and the eighteenth-century New Town. This talk, however, will argue that the city has a substantial body of notable twentieth-century architecture, and that the decades since 1945 have, in fact, seen substantial interventions in the built environment which have fundamentally shaped the city of today. The talk will offer a panoramic survey, including projects such as the university’s post-war expansion, modernist housing and public buildings, Holyrood, and the international conference centre.

Cardross seminary: fate, failure or tragic myth?

Dr Watters will summarise the sixty-odd year history of Cardross Seminary as outlined in her book of 2016, and place Cardross within the wider religious, architectural and preservation movements of which it formed an important symbolic part. Its history divides neatly into two: the story of its design and use, and the story of its decline and salvage. 

space, form & structure: the architecture of peter womersley

Neil Jackson:

Peter Womersley (1923-93) was a Yorkshireman who made his home in Gattonside in the Scottish Borders. There, within a radius of just a few miles, he built a remarkable selection of buildings, many of which are now listed. In a career which lasted just twenty-five years, he moved quickly from domestic to public work, from simple structures to sophisticated and demanding forms. He always pushed the boundaries of what was possible and left a legacy, for many years overlooked, comprising some of the best of post-war Scottish architecture.

Matt Loader:

Sir Basil Spence, when asked in 1960 to pick the best modern house in Britain replied, “anything designed by Peter Womersley”. High Sunderland is an A-listed modernist house, designed by Peter Womersley for acclaimed designer Bernat Klein in 1957. In 2018, following a fire which affected over 60% of the property, the new owners commissioned Loader Monteith to both restore the house and to introduce 21st century technology to reduce it’s carbon footprint. With Womersley on one shoulder, and Bernat Klein on the other, the project was undertaken throughout lockdown, eventually completing in 2021. This talk will give some insight into our work and the opportunities and challenges faced along the way.

New towns: an ambiguous scottish & global heritage

Come along and hear ongoing findings from the ‘Building a Modern Scotland’ research team, in this presentation by Dr Diane Watters, Dr Valerie Wright and Prof Miles Glendinning.

The session sets the Scottish postwar New Towns programme in its wider international context, first by focusing on the original concept and later vicissitudes of Cumbernauld, the most internationally renowned of the series, and then by more briefly glancing at one fragment of its wider global impact.

Following an excerpt from the renowned 1970 promotional film, Cumbernauld, Town for Tomorrow – to give a flavour of the utopian optimism of the postwar era – Diane first revisits early 1960s and ‘70s architectural and planning narratives of Cumbernauld (her home town), and the subsequent condemnations of the town that took hold from the 1980s, at first within anti-modernist architectural discourse and then more generally. Valerie then zooms in on Cumbernauld’s social history, drawing on archival research, and more importantly, on her discoveries from interviewing people about their lives in the town, as part of the research for ‘Building a Modern Scotland’.  Finally, Miles provides a glimpse into the wider international impact of Cumbernauld’s unique ‘high-density’ new town vision by showing how that formula was developed and vastly expanded in the post-1970s New Towns programme in Hong Kong.

In heritage terms, the presentation will highlight the contrast between Cumbernauld, whose over 60-year old heritage is now burdened with seemingly insuperable problems of architectural and social stigmatisation, and the ambiguous heritage status of Hong Kong pre-1997 new town modernism, potentially excluded for mainly cultural-political reasons from a new ‘patriotic’ master-narrative.

Post war Hospitals

Harriet Richardson Blakeman is a PhD student funded by the AHRC’s Doctoral Training Partnership. She worked at the National Monuments Record of Scotland in 1988-9, before embarking on a survey of Scottish Hospitals on a two-year project funded by the Scottish Research Council, which resulted in the publication of Building up our Health: the architecture of Scotland’s historic hospitals, (2010). In her lecture, Harriet will survey key examples of post-war hospitals, reflecting on the significance of this building type and also some of the reasons why they are underappreciated.

panel discussion: the conservation of scottish modernism

Chair – Euan Leitch  

Dara Parsons, Head of Designations, Historic Environment Scotland 

Jane Robertson, Head of Conservation, Edinburgh World Heritage Trust 

Liz Davidson, Project Director, National Trust for Scotland

How do, and could, we preserve modern architecture? How can a conservation movement which originated two centuries ago with the preservation of ancient monuments engage with buildings and environments of a very different sort today? 

In this panel event we conclude our series on conserving Scottish Modernism by bringing together current leaders in architectural conservation in Scotland to discuss how the organisations and frameworks with which they work might address the evolving question of caring for the past, in the present. 

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Port House saved from Buildings at Risk Register

Port House saved from Buildings at Risk Register

Home > Port House saved from Buildings at Risk Register


SHBT is delighted to congratulate Jedburgh Community Trust (JCT) on the reopening of the Port House as a Community Resource Hub. The successful completion of the restoration project, which SHBT has supported since 2010, has seen this A-listed building saved from the Buildings at Risk Register and given new life for the benefit of the community for years to come.

JCT celebrated the completion of the works at the Port House with an open day in December 2022. The building has opened with local third sector organisation The Bridge as ground floor tenants, while HomeTown Hub have utilised the first floor as short term flexible working space.

There are still opportunities to lease space on a long term basis. The second floor fit out is currently being completed and offers a potential tenant scope to be involved. For more information please contact the Jedburgh Community Trust.

Jason Baxter Photography

The Port House was designed by James Pearson Alison and built in 1900 for the Jedburgh Co-operative Store Company at a cost of £2,105. With its cast iron structure supporting large plate glass windows to give bright interiors, the building originally housed the Company’s registered office as well as ground floor shops and a drapery department on the first and second floors.

In later year after the Co-op vacated the Port House, the condition of the building fabric deteriorated and it eventually became vacant. It was purchased by the Jedburgh Community Trust in 2010 with the aim of restoring it to provide community and business space for the town.

SHBT assisted with the Feasibility Study was undertaken in 2010 by the Jedburgh Community Trust, which set out a number of potential uses for the building. A key ambition was to bring the Port House building fabric into a good condition of repair, retaining the original cast-iron structure along with reinstatement of the original façade at ground level.

The Jedburgh Community Trust continued campaigning for the building’s restoration and approached SHBT to assist them with the moving forward the project development in 2019 including identification of external funding sources and appoint of a conservation accredited design team. Funding was secured from a number of sources including the Architectural Heritage Fund, the Fallago Environment Fund, and the Co-op Good Causes fund however the award of significant funding from both Jedburgh Conservation Area Regeneration Scheme and the Scottish Government Town Centre Fund was crucial to allow the project to proceed.

Works to the Port House included repairs on a like for like basis to the historic fabric, minimal adaptation to the internal layout to suit the end-use of the building including toilet and tea making facilities and servicing for office accommodation. Disabled access was provided with the inclusion of a lift, and new services installed throughout including electrical supply and distribution, heating, water and drainage, ventilation and fire and security provision.

SHBT have also been appointed to assist the Jedburgh Community Trust in looking at the potential development of the rear “Bakery” building at the Port House to provide further space to complement the Port House accommodation. Funding has been received from South of Scotland Enterprise to develop a feasibility study and consult with the local community with a view to restoring and refurbishing this addition to the Port House complex. This project is ongoing.

The Port House Project

Learn more about the restoration project of The Port House, Jedburgh, as well as the building’s history

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Tales from the tron

Gordon or Rothsay Map

Tales from the tron

Home > Tales from the tron

This spring, SHBT bring you ‘Tales from the Tron’. In this five-lecture series, guest speakers will cover the story of the Tron from the fantastical public spectacles staged at the Salt Tron on Edinburgh’s Royal Mile, via a shopper’s prehistory of Marlin’s Wynd, through to the Tron Kirk in its urban context and the working class and slum clearances of Old Edinburgh. Our final lecture, A Walk through a Thinking Machine: from Riddle’s Court to the Tron with Patrick Geddes, will end with a walk to the Tron Kirk to explore how we use spaces and places to learn.

the ballad of a great disordered heart

The Scottish Historic Buildings Trust and The Consulate General of Ireland invite you to The Ballad of a Great Disordered Heart. A film screening with live music at Riddle’s Court.

A film about the handful of streets around the Cowgate in Edinburgh which have long housed a proud Irish diaspora. A film about folk music and its power to connect people.

Musician Aidan O’Rourke, from the celebrated folk trio Lau, lives in the heart of Edinburgh’s Old Town. During lockdown, Aidan got to know three of his octogenarian neighbours, all called Margaret, and listened to their stories. The Ballad of a Great Disordered Heart explores through music and storytelling what home and belonging mean.

Before the tron kirk: mount parnasuss and a miraculous tree at the salt tron

During the 16th and early 17th century, the Salt Tron – the weighing beam and public house that stood where the Tron Kirk was later constructed – was one of a selected handful of key locations which repeatedly enjoyed a central role in public ceremonies. In striking opposition to its utilitarian, everyday commercial identity, the Salt Tron area became the location for the staging of fantastical spectacles, where performers impersonating mythological figures, historical heroes, or celebrated ancestors amazed the crowds, accompanied by skilled musicians and often in eye-catching settings. An analysis of the various events staged at the Salt Tron by the civic authorities to publicly celebrate the successes of the Stewart monarchs, reveals the richness of the cultural life in Edinburgh at this time, and the complexity of the relationship between town and Crown. It also establishes the remarkable importance of the Salt Tron area to outline and display the burgh’s identity and aspirations, both in everyday circumstances and during exceptional public events.

Marlin’s Wynd

Gone with the wynd: a shopper’s prehistory of the tron kirk

It’s the 1580s in the Royal Mile, so where could you buy 60 shirts, foil cloth breeches, drawing boards, pan hats, Spanish almonds, Swedish iron bars, confectionary boxes, French canvas and 636 golf balls? Before the Tron Kirk was built in the 1630s, wooden shops lined the wynds, selling both the exotic and mundane. The residents were equally intriguing, tailors and booksellers, widows remarrying, five nuns, and a pioneering spinster ‘being and abyding without marriage’. Meet the ancestors with Morag Cross.

Image from the National Portrait Gallery

Puddings, printing and palladianism: the tron in its urban context 

The Tron Kirk was not only an important addition to the religious buildings of Edinburgh, it was also an important intervention in the city and very quickly became a landmark and place of gathering.

This talk, from Dr John Lowrey, focuses mostly on the period between the 1640s and the 1824 (the year of the great fire that destroyed the Tron steeple), looks at the Tron in its urban surroundings from the tightly-knit fabric of the seventeenth century in an area of trade and commerce (including the pudding market) to the modernisations of the late seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Foremost among those, of course, was the building of the South Bridge, which had a major impact on the fabric of the church as well as completely altering its urban surroundings. How and why that happened will be explored and the theme of trade and commerce will be a constant thread running through the talk, from the markets of the seventeenth century to the luxury shops of the early nineteenth.

We will follow up with a walk around the Tron area, linking the current urban and architectural fabric of the church and its surrounding buildings to the history of the site.

Tenements, the working class and slum clearance in old edinburgh

Tenements surround the Tron Kirk on every side, they line the streets of Old Town and Canongate and they sprawl across the older city districts in rows. But what is a tenement? What makes them so abundant in Scotland? What would life have been like for those living in the old closes and wynds of Edinburgh long before the advent of council housing changed living standards in Scotland forever? Join us for a talk which will take you through the interesting history of the tenement and working-class culture in Edinburgh, the politics of housing in Scotland and the various efforts at slum clearance that have changed the character of urban Scotland forever.

A walk through a thinking machine: from riddle’s court to the tron with patrick geddes

The ceiling of the Geddes Room in Riddles Court is elaborately painted – with prominent figures of the past, inscribed stories, and symbols of different fields of knowledge, from medicine to poetry. It was created in the 1890s, when Riddles Court was appropriated as a student residence by Patrick Geddes, as part of his programme to bring gown together with Edinburgh’s Old Town and both the ceiling, the building, and indeed the city that surrounds it are manifestations of what he called a ‘Thinking Machine’. 

In this session, Ed Hollis, professor of Interior Design at the University of Edinburgh, will talk and walk us through this thinking machine, from the ceiling at Riddles Court to the Tron Kirk, exploring how Geddes – and we – use spaces and places to learn. 

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Custom House Feasibility Study Released

Custom House Exterior

Custom House Feasibility Study Released

Home > Custom House Feasibility Study Released


Scottish Historic Building Trust (SHBT) has released its feasibility study for Custom House, Leith, recently completed with Richard Murphy Architects. SHBT’s proposal sets out the vision for the building as a mixed-use community and creative hub with opportunities for heritage display, securing the future of this landmark building while making it open, accessible, and sustainable for everyone to enjoy. 

The preferred development option for a £15m capital project will enhance the existing fabric and services to become more energy efficient, using renewable sources where possible. The proposed improvements will create a welcoming and inclusive entrance to Custom House where there will be a series of flexible community and heritage display spaces as well as creative business accommodation, generating income to ensure a sustainable future for the building. 

Custom House The Long Room

Custom House is one of Leith’s most distinctive Georgian buildings and a reflection of the town’s status as Scotland’s premier port for over six centuries. It has the unique potential to become a cultural landmark and focal point that celebrates the heritage of the community of Leith. 

City of Edinburgh Council appointed SHBT in 2015 to carry out a feasibility study exploring options for creating a sustainable future for the building which had been closed to the public for many years and used as a store by the National Museum of Scotland, gradually falling into disrepair. 

Since then, the charity has been working with the community of Leith to develop a shared vision that will secure the long term future of the building within the heart of the community. During that time, SHBT has transformed Custom House into a vibrant creative hub, providing a temporary home for a wide range of artisans and artists to work collaboratively, as well as providing community space for use and a venue for the Leith Market. 

The feasibility study proposals have been informed by a formal community consultation exercise which called for spaces for classes, events, and activities, cultural spaces, rentable work studios, and space for permanent and changing exhibitions linked to the history of Leith. 

Now, SHBT is seeking feedback on its proposed community and creative hub. Let us know what you think of our plans for Custom House, and tell us how you would use the exciting new spaces, by filling in our short survey. 

Keep an eye out on our Events Page for information on visiting the building in person and having a chat with the team about the building’s future.

Comment on our Feasibility Study

Give us your thoughts on the proposals for Custom House

Tron Kirk to re-open to the public

A view of the Tron Kirk looking down the Royal Mile

Tron Kirk to re-open to the public

Home > Tron Kirk to re-open to the public


The City of Edinburgh Council has handed the keys of the Tron Kirk on Edinburgh’s Royal Mile to Scottish Historic Buildings’ Trust (SHBT) as the new custodians of the building. The council selected SHBT as its preferred partner to restore the Tron in 2021 and the charity has now signed a 5 year lease in an agreement that will see it take on the management role of the building as it develops the restoration project. This will convert to a 125-year lease when the capital project is ready to begin.

Scottish Design Exchange (SDX), the social enterprise company that offers retail outlets for Scotland’s artists and makers, will occupy the Tron as SHBT’s tenant while the Trust undertakes a feasibility study to set out a future vision for the building, working with the local community to develop a sustainable use.

SDX, which has shops in George Street in Edinburgh, and in Buchanan Galleries in Glasgow, will offer space in the Tron to artists from across Scotland to sell their work. The indoor marketplace will open on 1st July.

The Tron Kirk exterior on the Royal Mile
Colin McLean Photography

Chair of Scottish Historic Buildings Trust Maggie Wright said:

“Scottish Historic Buildings Trust is privileged to be working with the City of Edinburgh Council to reopen the Tron Kirk, which has been a part of the Old Town of Edinburgh since the 17th century. We are delighted to welcome SDX to this much-loved Edinburgh landmark. Their tenancy represents a ‘meanwhile use’ of the building and will provide an engaging space for locals and tourists to explore as we consult with the community on its long-term future.”

“Our partnership with SDX continues SHBT’s connections to the creative industries. Our work at Custom House in Leith has seen the building transformed into a vibrant creative hub, providing a temporary home for a wide range of artisans and artists to work collaboratively while the restoration project is developed.”

SDX’s proposal to use the Tron Kirk as an indoor market space for local Edinburgh artists will showcase independent artists and designers from the area to both tourist traffic and locals, who will sell a variety of products varying from original art, glass, ceramics, jewellery and woodwork. With exciting ideas around stalls, fundraising and exhibition space, the group’s creative outlook will be an asset to the Old Town of Edinburgh.

Councillor Mandy Watt, Depute Leader of the City of Edinburgh Council, said:

“Together we’re securing the future of Edinburgh’s historic Tron Kirk and I’m delighted to see the keys handed over.

“This is a building which has withstood centuries of change. It has survived the Great Fire of Edinburgh and two World Wars. In recent years, however, it has been at serious risk of disrepair.

“Scottish Historic Buildings Trust has an excellent track record of preserving buildings like this. Their work securing sustainable futures for Riddle’s Court in the Old Town and Custom House in Leith are two great examples.

“I’m confident they will do the same with the Tron Kirk, which has acted as a gathering place for the people of Edinburgh for almost 400 years. It’s great that we’ll see this tradition continue when doors reopen on 1 July for an indoor market space.”

CEO of Scottish Design Exchange Lynzi Leroy said:

“I am absolutely delighted to have been given the opportunity to bring local artists and designers to such a well-loved historical building at the heart of the Royal Mile. The Scottish Design Exchange has been helping artists from all over Scotland to showcase their work since 2015, and we know that their products are loved by locals and tourists alike.”

SDX will open the doors of the Tron Kirk on 1st July 2022, and further updates will be available here on our website.

The Tron Kirk Project

Learn more about the ongoing restoration project of the Tron Kirk, as well as the building’s history spanning nearly 400 years.

Visit our project page

Visit the Tron Kirk

Read more about what’s happening at the Tron before the restoration project and organise a visit to the market.

Learn more about SDX

Our Commitment to the Climate Emergency

Knockando Cottage Restored

Our Commitment to the Climate Emergency

Home > Our Commitment to the Climate Emergency

The Scottish Historic Buildings Trust (SHBT) recognise the current climate emergency and are committed to doing what we can to play our part in mitigating the effects of Climate Change.

Knockando Cottage Restored
Knockando Woolmill Trust

In addressing climate change SHBT are starting from a great position as our stated objective is already to appropriately repair and repurpose traditional buildings securing their future and therefore all of the embodied energy within the building fabric.

We acknowledge that we are not building scientists at the cutting edge of technological innovations but our knowledge of the traditional built environment and historic building fabric is second to none. How we implement change to our traditional buildings, incorporating energy efficient fabric upgrades or renewable energy technology, will continue to evolve as best practice develops and new technology becomes available. It is a continual learning process for us and one that we aim to embrace in full.

Riddle's Court Children of Cowgate admire the building work

Whilst we learn however, we will not sit idle. It is incumbent on ALL of us to effect some change to mitigate our impact on the planet; change in the way we live; change in the way we work; change in the way we approach our built environment; change in the way we consume the worlds resources. What we know for sure is that doing nothing is NOT an option. Some changes that we will need to make will be difficult, uncomfortable even, and take time to implement; others may be simpler and can be incorporated in our lives straight away.

As the Macro changes that will undoubtedly be required are implemented over time, SHBT will continue to commit to undertaking any micro changes that we can, such as adopting new and sustainable working practices within our organisation, transitioning to a sustainable supply chain, reducing our carbon footprint and use of energy wherever possible, and encouraging our staff – our greatest asset in tackling climate change – to address all of these issues in both their professional and personal lives.

Riddle's Court installation of sandstone roundels

Sometimes the global challenge confronting us can seem too great for us to be able to tackle and that climate change can only be resolved through governmental intervention. It has, however, been clearly demonstrated that the small changes that we can make day to day, individually and collectively, can and will make a significant difference. We at SHBT are keen to rise to that challenge and play our part.

Whilst we continue to learn let us all continue to make the changes we can and together we will make a difference.

SHBT to take over the Tron Kirk on the Royal Mile, Edinburgh

The Tron Kirk Spire

SHBT to take over the Tron Kirk on the Royal Mile, Edinburgh

Home > SHBT to take over the Tron Kirk on the Royal Mile, Edinburgh

The City of Edinburgh Council has given the green light to the Scottish Historic Buildings Trust (SHBT) to take forward a project to restore the much-loved Tron Kirk on Edinburgh’s Royal Mile.

This is the third major project that SHBT has undertaken in partnership with the Council in recent years to provide a sustainable future for historic buildings at risk in the capital city – the Others being Riddle’s Court near Edinburgh Castle and Custom House in Leith.

SHBT will now develop a feasibility study to set out a future vision for the Tron Kirk with SHBT taking a 125-year lease on the building. In the interim, SHBT will fulfil a management role for the Tron Kirk liaising with all existing and new tenants to make sure that the building is open for business as soon as possible.

The Tron Kirk Exterior

Councillor Rob Munn, Finance and Resources Convener, said:

“It’s great news that Committee was unanimous today in agreeing such a positive future for this historic landmark building in the heart of our Old Town. We’re very much looking forward to taking this project forward now with SHBT, which has an impressive track record as a Building Preservation Trust and Charity.”

Councillor Joan Griffiths, Finance and Resources Vice Convener, said:

“The SHBT have proven to be extremely effective in recent years working in partnership with the Council to provide a secure, viable and sustainable future for other historic buildings at risk, such as Riddle’s Court and Custom House. The Tron Kirk’s future is in good hands.”

Chair of Scottish Historic Building Trust, Maggie Wright said:

“We welcome the committee’s decision to partner with Scottish Historic Buildings Trust to secure the future of Tron Kirk which has had a significant role for the people of Edinburgh since the mid-17th century. It is a huge vote of trust in the expertise of our director and staff. We share the City of Edinburgh Council’s vision to breathe new life into this very special building and use our experience to create a legacy for generations to come.”


Tron Kirk was commissioned by Charles I to house the congregation displaced when he made St Giles a cathedral in 1633. It was constructed between 1636 and 1647 and was first consecrated in 1641. It afterwards became known as ‘Christ’s Kirk at the Tron’ due to the presence of the ‘salt-tron’ – a public weighing beam – just outside the church.

We know a fair bit about the building project as the original Chamberlain’s Accounts survive. It was designed by John Mylne, the Royal Master Mason, with a mix of Palladian and Gothic elements. The original hammerbeam-style roof, with a sexfoil pattern, survives. This is extremely rare and was designed by the Royal Master Wright John Scott, who was also responsible for a similar roof at Parliament Hall.

The General Assembly of the Church of Scotland met in the Tron from 1830-1840. The interior was re-fitted by Robert Rowand Anderson in 1888, including a new gallery and pulpit. The Victorian stained glass windows were possibly added at this time

In 1952, the congregation moved to a new church and the City of Edinburgh Council acquired the building. For a number of years, the building was empty and all of the interior features were stripped out. In 1974 the floor was removed and excavated, revealing the paved surface of the 16th-century street Marlin’s Wynd and the foundations of the buildings on either side of it. According to Edinburgh World Heritage, this is the earliest paved street in Scotland. The steeple was restored by Andrew Renton in 1974-6.

The Tron is known as the traditional centre of Edinburgh’s Hogmanay celebrations. Celebrations at the Tron developed naturally as a result of its central positioning on the Royal Mile and South Bridge – a primary junction between the Old and New Towns. This stopped in 1993 with the inauguration of the official Hogmanay celebrations, organised by the City of Edinburgh Council, which moved the focus of the celebrations to Princes Street.

From the late-1970s onwards the Tron was in continual sporadic use. It was in use as a visitor information centre in 2003 when it was added to the Buildings at Risk Register. Edinburgh World Heritage were first associated with the building in 2011, with the idea of using the building as a ‘World Heritage Site’ information centre (focusing on Edinburgh Old and New Towns, with additional information about Scotland’s other UNESCO sites). In 2018 Edinburgh World Heritage Trust officially occupied the building, opening their ‘Our World Heritage’ exhibition. This was operated in conjunction with other uses including John Kay’s book shop, the Scottish Textile Showcase and the Edinburgh Welcome ticket desk. In March 2020, the Tron closed due to Covid-19 regulations, and in December 2020, Edinburgh World Heritage vacated the building.

For more information:

Follow our journey

Keep up to date with our project information and learn more about the Tron Kirk’s history via its project page.

PQA Venues @Riddle’s Court returns to the Fringe and announces its 2019 line-up

Performers at Riddle's Court during the Edinburgh Fringe Festival

PQA Venues @Riddle’s Court returns to the Fringe and announces its 2019 line-up

Home > PQA Venues @Riddle’s Court returns to the Fringe and announces its 2019 line-up

PQA Venues @Riddle’s Court (venue 277) has a jam-packed and vibrant programme of entertainment with more than 75 top-quality events including shows, workshops, talks and stand-up comedians planned for this August, as it heads into the second year of its five-year Edinburgh Festival Fringe partnership with the Scottish Historic Buildings Trust.

PQA Venues @Riddle’s Court is located in a prime position off the top of the Royal Mile. The fully accessible venue’s friendly staff, free Wi-Fi and phone charging stations, alongside the relaxing café bar within the unique 16th century courtyard, proved to be a hit with Fringe audiences last year, with it being presented with the ‘Best Venue’ accolade by Theatre Weekly website. This year, exciting additions to the courtyard include comfortable all-weather yurt seating areas and a global range of street food.

Pauline Quirke at Riddle's Court for the Edinburgh Fringe

In a nutshell, here are the delights in store for Fringe-goers at PQA Venues @Riddle’s Court in 2019:

One of many shows with a Scottish connection, and befitting of Riddle’s Court’s proximity to Edinburgh Castle, Iain Smith’s My Finest Hour tells a funny and heartwarming story of his grandfather, a Scottish war hero, whose painting hangs in the Castle. Para Handy: A Radio Play on Stage (No Nonsense Productions) returns due to popular demand, with Neil Munro’s classic tales performed as a 1950s radio broadcast with live sound effects created by the cast and audience. Other home-grown talent includes Edinburgh-based Paradigm presenting Madison Pollack’s new play Pink House looking at a woman’s take on belonging and tradition, an updated version of Scottish comedian Davy Mitchell’s show Irony?, Marie Koehler’s acclaimed play Boswell (MHK Productions/Rhymes With Purple), Fiona Henderson School of Dance’s show-stopping One Singular Sensation and Jason Robert Brown’s acclaimed musical The Last Five Years (Q Productions) which returns after a sell-out run in 2018, and stars local Edinburgh MGA Academy of Performing Arts talent Connor Burnett and Lori Davidson. Monsters: A New Musical (Paisley’s Take the Leap Productions) sees Antony Irwin’s contemporary reimagining of horror characters such as Dracula, his brides and Frankenstein.

New musical theatre writing is further championed with Courage Calls to Courage: The Suffragist Musical by Suzanne Hawkes, looking at the struggle for the vote between Emmeline Pankhurst’s Suffragettes and Millicent Fawcett’s Suffragists (Black and White Productions). Alexander Abbott’s new musical The Room(Cromus)seesa girl alone in a room – why is she here, and what’s her story?

Productions exploring mental health, trauma and the darker side of relationships, include Samantha Pressdee: Covered,Monogamy (The Inevitable Theatre Company), Contractions (Thomford Theatre), Suicide Pact (Acidflashback Productions), Bear Pit and Void (both by Elvin Acting Theatre Company) andpoet and comedian Dan Webber in Genre Fluid.

Acclaimed international artists include There She Is (Gabriela Flarys, Brazil), Marx in Soho (The Marx Sisters / Nu Sass Productions, USA)The Best Show We’ve Ever DoneAt The Edinburgh Fringe (The Fish Girls, Australia), The Silent House (Iran Saye Theatre Group), Brown Guys Grey Skies (DeepuDileepan and Sundeep Bhardwaj, Luxemburg),I Went to Barcelona And All I Got Was This Lousy Comedy Show (English Comedy in Barcelona, Spain), James Stellos’s one-man play, tEMPORARYsANITY(USA)family drama Mama’s Eggnog (Before You Think Productions, USA) and Lavinia Savignoni’sThe Perfect Body (La Loba Productions/Rhymes with Purple, Italy).

A number of productions tell – or reimagine – the stories of well-known figures, real or fictional, including the Brontë sisters in More Myself Than I Am (Eleventh Hour Theatre), Douglas Adams in We Apologise for the Inconvenience (5064 Productions)the notorious serial killer Ed Gein in Under the Floorboards (Simon Shaw), Dancing in the Moonlight – A Play About Phil Lynott (Miles Mlambo), Wuthering Heights through a child’s eyes (Be Amazing Productions)andPuppet King Richard II (Pocket Epics).

In further unmissable drama, following their success at last year’s Fringe with five-star show After Today, Stage D’Or return with two new plays from acclaimed playwright Tim Connery, Hitman and Her and The Legacy of William Ireland.The Passion of the Playboy Riots (The Playboy Rioters)tells the true story of the role played by theatre in the birth of modern Ireland, set backstage during performances of ground-breaking Irish plays. Dr Faustus is a funny and fast-paced abridgement of Christopher Marlowe’s most famous show. Victor is a new comedy play about relationships by Russell Obeney and Janet Garner(OBE Productions), whilst the black comedy Time Please (Fetch Theatre), by John Knowles, is unexpected, powerful and brilliant, touching on serious domestic issues.

There is plenty for fans of comedy, spoken word and storytelling including The 30 Year Old Virgo (Michelle Aldridge), Age Fright: 35 and Counting (Jaleelah Galbraith), Axolotl: A Poetry Reading (Ryan Ward), Emancipation (Lorraine Chademunhu), Buzzing (Debbie Bird), And I Think it Might Be… New Romantic! (Marie Forrest), Hesitation Remarks (Chrissy Ross)and The Chronic Complainer (Ryan Bicheranloo).

Cabaret and entertainment are delivered with style by musical comedy performers Freyja Westdal and Beth Hayward in Westdal& Hayward Need Work and Rachel Dingle and Ruth West in A Little R and R, stage hypnotist Mark Knight, the Trashfuturepodcast and, for young children, Spec-tacular(Tiny T’s Tiny Theatre)a show about a girl and her magical glasses.

From other branches of the PQA family, PQA Full-Time Academy students from London present love stories with a difference in Harriet Braun’s play, Three. These students, aged 16+, will be attending Fringe for the first time as part of their two-year Diploma in Performing Arts. This unique opportunity is provided by PQA for all students at the end of their first year.The Pauline Quirke Academy of Performing Arts also offers its weekend Academy students many opportunities to share their talents, from the bright lights of the West End to the international performing arts arena of Edinburgh Festival Fringe. Students from a number of Academiesaround the UK, aged 10-18, including Edinburgh and Glasgow, will bring their range of productions from hard-hitting drama to fairy tales with a spin: The Brothers Grimm Spectaculathon, Mugged, The Norse Mythology Ragnasplosion, Second Person Narrative (all four by PQA Edinburgh), Alice in Wonderland (PQA Glasgow), The Terrible Tail of Adelaide Worthing(PQA Stroud), I Don’t Want to Talk About It (PQA Swindon), The Trial (PQA Cambridge), That’s How I See It (PQA York, PQA Scarborough, PQA Beverley and PQA Hull), Shadow of the Rose (PQA Tunbridge Wells), Written with Crayons (PQA Hemel Hempstead), So-Called Gen Z (PQA Sutton) and Wingmen (PQA Wolverhampton).

The Fringe’s first Education FestivalEduMod at the Fringe, will include public seminars such as Promoting Diversity in Education and Are The Kids Alright? Generations Z’s Mental Health Crisis.

Actress, and Founder of PQA Venues, Pauline Quirke, said: “Our aim is to be welcoming and accessible to everyone, whether they are watching a show, performing or just popping in to recharge their batteries. It is invaluable for our PQA students to have the exciting experience of performing at the Fringe, alongside such a high-calibre roster of professional companies. We couldn’t have wished for a warmer welcome from SHBT last year and we are looking forward to continuing our partnership with them in 2019.”

For further information on all shows, or to book tickets, visit: or via the Edinburgh Festival Fringe Box Office, in person, or by telephone: 0131 226 0000.


Richard Murphy Architects appointed to design vision for Leith Custom House

Custom House Exterior

Richard Murphy Architects appointed to design vision for Leith Custom House

Home > Richard Murphy Architects appointed to design vision for Leith Custom House

Scottish Historic Buildings Trust (SHBT) and the City of Edinburgh (CEC) are delighted to announce the appointment of award winning practice Richard Murphy Architects to undertake a feasibility study to secure the future for the Custom House for the benefit of the community of Leith and beyond.

The feasibility study will develop the long-term masterplan for the building.  Key to this will be consultation with the community in Leith, which will continue throughout the feasibility study process.  The study will consider a range of options to deliver a financially sustainable model for Custom House in the long term, and will include a display of a number of key objects from the Museum and Galleries Leith collection.  It is anticipated that the feasibility study will be completed by the end of 2019.

Una Richards, Chief Executive of Scottish Historic Buildings Trust, said:

“The work that SHBT has undertaken so far to bring the building to life and draw people to the site has been very successful. As a result, Custom House is now a vibrant artistic hub, and we have brought new life to the Shore and to Commercial Street.  This will continue to grow as the capital project to restore the building is developed.  The feasibility study will set out the future vision for the Custom House and will see it given its place back in the heart of Leith, for the community”.

Cllr Donald Wilson, Convener of Culture and Communities for the City of Edinburgh Council, said:

“This is an important moment for Custom House and the Leith community. The building and the surrounding area share a rich history, with Custom House once acting as the main site of imports in Leith. The appointment of Richard Murphy Architects is the next step in developing the long-term masterplan for the future of building to the benefit of the Leith Community and beyond.”

The Custom House was bought by the City of Edinburgh Council in 2015 using Common Good funding.  Taking a building which has been used as a store for the last 30 years, SHBT has transformed the building into a creative hub, providing studios for artists and creatives as well as meeting and community spaces including in Custom Lane – a coffee shop, gentlemen’s outfitter, gallery and community space and the Edinburgh Tool Library.  SHBT also provides space to host the Leith Market every Saturday in the Car Park adjacent to the building selling a range of produce, gifts and crafts as well as food stalls.

Since taking over the building, the local community have been welcomed and encouraged to visit and make use of the building.  This has resulted in over 10,000 visitors in addition to specific open public events. Informal consultation has taken place with members of the community at a number of open days to canvas opinions on the longer-term vision for the building.

Richard Murphy Architects Director Bill Black:

‘Richard Murphy Architects are delighted to have been selected to work with SHBT on developing a truly exciting future for the Leith Custom House. Working creatively with historic buildings is something that has held a long fascination for us and is an important part of developing and maintaining our city’s heritage. We look forward to the challenges that this study will explore and the opportunities it can bring for the people of Leith.’

Custom House Restoration

On our projects page we have a wealth of information about the history of Custom House, as well as updates on the restoration project.

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Custom House Meanwhile Uses

Custom House is currently operating as a vibrant creative hub in the heart of Leith, with studio spaces to let and function rooms to hire.

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