Greenlaw Town Hall
Greenlaw Town Hall is an imposing Georgian public building that was saved by SHBT for the benefit of the local community. Upon completion, the project won awards for the Re-use of a Georgian Building and Outstanding Performance and Quality in Development Management.
Adam Dudley Architects
The grandeur of Greenlaw Town Hall reflects Greenlaw’s historic status as the county town of Berwickshire from 1596 to 1903. In contrast to the natural development of most county towns, the creation was one of necessity after the loss of Berwick to the English in 1482 left the area without a regional centre. This unusual history left the designation open to competition; Duns was temporarily created the county town from 1661 to 1696 and, just over two centuries later, succeeded in wrestling the county town status from Greenlaw permanently through an Act of Parliament.
The status of county town was important because it made Greenlaw the centre of local administrative and legal jurisdiction. This included hosting the Berwickshire county court and jail. Buildings for this purpose had been created in the late 1600s, but by the early 1800s they were in need of replacing. A new jail (now demolished) was completed in 1824 and the Town Hall followed in 1831.
The Town Hall was designed by architect John Cunningham in the Greek Revival style. It is one of the few surviving examples of Cunningham’s work and is widely regarded as one of his most successful designs. In addition to the large central room, used as a courthouse, the dome and flanking pavilions allowed space for other county business and the storing of the county records. The plain but imposing style of the building, with its giant ionic columns and expanse of smooth stone surfaces, is typical of the Greek Revival style. This flourished across Britain during the first half of the 19th century and was particularly used for public buildings. The Town Hall was constructed by a local builder, William Waddell, using stone from the quarry at Swinton and funded by the local landowner Sir William Purves-Hume-Campbell.
Following the removal of its intended functions in 1903, Greenlaw Town Hall became a local events space. During both the First and Second World Wars it was used to house Polish soldiers. The building was first listed building in 1971, around the same time the Hall was converted into a swimming pool. This use not only proved unsustainable, but also caused significant damage to the historic fabric. In 1974, ownership of the building passed from Berwickshire County Council to a dedicated trust, who carried out a limited restoration project from 1979 to 1985. It became an antiques sale room before finally falling empty in 1998.
Without a use and gradually deteriorating, Greenlaw Town Hall was placed on the Buildings at Risk Register in 2001. In 2006, it featured on the BBC programme Restoration. This raised awareness of the building’s plight and gave impetus to a restoration project.
By 2008, the building was on the verge of being ruinous. Both pavilion roofs had collapsed and the leaking dome was in danger of collapsing also. Prior to acquiring ownership of the building, SHBT worked in collaboration with the Greenlaw Town Hall Trust to carry out an extensive Options Appraisal. This established a strong local desire to see the building remain in community use. SHBT responded to this by developing a proposal to restore the main hall as a flexible community venue, with the pavilions converted into self-contained office space.
Initial fundraising procedures succeeded in securing a grant of £500,000 from Historic Scotland, but with the proviso that an additional 25% of the project funding (some £400,000) had to be raised within three months. SHBT engaged the local community with this task and they rose to the challenge; with contributions from numerous local businesses and private individuals, the necessary funding was secured within the timeframe, enabling the project to continue. Donations included a piece of local land, gifted to SHBT specifically so that they could sell it to the Berwickshire Housing Association for affordable housing development, a move which benefited both the Town Hall project and the wider community.
On-site work began in January 2009 and was completed in 2011. The design team was led by the late Adam Dudley Architect, who worked closely with Campbell & Smith Construction Group as the on-site contractors. The office space available for rent was maximised by inserting an extra storey into the pavilions, invisible from the exterior.
In total, the project cost £1.9 million and received key funding from Historic Scotland, Scottish Borders Council, European Regional Development Fund, The Monument Trust, The Architectural Heritage Fund and Viridor Credits. This was supplemented by numerous smaller donations from charitable trusts and members of the local community.
Greenlaw Town Hall was re-opened by HRH Prince Charles, Duke of Rothesay, in June 2011. The importance and success of the project was recognised through the receipt of two key awards:
Re-use of a Georgian Building at the Georgian Group Architectural Awards 2011 and Outstanding Performance and Quality in Development Management at the Scottish Awards for Quality in Planning 2012. Additionally, the project was Highly Commended in the Community Benefit category at the RICS Scotland Awards 2012 and was Shortlisted in the Regeneration/Conservation category at the Edinburgh Architectural Association Awards 2012.
Greenlaw Town Hall Today
From the early stages of the project it was recognised that although SHBT’s work would safeguard the historic fabric of Greenlaw Town Hall and allow it to once again be enjoyed by the local community, further investment would be needed secure the building’s long-term future. This was achieved in 2017, when the building was sold to Coldingham Company with plans to turn it into a Chinese porcelain museum including space for local craftspeople as well as a café and gift shop.