Work to start within weeks to turn 'birthplace of Welly boot' into new arts quarter

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It is a final remnant of a once thriving industry that supported more than 8,000 jobs and was responsible for the production of the Wellington boot, the modern motor car tyre and the first traffic cone.

Now the red-brick former headquarters of Edinburgh’s North British Rubber Company is set to undergo a radical transformation into the city’s newest arts quarter.

Work is due to begin within weeks on an £11 million project to create a home for printmaking and other creative industries on the banks of the Union Canal.

A £1 million campaign was launched today to ensure that the Castle Mill Works building at Fountainbridge will be brought into public use for the first time in its 160-year history next year.

Donors will have their names immortalised in print within the building, which dates back to 1856 and closed down in 1973 when most of the mill buildings were knocked down.

The surviving buildings were turned into offices for the expanding Fountain Brewery, but their future was thrown into doubt when a halt was called to the production of beer at the site in 2004.

The programme of work due to begin in April will create a new home for the Edinburgh Printmakers organisation, which has been based in a cramped former washhouse off Leith Walk since 1987.

The Castle Mill Works were saved from demolition two years ago after Edinburgh City Council approved a takeover of the building by the Edinburgh Printmakers and funding was secured from the Heritage Lottery Fund, Creative Scotland and Historic Scotland.

New images for the “international centre for the visual arts” show how the building will become home to a printing studio, workshops, galleries, education spaces, a delicatessen and wine bar, complete with outdoor terrace, and a hub for 60 creative industries workers.

Year-round exhibitions will be staged at Castle Mill Works, where graphic designers, jewellery makers, fashion and textile designers, ceramicists, website designers, architects and model makers are expected to joint printmaking artists.

Sarah Price, chief executive of Edinburgh Printmakers, said: “Castle Mill Works is set to retain its place as hub for industry in Edinburgh. The birthplace of the Wellington boot can become home to some of the UK’s most exciting creative industries. It will provide world class production facilities for practitioners and attract an estimated 30,000 visitors to exhibitions here.”

Richard Lewis, culture leader at the city council, which has agreed a peppercorn rent to lease out the historic building for the next 125 years, said: “We’ve been hugely supportive of the Edinburgh Printmakers’ plans.

“From helping people to discover and connect with their own creativity to providing an employability service specifically for the creative industries, their plans would see this derelict listed building turn into Fountainbridge’s cultural centre.”