Kiln restoration firm enters liquidation

Portobello's historic lime kilns. Picture: Toby Williams
Portobello's historic lime kilns. Picture: Toby Williams
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Efforts to restore one of Scotland’s only original surviving pottery kilns to its former glory have stalled after the firm carrying out the repairs was wound up.

Work to fix the historic structure on Portobello’s Bridge Street was set to be completed in October.

But the company which was appointed the job has since gone into liquidation.

The 39ft tower, which collapsed in 2006, is one of a pair which form the last remains of the famous Buchan Pottery and are protected as monuments of national importance.

The city council is now in the process of tendering the contract again.

Archie Foley, of Portobello History Society, said: “It’s a shame because the work had been going really well.

“We were all really happy with what the firm had been doing and we had no reason to doubt that the work would be finished by October.

“These kilns are of national importance because they are the last above-ground remains of the pottery industry. It’s the only visible signs that the industry existed.”

Historic Scotland had raised concerns about the impact of development on the pottery kilns which are scheduled as “ancient monuments”.

In 2003, it requested that councillors take into account the “national importance” of the ruins when considering demolishing part of an amusement arcade nearby to build flats and asked for the opportunity to dig for archaeological remains.

Portobello councillor Mike Bridgman said: “It’s an important and iconic part of Portobello and needs to be retained – my grandmother used to work there alongside my uncles.

“It has taken quite some time to get the work under way as there have been problems before with trying to get tradesman who are able to do it and also managing to source the bricks for it.

“This is something that has to be done properly.”

The kilns, built in 1906 and 1909, were preserved and restored to act as a permanent memorial to the Portobello pottery industry. In May 1999, an information board was erected at the kilns by Portobello Amenity Society and the community council, showing them at work.

Finance and budget convener Councillor Alasdair Rankin said: “These B-listed structures are the only original kilns left in Scotland and are a very strong reminder of the importance of the pottery industry to Portobello. There is currently a project under way to restore and repair the kilns and the council is in the process of re-tendering for a specialist bricklayer to complete the work.

“It’s imperative we get highly skilled workmen in to restore these monuments to their former glory.”