Penicuik Town Hall returned to former glory after £700,000 restoration

A 19th century town hall has been brought up to date with green technology at the heart of its £700,000 restoration.

By Marie Sharp
Monday, 29th November 2021, 12:30 pm
Updated Monday, 29th November 2021, 3:51 pm
Penicuik Town Hall
Penicuik Town Hall

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Work on Penicuik Town Hall has seen its exterior returned to its former glory with red sandstone from the quarry which supplied its original bricks, brought in to replace crumbling and worn parts of the building.

However the hall’s energy source has been given a 21st century makeover with a sustainable boiler system and solar panels on the roof.

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Rod Lugg, project manager, said the use of the green power sources will save around £7,000 a year on heating and electricity costs for the hall.

And he said the work on the town hall had restored an important building for the people of Penicuik.

He said: “The town hall is is a high priority project because of its architectural importance and also its social importance in terms of local governance.

“It was built by funds provided by Alexander Cowan, a paper making boss, in Penicuik for the benefit of the local community of the town so it is really vitally important for both the social history of the town and the architectural history of the town.”

Restoration work on the town hall, which was opened in 1893 and gifted to the community by local businessman Alexander Cowan, began last November and is the cornerstone of a town centre regeneration project.

The building originally provided a large hall, a library, reading room, gymnasium, billiard room, recreation room for men and women and a flat for a caretaker.

A Grade-C listed building in the town centre conservation area, the hall also had a clock installed in 1901 by Mr Cowan which was made to replicate the Canongate Tolbooth clock, opposite his family home in Edinburgh.

Penicuik was at the heart of paper making for nearly 150 years from the turn of the 18th century and Valleyfield paper maker Mr Cowan was a leading figure in the industry.

The town hall is seen as a testament to how important the town’s role was in the industry at the time.

The completion of the work will be marked with an official opening tomorrow (Saturday) when officials will be invited to come and see first hand the refurbishment.

External stonework has been restored and, where appropriate, replaced in red sandstone from Moat Quarry, Cumbria, which provided the original materials for the front and side with buff sandstone sourced locally used at the rear of the building.

The roof has also been restored, using replacement slates to match the originals, and all the rainwater pipes have been upgraded.

Solar panels have been placed on the back roof of the building and all the windows were replaced during the restoration.

And bringing it right up to date is a new wi-fi system installed in the building.

The total cost of the work was £707,413 with a grant of £106,233 from the Penicuik Heritage Regeneration Project and a grant of £601,180 from the Scottish Government’s Town Centre Capital Fund.

Councillor Russell Imrie, Midlothian Council’s Cabinet Member with responsibility for regeneration and communities, together with Councillor Debbi McCall, Chair of the Heritage Regeneration Project Team are hosting the official launch tomorrow.

Councillor Imrie said: “Penicuik Town Hall is an important historic building in the centre of the town and was in need of restoration.

“It is important that the building continues to be available for community use and I am delighted that this restoration and enhancement work has secured its future.”

As well as restoring the stonework the Cowan institute name of the hall building, which was originally carved into the stone but had eroded, has been reinstalled using bronze letter over its main doors.

It initially provided a large hall, a library, reading room, gymnasium, billiard room, recreation room for men and women and a flat for a caretaker.

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