Edinburgh's New Register House needs urgent roof repair after leaks damage vital documents

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Urgent repairs are needed to the roof of Edinburgh’s New Register House, where millions of birth, death and marriage certificates are kept for the nation.

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Some documents dating back to the 1800s were damaged when rain leaked in through the building’s dome in 2019 and there were claims many certificates for 1986 had been "completely destroyed" by an earlier leak.

Now the National Records of Scotland, on behalf of the Registrar General of Births, Deaths and Marriages for Scotland, have appointed conservation specialists to carry out a major project to review the entire roof and produce designs for comprehensive repairs.

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New Register House stores birth, marriage and death certificatesNew Register House stores birth, marriage and death certificates
New Register House stores birth, marriage and death certificates

The two-year contract is worth £183,186 and will include a comprehensive overhaul of the roof and associated fabric to produce detailed plans for the repair work.

New Register House in West Register Street – just behind General Register House, which fronts onto Princes Street – was built by architect Robert Matheson between 1859 and 1863 to provide additional storage space for Scotland’s archives.

The 90ft high dome serves as a central repository with five tiers of ironwork shelving and galleries.

A public notice which advertised the contract said: “It is now essential that this major project to review the entire roof (building fabric, M&E services and rainwater disposal system) is progressed with an appointment of a suitable, Conservation Architect led design team to fully investigate, design and produce a detailed specification for the urgent and comprehensive repairs required to New Register House.”

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This would enable procurement specialists from National Records of Scotland to issue a separate, open tender for a suitable contractor to undertake the fabric repairs.

In July 2019, the Evening News told how rainwater coming in through the dome had damaged documents dating back to 1800 after torrential rain and thunder storms.

NRS said at the time there had been no loss of information but a small number of certificates from he late 19th century to the mid 20th century were “slightly affected” by water.

The following month, the paper reported claims by former employees that the dome had been leaking for more than a decade and that in 2009 a "vast amount of records from 1986 were completely destroyed, irreparably warped with water and countless entries reduced to just puddles of ink."

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NRS said at the time all the affected records had been conserved and no records or information were lost.

Today an NRS spokesman said: “As part of our planned building maintenance and improvement works across our estate, National Records of Scotland recently awarded a contract to a specialist conservation team to develop the design of a comprehensive overhaul of the roof of New Register House, a Grade A listed building.

“Following completion of the design teams proposals, improvement works will be procured in line with standard public sector procedures.

“We anticipate that the design will include temporary measures to protect New Register House during the works, enabling the building to remain functional throughout the major works.

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“This project is part of a wider programme of works, including the recently completed external fabric repairs to the roof and stonework of West Register House in Charlotte Square.”

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