Conserving the past for the future

Dreel Halls'Anstruther'East Neuk'July 2014
Dreel Halls'Anstruther'East Neuk'July 2014

Passing through Anstruther you’d be forgiven for thinking the distinctive lime-rendered building sitting near the bend in the road over the Dreel Burn, was a church.

Most people would never guess the historic building - the Dreel Halls - is a hive of community activity and one which now reflects the massive level of local participation in preserving an important part of the East Neuk’s heritage.

The Dreel Halls is the name for the listed building complex formerly known as the Anstruther Wester Town Hall, the Hew Scott Hall and the St Nicholas Tower.

Until 2013 they were owned by Fife Council through the Common Good Fund and the Church of Scotland, and operated in two separate parts by the local church and the community charity, Anstruther Improvements Association.

The building complex formed part of a bid for grant funding to the Townscape Heritage Initiative (THI), funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund and designed to help communities regenerate Conservation Areas.

In April 2010 £915,000 was awarded to Anstruther with a large chunk for the purpose of conserving and restoring important historic buildings to bring them back into productive use.

The Hew Scott Hall, St Nicholas Tower and Wester Anstruther Town Hall, together with the Murray Library, were the two main priority projects within the initiative and this opportunity prompted the buildings’ owners to consider how best to secure their future as a central part of the Anstruther Wester community. After much exploration and consultation, the Church of Scotland and Fife Council endorsed a decision for the building to be sold to the Anstruther Improvements Association (AIA), given its status as a community-led charitable organisation.

Last year ownership transferred to Fife Historic Buildings Trust, which oversaw Phase I of an ambitious capital project, working with Fife architecs ARC, to restore the external fabric so it was weatherproof and sound.

Early this year, at the end of Phase I, ownership passed to the AIA. Phase I funders were the Townscape Heritage Initiative (Heritage Lottery Fund), Conservation Area Regeneration Scheme (Historic Scotland), Fife Environmental Trust, Fife Council, LEADER in Fife, the Church of Scotland, the AIA, North East Fife Area Common Good Fund and the Fife Historic Buildings Trust.

Phase II will upgrade facilities in both halls for performing arts events and community activities and will provide full disabled access.

The AIA is currently investigating funding sources for Phase II which will improve the building’s long-term sustainability, extend its use and improve the experience of community users.

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