Landmark Kirkcaldy villa given new lease of life

Councillor Crooks outside the refurbished building. Pics by FPA
Councillor Crooks outside the refurbished building. Pics by FPA

A B-listed Kirkcaldy Victorian villa which has played an interesting role in the town’s history has been lovingly restored to its former glory.

The former Tower Villa at 15 Wemyssfield has been given a £1.3 million facelift, including a new roof, partial new flooring, timber restoration and preservation treatment, as well as new heating and improved facilities.

The restoration work of stained glass windows, cornices and old fireplaces as well as sympathetic period decoration work has enabled many of the building’s period features to be retained and enhanced.

And the work, carried out over the last year by Fife Council’s own building services team, which had undergone specialist training in many of the rare skills needed to carry out the project, has saved the public purse in excess of £1 million of what it would have cost if carried out privately.

This project is the latest of three major works which has included major renovation of the Town House from 2012-14 and the Kirkcaldy Galleries facelift, which were also carried out in-house has seen a major improvement in public services in the area.

The work on New Volunteer House as it has been renamed, is now almost complete and the unique building is almost ready to be handed over to become a voluntary services hub in the centre of the town, housing third sector groups including Citizen’s Advice and Rights Fife (CARF), Frontline Fife and Disabilities Fife.

New Volunteer House was originally two separate late-Victorian buildings that were linked in 1938. During the First World War the building was rented by the War Office and was then sold to the Burgh Council in 1919 for the princely sum of £1500.

Since then, the ever-evolving property has housed various council services including Fife Education Authority.

For over 30 years until 2013 it was the main Kirkcaldy social work office until it moved into the Town House a few years ago.

Last year councillors agreed to rent the building out to the voluntary sector as a hub for local charities, overseen by Fife Voluntary Action.

The renovation work was originally supposed to be just minor repair work on the building, but when it was surveyed it became apparent that major investment would be required to bring it up to scratch and the council successfully secured funding via a Scottish Government Regeneration Grant.

Dougie Downie, project manager on the job and team manager with building services, described the undertaking as “massive.”

“At every turn it would throw up some challenge and then it would throw in some more, but it was also one of the most thoroughly satisfying jobs I have ever been involved with, and I think everyone involved felt the same way,” he said.

“We got to know the building really well; it’s history, the people who lived and worked there and lots more and it was truly fascinating.

“It was one of the most prominent villas in what was one of the best areas of the most prosperous towns in the Kingdom, so it was an important building,” he added.

“Everyone is very proud of what we have achieved here and it will expand 
the lifespan of the building for at least the next 100 years, preserving it for 
future generations.”

Councillor Neil Crooks, chairman of the Kirkcaldy area committee, said he was “very impressed” with what had been done to the building.

“Building services have done a fantastic job and saved the public sector a huge amount of money as well as expanding the skills of the workers who have been trained in a variety of skills which are dying out in today’s modern build projects.

“The apprentices who have been working on this will have had the opportunity to pick up skills they wouldn’t have on any other jobs and that’s invaluable.

“The voluntary sector agencies which will be using the building will have a home to be very proud of and it will be a fantastic facility for the people of Kirkcaldy who will be able to come here for help and advice from a number of organisations all under the one roof.”

For more information on the voluntary sector hub contact New Volunteer House on 01592 645300.

Tower Villa was sold by its original owner, John Barnet, a town baillie, to John Strachan for a price of £2300 in 1873, and again to John Hamilton Meikle (manager of Dundonald Colliery) in 1903. Mr Meikle changed its name to Stairard.

During the First World War 
the building was rented by the War Office, and played a major role in the defence of the country.

In 1919 it was sold to the local authority for just £1500.

The beautifully decorated stained glass stair window depicts the coat-of-arms of 
the former Kirkcaldy Royal Burgh, and is believed to 
have been added around this time.

The W wing was added in 1923, costing £7800, and a link to Sir Robert Rowand Anderson’s 
St Margaret’s villa in East
 Fergus Place was added in 1938.
For many years it was the 
base for Fife’s Education Authority, and its emblem can still be found on the floor and doors within the building.
Then for 30 years it was 
the main headquarters for Fife’s social work services which moved into the Town House following its renovation which was completed in 2014.
For old video footage of the area from 1923, see www.movingimage.nls.uk/film/1728.