Milnathort Town hall saved thanks to community spirit

Milnathort Town Hall committee
Milnathort Town Hall committee

An historic town hall once threatened with closure has been brought back to life thanks to a community effort stretching back almost 10 years.

Tonight (Friday) sees the official re-opening of Milnathort Town Hall, which 
has re-established itself as a focal point for village life following a massive 
refurbishment.

The newly-refurbished interior of Milnathort Town Hall

The newly-refurbished interior of Milnathort Town Hall

The B-listed building, which first opened in 1853, had fallen into disrepair and was in danger of being closed when a committee of volunteers stepped in and began the long and sometimes frustrating process of restoring it to its former glory.

It took almost seven years of negotiations with the hall’s owners, Perth and Kinross Council, before a lease was drawn up; then the committee had to form an 
appropriate constitution before the business of fund-
raising could begin.

More than £200,000 was needed to refurbish the hall itself and a similar sum will be required for the next phase of the project, which will involve creating meeting-rooms and a local archive on the upper floor of the building.

Sadly, one of the key figures behind the project, Dr Derek Anderson, didn’t live to see the results of the committee’s efforts, having died suddenly on Valentine’s Day, 2014, aged 82.

The stunning exterior

The stunning exterior

Dr Anderson had been instrumental in securing funding from the Arthur and Margaret Thompson Charitable Trust and was highly supportive of the project.

A plaque in his memory is to be erected at the hall and his widow, Rose, will be guest of honour at tonight’s 
opening ceremony.

Also attending tonight will be local man Gordon Menzies - one half of the popular duo Gaberlunzie - who will perform a song about the hall he’s adapted from the Victorian original .

Funding also came from the Perth-based Gannochy Trust, the Kinross-shire Fund and a number of local shops and businesses.

The bell tower at Milnathort Town Hall

The bell tower at Milnathort Town Hall

Recently, the group behind the highly-successful Milnathort Filmhouse, which began as an offshoot of the town 
hall committee, donated £1000 to buy new chairs 
for the hall.

Building work began in earnest last summer, when the hall was stripped back and, to the committee’s relief, was found to have sound beams and joists despite having a burn running 
beneath.

Underfloor heating was installed; the kitchen was re-fitted and toilets upgraded to create a venue which is now used for everything from badminton to birthday parties.

Milnathort Filmhouse screens its movies in the hall, and it’s the regular meeting place for local groups such as the Scottish Women’s Institute.

“The hall is becoming increasingly popular for functions,” said committee chairman Rosemary Tolson.

“It’s located right at the heart of Milnathort and the committee’s objective was always to see it restored to its rightful place as a focal point for the village and to help bring the community 
together.”

The hall was originally built by the parishioners of Orwell in 1853 and was first used as a market and cattle exchange by local farmers.

At one time, it also provided accommodation for the village police constable as well as housing cells.

The building was extended in 1887 to commemorate Queen Victoria’s diamond jubilee and it was around this time that the elaborate rinceau decoration was added, which will require restoration by a specialist.

To mark its re-opening, members of the local community will join forces with 
children from Milnathort Primary School to place a time capsule in the building.