Landmark is back at heart of community

Nicholas Tower and Dreel Halls in Anstruther (SSFM 0214003 picture by Neil Doig)
Nicholas Tower and Dreel Halls in Anstruther (SSFM 0214003 picture by Neil Doig)
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As historic landmarks go, Anstruther Wester Town Hall, Hew Scott Hall and St Nicholas Tower had become more of an eyesore than beacons of civic pride.

Tucked up next to each other on the tight bend of the High Street on the edge of the Dreel Burn, the fabric of the buildings was dire, with the 500-year-old tower in particular sadly dilapidated, and long since little more than a three-storey pigeon coop.

Now, however, after extensive conservation work, including a distinctive traditional lime render, the buildings are back in action as a hub for community.

While a restored clock now chimes out the hours, the weather vane of a salmon – reflecting the Anstruther Wester burgh emblem – is glistening again atop the tower.

Access has also been reclaimed to the rooms in the tower, whose past is thought to have included use as schoolrooms and a jail, as well as the parapet, with its stunning views across the burgh and harbour.

A new addition is a poem – ‘In Anster’ – penned by Scottish writer Andrew Greig, which has been carved into the side wall – a fitting tribute to the buildings and his parents, who were both former presidents of the association and very active in the community.

Along with the new look is a new name – the Dreel Halls – and a weekend of celebrations kicks off on Friday to mark the grand opening.

Getting to this point has been a Herculean task driven by Anstruther Improvements Association, which undertook the massive £700,000 fundraising campaign to save the buildings, complicated by ownership being shared by Fife Council and the Church of Scotland.

While the render, which incorporates crushed shells and is what is thought to have originally covered the buildings, has unified the look of the halls, an opening has been created inside to allow access between the two halls for the first time.

This has created a versatile community complex, with the two venues on split levels.

The celebrations get under way with an official opening on Friday followed by a party in the Lower Hall, with live music from King Creosote and an auction of original postcard art.

During the day on Saturday there is a craft and coffee event, with home baking, and a local craft exhibition, with a ‘retro games’ party in the afternoon in the upper hall.

In the evening, there will be a ceilidh with the Billy Anderson Band and the musical theme continues on Sunday with Anstruther Philharmonic and the St Monans Community Choir.