Restoration of Dingwall Townhouse

Plans are underway to carry out much needed restoration work to an historic Highland tower. Facing Dingwall High Street, Dingwall Townhouse is part of the townhall complex famous for hosting a concert of the early Beatles in 1962.The proposed renovations include the reinstatement of traditional lime harling to the building’s historic tower and the restoration of the town clock.

The renovations are part of the Dingwall Conservation Area Regeneration Scheme (CARS), a project focused on the repair of traditional buildings and shop fronts on the town’s High Street. The scheme is funded by Historic Scotland, the Highland LEADER 2007-2013 programme, Dingwall Common Good Fund and The Highland Council and runs until 2016.It is overseen by a stakeholder group that includes representatives from Dingwall’s Business Association, Museum, History Society, Community Council, and Dingwall and Seaforth Ward Councillors.

The Highland Council is applying for Planning Permission and Listed Building Consent to undertake an extensive programme of external renovations to the Townhouse’s historic tower.  Built in 1733, this is one of Dingwall’s oldest buildings, whose presence on the High Street is an important and familiar landmark. Although re-modelled in 1906, the stone and timber tower retains much of its historic character but its masonry is in very poor condition and the clock is also in need of repair. The exact scope of refurbishment work won’t be known until builders’ tenders are returned and costs confirmed in June.

Historical records reveal the tower’s original harling was removed as early as 1880, in keeping with Victorian fashion for exposing rubble stonework. The Council’s decision to reinstate harling is based on advice of stone conservation experts, including Historic Scotland, who are confident that lime harling is the best means of protecting the masonry face. Recently the use of lime mortar and harling has increased in the repair and restoration of historic buildings in the Highlands.

Lime harling differs from modern cement-based render, such as pebbledash.  It tends to have a softer, brighter appearance and more importantly, is considerably more porous. This prevents water getting trapped between harling and masonry, which is a common cause of stone decay. A high profile example of this approach to masonry repair is East Church in Cromarty which featured as part of the BBC Restoration series.

Chair, Luke Humberstone, speaking on behalf of the Dingwall CARS Stakeholder group said: “The Dingwall CARS project is delighted that the Townhouse tower will join the growing number of repair and restoration projects to benefit from Scotland’s excellent track record in the use of lime technology to repair and protect traditional masonry. It will be great to see the tower’s historic character highlighted by reinstating its original lime harling.” 

Building work is expected to start in July.


30 Apr 2013