Work to start on restoring Dingwall Townhouse Tower

The Townhouse tower overlooking the High Street is to get a major make-over which will ensure the building remains an important and familiar landmark in the centre of the Ross-shire town for many years to come.

The 18th century stone and timber tower is one of Dingwall’s oldest surviving buildings whose ground floor was once used as the town jail. Although re-modelled in 1905, the B-Listed building retains much of its historic character but its masonry is in very poor condition and its venerable clock in need of repair. The £197k project involves a major programme of conservation and restoration work funded by The Highland Council, the Highland LEADER 2007-2013 Programme, Historic Scotland and Dingwall Common Good Fund.

Improvements will include the reinstatement of traditional lime harling that originally protected the tower’s rubble stonework, and the restoration of the town clock and its octagonal wooden enclosure. The crowning glory of the restored building will be the transformation of the existing grey weather vane to an eye-catching gold cockerel.

Historical records reveal the tower’s original harling was removed as early as 1880, in keeping with Victorian fashion for exposing rubble stone. The Council’s decision to reinstate this harling is based on advice of stone conservation experts, including Historic Scotland, who are confident this is the best means of protecting the eroded masonry face. Recently the use of lime mortar and harling has increased in the repair and restoration of historic buildings in the Highlands. As well as protecting rubble stonework, lime harling accentuates the quality and character of dressed masonry such as the parapet, cornerstones and window openings of the Townhouse tower. The composition and colour of the harling will be scientifically-matched in a laboratory using a remnant of original material. 

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 Dingwall High Street that runs until 2016. Dingwall CARS is overseen by a stakeholder group that includes representatives from Dingwall’s Community Council, Museum, History Society, Business Association and Dingwall and Seaforth Ward Councillors.

All four Dingwall and Seaforth Ward Councillors have been closely involved in the Townhouse project and are delighted to see restoration work get underway. Issuing a joint statement they said “To get to this stage there has been a lot of work carried out including consultation with local businesses and the community so it is rewarding for everyone who has worked so hard to see work about to begin.  People will be able to find out more about the work as the hoarding boards at the front of the building will have information and displays on them.  The contractor will also be taking pupils from local schools on tours of the building site to see the craft skills involved in bringing an old building back to its prime.”

Speaking on behalf of the Dingwall CARS Stakeholder group, Chair Nigel Greenwood said:  “The tower is currently in a poor state of repair with badly eroded masonry so without this refurbishment its long-term future would certainly be of concern. We are therefore delighted that this work will ensure the important landmark can remain a focal point in the heart of the town for many years to come.”

The work, which will be carried out by Fleming Masonry Contractors Ltd, will be completed before the end of the summer. 

£110.5K for the project is coming from The Highland Council.  Chairman of the Council’s Planning, Environment and Development Committee, Councillor Thomas Prag said: “I am particularly fond of this building, probably because of the lovely clock tower – I have a soft spot for clocks! So I am of course delighted that we have found a way of funding the restoration work and will look forward to checking that the clock is ticking along nicely.”

ENDS

4 Mar 2014
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