Historic Environment Policy for Scotland Two Years On – Have Your Say

Invitation to participate in Historic Environment Scotland’s online survey on your experience and use of HEPS

Two years on from the introduction of the Historic Environment Policy for Scotland (HEPS), Historic Environment Scotland is looking for your comments on how the policy is performing.

This survey is for everyone. Whether you have never heard of HEPS before, use it everyday, or are somewhere in between, your feedback is really valuable.

The survey will take around 10 minutes to complete and will be open until 30 August.

Follow this link to take part in the survey


Former Royal High School site now being marketed by the City of Edinburgh Council


In January 2021, the Finance and Resources Committee of Edinburgh City Council agreed that the Calton Hill building would be remarketed, ushering in ‘a new chapter for the property at the heart of Edinburgh’s original World Heritage Site’.

The City of Edinburgh Council has now put the former Royal High School on the open market, inviting interested parties to submit development plans in exchange for a long lease.

Any proposals must guarantee the Royal High School’s long-term viability, be of the highest architectural quality, and take into consideration the conclusions reached by the Scottish Ministers following the public inquiry.

Read the tender document here


Letter to the Chief Executive Officer of TSB about the closure of the Ruthwell Savings Banks Museum

Read the main text of the letter below

Download the letter in PDF format here


Debbie Crosbie
Chief Executive Officer
TSB Scotland plc
Henry Duncan House
118-124 George Street

By email: debbie.crosbie@tsb.co.uk


28 May 2021


Dear Debbie Crosbie

Ruthwell Savings Bank Museum

The proposal by the Trustee Savings Bank to close the museum dedicated to the foundation of the Savings Bank movement is an extremely distressing one for Dumfries and Galloway, and the Architectural Heritage Society of Scotland wishes to support David Mundell MP and Colin Smyth MSP in their plea to the TSB not to go ahead with this. This museum could not be more important to the history of the savings movement worldwide, but its significance also lies both in its very obvious humble beginnings and, particularly for the AHSS, in the authentic character and history of the building that houses it. This is a Category A Listed Building for its very real association with the foundation of Savings Banks and with their originator, the Reverend Henry Duncan, Minister of Ruthwell. As a part of his wider aims to educate his parishioners and assist them in improving their lives, Duncan transformed two semi-derelict eighteenth century cottages, one into a hall for the kind of local meetings and lectures he wished to encourage, and it was in this hall that he introduced his parishioners to the idea of the Savings Bank, while the adjoining cottage was transformed into the bank itself.

You at the TSB of course know this already, but the AHSS feels that perhaps you do not fully understand the duty the bank owes to this relic of your humble beginnings. The only realistic alternative use for this building would be as a house and its character is far less likely to be maintained in a way that fully reflects its true architectural nature and history if this should happen. It is even debatable as to whether it would truly remain of sufficient heritage importance to merit its Category A listing if its direct relation to its banking origins are diminished by your removing the associated artefacts and ending the bank’s direct ownership of it. It records the origins of a worldwide movement in a small community in a rural backwater. It bears a remarkable testimony to Henry Duncan and his world, but it can only survive properly if it remains in TSB’s ownership and control.

What amounts to asset stripping of the local heritage has happened before in Dumfries and Galloway. In 2013 the National Museum of Scotland closed the National Costume Museum in Shambellie House and removed the collection to Edinburgh, giving the same reasons for doing so that you now use. In the following year the Galloway Hoard of Viking silver was discovered by a metal dectectorist, and in 2017 it also became the property of the National Museum and, despite a loud campaign to keep the hoard local, is also to remain in Edinburgh. It is of course true that more people will see these collections in the capital, but it is Edinburgh and Edinburgh tourism that will benefit and not the region from which the collections came.

The fate of Shambellie House is one that should give the TSB cause for reflection. It was gifted in 1983 to the state in perpetuity to house and display Charles Stewart’s extensive costume collection. The gift was accepted on those terms and was an important tourist destination in Galloway until 2012, but, for the last eight years, it has stood empty awaiting a new use, which is only now beginning to appear. Meanwhile, only a small proportion of the costumes themselves are on display in Chambers Street. This must not happen to the Savings Bank Museum and its collection of archives and artefacts. Instead it is perhaps time for a new approach.

Can the TSB not set up a properly endowed trust to run the building and museum? Although visitor numbers may be modest there is scope for increasing them. It is a key member of the group of heritage assets in the area; Carlyle’s Birthplace at Ecclefechan, Devil’s Porridge Museum at Eastriggs, and of course the world famous Ruthwell Cross in the parish church, another memorial to the work of Henry Duncan. To take away any one of these is to diminish the other three. The Ruthwell Cross is a case in point. It is not in Edinburgh, the National Museum has a plaster cast on display, the real thing remains where it was found. What the TSB is now proposing amounts to making a cheap replica of part of the museum on an alien site and abandoning the real thing altogether. This is the opposite of cultural ‘levelling up’.

The AHSS asks that this decision by the TSB should be urgently reconsidered. There is great scope for local support for the museum’s retention while the universities at the Crichton Campus and perhaps the Crichton Trust itself may be in a position to provide advice and assistance. Houses associated with famous people and great ideas, especially when it is as close and real an association as this, always remain of interest, and the AHSS’s concern is that they should stay largely as the famous people in question knew them. The two Robert Burn’s houses, Ellisland Farm and Bank Street, Dumfries have been kept like this and the poet’s presence is still very strong in both of them. Dumfries Town Council recognised their duty to the poet’s memory, and also the advantage to themselves, when they accepted responsibility for Bank Street in 1935. This responsibility is carried on today by Dumfries and Galloway Council.

The AHSS is very concerned that this important Category A Listed Building is likely to suffer inappropriate change to its character, appearance and heritage significance as a result of the TSB’s decision to close the Savings Bank Museum. The Society requests strongly that you reconsider this decision and seek another solution for the building’s future. By all means advertise the banks’s humble beginnings in your head office in the capital, but not at the expense of its true humble beginnings in the Dumfriesshire countryside.


Yours sincerely,

Martin Robertson
Chairman, Architectural Heritage Society of Scotland



David Mundell MP
Colin Smyth MSP
Elaine Murray, Leader, Dumfries and Galloway Council
Marie Marshall, Built Heritage Policy Officer
Gwilym Gibbons, CEO, The Crichton Trust
Dumfries Courier
Dumfries and Galloway Standard
Jeremy Watson, The Times
BBC, South Scotland



AHSS responds to the Scottish Government’s Heat in Buildings Strategy and Skills consultations

Closed 30/04/2021


The AHSS has recently submitted responses to the Scottish Government’s Consultations on:

  • Draft Heat in buildings strategy – achieving net zero emissions consultation.

Read our response here

View the consultation paper here 


  • Draft Scottish skills requirements for energy efficiency, zero emissions and low carbon heating systems, microgeneration and heat networks for homes.

Read our response here

View the consultation paper here





REPORT: Martin Robertson on ‘Preserving the Cultural Heritage, Supporting the Green Transition’ G20 Culture and Climate Change webinar

Climate Heritage Network Webinar 12 April 2021
‘Preserving the Cultural Heritage, Supporting the Green Transition’ 
Part of the G20 meeting in Italy.

by Martin Robertson, Chair of the Architectural Heritage Society of Scotland

On behalf of the AHSS I attended this webinar to see how far it would concentrate on the built heritage and the possible mitigations which might enable historic buildings to adjust successfully to the future levels of energy efficiency that governments might demand of them. I quickly discovered that the programme was aimed not at the already converted but was an attempt to convince the G20 countries that heritage could be made a part of the solution. The Italian Government, the current President of the G20 countries, had decided that culture was to be the main theme of their Presidency, and this webinar was a small part of their exploration of this.

It was quickly evident that Italy’s main concern will be seismic events, extreme weather, rising sea levels, flooding and tourism overload, so much of the webinar was looking at reacting to these events rather than making sites and buildings more sustainable in themselves. They saw regular monitoring through IT, satellites and drones as the way to prevent the worst effects of these events before they happen.

Tourism is the fastest growing source of global carbon emissions, already at an estimated 8% of the total. One third of all tourism is to the Mediterranean countries, so the Italians have put themselves forward as natural leaders for a new approach to this. The Italians clearly think that the cultural heritage = what tourists want to come and see i.e. it is cultural heritage because tourists want to come and see it rather than for the sense of place and educational and emotional value that we might like to think that we place upon it in Britain and Scotland. This attitude does often appear here as well since it provides an easy way of giving a calculable value to sites, but does, of course, tend to exaggerate the honey pot nature of tourism as more and more people visit the must-see sites while neglecting the other sites which give a completely necessary setting without which the honey pots become little more than theme parks.

Key messages which did come out of the webinar –

  • Successful mitigation of the effects of climate change will require a complete change in the lifestyles of the developed world.
  • Close monitoring of sites using IT, satellites and drones will give warnings and help with future planning.
  • Heritage must become more climate literate and much better at climate risk assessments.
  • Indigenous knowledge can contribute enormously to cultural management strategies.
  • A level of loss must be accepted i.e. We can expect that each site can only be preserved for so long. We are not going to be able to save everything so how far do you go to protect any one thing.
  • It is almost always possible to retrofit historic buildings to an acceptable standard of energy efficiency without lasting damage to their character.
  • Culture and heritage can be key drivers towards net zero and will be a key piece in the puzzle as we “build the better normal together”.

All in all, it was a programme of bite-sized chunks intended to persuade the G20 that this approach was both possible and vitally important. All very well-intentioned, but will they sign up to it?

Here is the link to the day’s programme.



Former Royal High School Appeal Dismissed!

Scottish Ministers have dismissed the planning and listed building consent appeals and have refused planning permission and listed building consent for the proposed development of the former Royal High School, Edinburgh into a luxury hotel.

The AHSS welcomes the decision by Scottish Ministers to reject the appeals by Duddingston House Properties and the Urbanist Group against the refusals of planning and listed building consent by Edinburgh City Council.

The AHSS has been at the forefront of the campaign to save the former Royal High School from the hotel proposals which were simply too much development and in the wrong place. There would have been very real adverse impacts on not just the former Royal High School but also on Edinburgh’s iconic Calton Hill, the New Town, the Old Town and the World Heritage Site.

The AHSS would like to thank all who have campaigned with the Society and contributed to the costs of our representation at the public inquiry. We hope that with this decision by Ministers, the developers will draw back and allow the Royal High School Preservation Trust to move forward with the consented and funded proposal for the music school.


Follow this link to view copies of the decision letters and the reports to Scottish Ministers.



AHSS responds to consultation on Ayr Riverside

Ayr Riverside consultation

The AHSS has taken part in the third public consultation on the Ayr Riverside redevelopment, in relation to Austin-Smith:Lord Ltd’s proposals for the site.


Explore the Design Proposals here:







CANCELLED: 30 April 2020: ‘Conservation Areas – Now and Tomorrow’ at the Engine Shed

The AHSS is delighted to be partnering with Built Environment Forum Scotland (BEFS) and Historic Environment Scotland (HES) on this free event about conservation area policy and management.
*Please note that due to the coronavirus outbreak this event is now postponed until further notice.
Register your interest now to receive a notification about the revised date by emailing managingchange@hes.scot

Venue : The Engine Shed, Forthside Way, Stirling, FK8 1QZ
Time : 9:45 – 16:15
Cost : Free / Register your interest at managingchange@hes.scot

A free one-day seminar at the Engine Shed in Stirling to discuss conservation area policy and management. The event is primarily geared to heritage sector practitioners.

The seminar will be an opportunity for local authorities, advocacy groups, policy makers and decision makers to get together and talk about what is most important to them for good place making. We will be looking at what is working and not working, current best practice, what local resources are available, and the expectations of communities and stakeholders.
We will also be sharing initial plans for new conservation areas policy and guidance and seeking feedback and further participation.

The day will be divided into three sections:

  • Reality and Resources
  • Placemaking
  • Policy Roadmapping.

Confirmed speakers include:

  • Mark Douglas (Scottish Borders Council)
  • Christina Sinclair (Scottish Borders Council)
  • Rachel Haworth (Heritage Consultant)
  • Nick Haynes (Heritage Consultant)
  • Sonya Linskaill (Conservation Architect)
  • Martin Robertson (AHSS Chair)
  • Dawn McDowell (HES)
  • Simon Montgomery (HES)

This is a partnership event with The Architectural Heritage Society of Scotland (AHSS), Built Environment Forum Scotland (BEFS) and Historic Environment Scotland (HES).

For more information and to register your interest please contact managingchange@hes.scot


The AHSS Joins the Climate Heritage Network

The AHSS is pleased to have endorsed the Memorandum of Understanding
proposed by the Climate Heritage Network.

The AHSS believes that we must make maximum use of our entire existing building stock, maintaining, repairing, re-purposing and improving as necessary. All existing buildings contain embodied energy and the materials and construction skills of their builders.  It is important that existing buildings are maintained and kept wind and watertight even before further measures in relation to energy performance are considered. We support the objective that conservation will no longer be a niche activity but be mainstream, such that climate change will supersede heritage as the principal driver of environmental and building conservation. We support the principle that we must recycle all useful materials and ensure that as little as possible goes for landfill. The Society recognises that the historic environment is vulnerable and needs safeguarding with a careful balance between protection and managing change in a sustainable way. For example, many town centres are especially vulnerable to loss of quality buildings through neglect.  These can often be renovated to form new homes. The Society works in partnership with other organisations including Historic Environment Scotland, the Built Environment Forum Scotland (BEFS), Heritage Trust Network Scotland and local building preservation trusts. The AHSS was an early supporter of the building preservation trust movement in Scotland.  We regularly oppose the demolition of listed buildings in Scotland and work to seek new uses for buildings at risk.


‘The Climate Heritage Network is a voluntary, mutual support network of local and city, state/provincial and regional, indigenous peoples’, and national arts, culture and heritage governmental and quasi-governmental boards, offices, ministries and site management agencies as well as NGOs, universities, businesses and other organizations committed to aiding their communities in tackling climate change and achieving the ambitions of the Paris Agreement. The focus of the network is providing support to organizations from jurisdictions that have made concrete climate action pledges such as those in the Under 2 Coalition and the Global Covenant of Mayors for Climate & Energy.

The Network was conceived in 2018 at the Climate Heritage Mobilization at the 2018 Global Climate Action Summit and was launched in Edinburgh in October 2019 at the Climate Heritage Network Global Launch.

Interested agencies, organizations and businesses can join by signing or endorsing the Climate Heritage Network MOU (Memorandum of Understanding). The MOU will not introduce new legal constraints on participants but will demonstrate clear commitment to support mobilization of the cultural heritage sector for climate action.’







Launch of the Moffat Heritage Trust

Update from MHT and upcoming SPAB events in Moffat. 

‘The Moffat Heritage Group is in the process of being constituted with the Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator, and will shortly become the Moffat Heritage Trust.  The Group has been formed by people who care about the town’s history and culture and who are ever mindful of where we have come from, and where we need to go.  The aim is to ensure that Moffat’s built, natural, cultural and economic future is protected and furthered in order to help secure the physical and emotional wellbeing of all its residents.

More than 80 people attended the Group’s first public meeting in September of last year, in the Proudfoot Institute, introduced by Sir Neil McIntosh. Several speakers from around Scotland demonstrated how heritage projects had provided opportunities for people to learn about and enjoy their historic, natural and built environments. The key message was that of social togetherness and pride. Some explained how these potentially wide-ranging projects had enabled them to promote the arts, support hands-on training and create new workplace opportunities, enhance the care and repair of their town centres, and engage all parts of the community. This meeting provided the inspiration for the Group to go away and come up with some initial ideas for Moffat.

Since September, the Group has been busy consulting and collaborating with the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings (SPAB). As a result, the Group are delighted to announce that SPAB will showcase Moffat as part of their Annual General Meeting, which will be held in Moffat, on the 28th of March this year. During the AGM day, there will be two lectures 2-4pm, open to everyone and will be of great interest to Moffatonians: the first by the Dumfries Archival Mapping Group, showing and discussing historic maps and features of the region; and the second by Dr Peter Burman MBE FSA, architectural historian and archivist of Hopetoun House, who has been Director of Conservation at the National Trust for Scotland and has had a lifetime of commitment to heritage conservation in the UK and beyond. Peter Burman’s talk will be on “Moffat – a precious historic environment on the threshold of climate change”  Tickets cost £6, and can be booked or paid for at the door.

On April 3rd, twenty Moffat Academy pupils will have a training and information day at the Historic Environment Scotland (HES) Training Centre, in the Engine Shed, Stirling. The Group sees this as an excellent opportunity for some of our young people to gain new skills and understand how they too can help enhance their town.

The Group is currently in discussion with HES, asking them to sponsor and supply lime pointing tools and equipment for training events in the town in April. This equipment can then be retained as a community resource for further community building repair projects. Such projects will not only improve the appearance of the town, but have the potential to bring people of all ages together.

Last but not least, a Moffat Heritage Trust website is under construction and will be the reference point for all news, events, heritage stories and learned articles! The long-term aim is to seek as much community involvement as possible and to shape activities to encompass those that the people of Moffat would like to see.’

The first public meeting of the Moffat Heritage Trust was held on February 20th in the Moffat Town Hall. 


Follow the links below to find out more about the SPAB events in Moffat this Spring:





National Study Tour 2020: ANGUS OR FORFARSHIRE – POSTPONED TO 2021


Due to the worsening virus epidemic and the forecast that the virus spread may reach its UK peak at the time of our tour, the AHSS co-organisers have come to the difficult decision that we must postpone the study tour.
We intend to offer the same tour over the equivalent weekend next year: Friday 30th April to Monday 3rd May 2021.

The AHSS 2020 Spring Study Tour will be to Angus in north east Scotland, exploring the built heritage of the wider area. We will be based in the adjacent City of Dundee, starting with a coach pick-up at its new railway terminus, adjacent to the award winning new V&A Museum of Design. We will be accommodated in a recently converted Building at Risk, the category A-listed Bell Mill of 1866, designed by Baxter Bros company engineer Peter Carmichael, its bell tower modelled on that of the church of Santa Maria della Salute in Venice, now along with adjacent North Mill (1935), Dens Street Mill (1865) and St Roques Mill (c.1830s) forming the Lower Dens part of the world’s largest linen sailcloth and canvas manufacturers. It is now the Hotel Indigo, Daisy Tasker restaurant and adjacent Staybridge Apartments. Our city centre location (NE side) will allow us to make walking forays into Dundee.

This year, our National Study Tour will be led by Simon Green and Adam Swan and administered by Caroline McFarlane.

To note your interest, please return a completed form to the National Office, along with a deposit of £100 per person payable to AHSS by 30 November 2019. If you are applying for a single place but prefer to share a room please indicate this (and if possible with whom*) on the form below.

Download your booking form here


Brechin, by Gershom Cumming, Dundee, 1848


RIAS Convention & Doolan Award 2019: Climate of Opinion


Date: 4 – 5 October 2019
Venue: EICC, The Exchange, 150 Morrison Street, Edinburgh, EH3 8EE
Price:  Convention – £99 RIAS members / £125 non-members / £50 concession – limited number
Combined (Convention & Dinner) – £147.60 (RIAS Member) £171 non-member
Dinner – £69 (single ticket) £600 – table of ten
(all prices + VAT and booking fee)

This year’s event combines the conference and Doolan Award for Best Building in Scotland. Climate of opinion takes place in Edinburgh with a full day of discussion, debate and celebration around designing for climate resilience, diversity and northern Europe. The Friday evening dinner will involve presentation of the Best Building in Scotland Award (presented by Cabinet Secretary Aileen Campbell) as well as a chance to relax with fellow delegates and convention speakers in the stunning surroundings of the National Museum of Scotland. The event will be rounded off on the Saturday morning with building visits and a city tour exploring some of Edinburgh’s award-winning architecture.

View confirmed speakers so far here
Book your ticket here


RIAS convention 2019 © Reiach & Hall Architects


Dumfries and Galloway Group Talk : ‘The Victorians’

‘Social and technological change and the impact on furnishings and crafts’

Venue: Gordon Memorial Hall, Castle Douglas
Date: Saturday 27 April 2019
Time: 14.15
Cost: FREE

Our Dumfries and Galloway Group are delighted to welcome Sybelle Thomson of Thomson Roddick Auctioneers to give a talk on the impact of social and technological changes on crafts and furnishings during the Victorian era.

The talk will be preceded by a short AGM.


Casework News from Dumfries and Galloway

Dumfries and Galloway Cases Panel voice their concern about a worrying trend in the appeal process. Read their article and take part in the discussion.

The main text is provided below, or you can read the article in PDF format here 


12 February 2019

A worrying trend – Casework news from Dumfries and Galloway

Several recent cases in Dumfries and Galloway that seem to contradict historic buildings advice from the Scottish Government, Historic Environment Scotland and the local authority planning department have been a cause for local concern. These are cases where the AHSS Cases panel have objected and the local authority have refused the application, twice supported by HES advice. Two cases have led to successful appeals, and the third is in progress. If all three are to prove contrary to what we consider to be the correct conservation approach our Panel, and possibly the planning department as well, will be left confused as to the way forward.

The first case is that of 1 Old Union Street, a Category B listed building in the centre of the Dumfries Conservation Area and concerns the replacement of eleven timber-framed casement two pane windows on the High Street elevation (of a non historic type) with white uPVC casement windows to match the existing design.

The Reporter’s decision was to allow the appeal, with the condition that a new design in uPVC should be approved by planning.

‘The council has referred to Dumfries and Galloway Local Development Plan policy on the Historic Environment – HE1 Listed Buildings. Supplementary Guidance on the Dumfries Conservation Area and the Historic Environment is also referred to. As this is an appeal against refusal of listed building consent not planning permission, development plan policies do not have the status afforded to them by section 25 of the Town and Country Planning (Scotland) Act 1997 (as amended). Nevertheless, the policies and guidance are a relevant consideration and I have taken them into account in reaching a decision.’

Legal advice has supported the Reporter’s view as expressed above. The end result is that uPVC windows are to be allowed on an important listed building in the historic core of the Dumfries Conservation Area apparently on the grounds that the building will be enhanced in appearance through the reintroduction of windows with glazing bars, to a design approved by planning, and the alien material will not matter because they are on first floor level and above. The decision is regrettable in that it undermines the locally approved policy of using traditional materials in these situations and thereby supporting skills needed for the proper maintenance of our historic buildings. It also makes the final details of design a matter between the appellant and the planners, rather than a matter for public comment. This decision reflects another recent appeal in Annan (Sussex House, listed B) where new uPVC windows were allowed, subject to approval of details by planners, because they were deemed an improvement on the existing uPVC windows.

The second case is that of the Old Manse, Thornhill where timber double glazed sashes were refused as replacements for the apparently original sashes on the grounds that no case had been made for the necessity of their replacement through a proper condition survey. Such a survey was eventually provided only for the Reporter who then allowed the appeal. The Reporter said, ‘I consider that the window condition survey as submitted by the appellant responds directly to the reason for refusal of the application and so could be considered as part of this appeal….The appellant has submitted no evidence of exceptional circumstances that prevented the timely submission of the window condition report, or any justification for the lack of response to the council’s request for a report under Section 9 of the Planning (Listed Building and Conservation Areas) (Scotland) Act 1997. While this could be considered unreasonable behaviour by the appellant, I am satisfied that the consideration of the window condition report as part of this appeal is appropriate as it directly addresses a reason for refusal, although the document was not before the planning authority at the time of its decision.’

This decision appears to set a dangerous precedent for the way cases with inadequate background information are dealt with, if the public and amenity bodies such as the AHSS lose the opportunity to study and comment on details of proposals. The Dumfries and Galloway Panel see many cases where there is no Design Statement, or with misleading or inadequate information to make a proper judgement. Condition surveys for windows have been particularly poor.

A third case is that of Meikle Dalbeattie Farmhouse, Dalbeattie, where retrospective listed building consent was refused for the total replacement of apparently original timber sash windows in a mid nineteenth century C listed farmhouse. The replacements are uPVC and of designs not matching the originals in any respect. This has gone to appeal and we await a decision.

HES guidance ‘Managing Change in the Historic Environment – Windows’ states

‘Generally, replacement windows should seek to match the original windows in design, form, fixing, method of opening and materials. In replacing sash windows, materials other than timber, e.g. uPVC, will rarely be acceptable. (page 18).

Despite the best efforts of the planning department to apply their approved policies, based on accepted best practice advice, the character of listed buildings and conservation areas continues to be eroded. Contractors continue to offer standardised inappropriate replacement windows and doors. At 10 Lovers Walk, in Dumfries Conservation Area, the doorway with overlight of a paired Victorian villa has been changed without planning permission. It now has an ill-matched uPVC door with an overlight of a different size from the immediately adjoining original doorway of the house next door, giving a completely unbalanced appearance. The council has refused retrospective consent and we wait to see the outcome.

We can only hope that our disappointments in Dumfries and Galloway are not being repeated across Scotland. Input from other regions would help build a national picture.


Dumfries and Galloway Cases Panel


Dumfries and Galloway Study Tour: The Great Houses of Northumberland (and Newcastle from the River Tyne)

Still a little time left to book your place!

The programme for this 4 day, 3 night trip is being arranged to visit interesting and varied places with an architectural theme but designed to be of interest to all. It will include some exclusive features especially for the AHSS.

The trip will be based at the 4* Doxford Hall Hotel & Spa set in the heart of Northumberland.

The original Hall, designed by John Dobson and built in 1818, stands in its own 10 acre estate and its elegantly refurbished rooms offer a relaxing stay with free internet, TVs and tea/coffee making facilities.

Our journey to Northumberland will see us traverse the military road running alongside the Hadrians Wall and include a visit to the Sill. This is Northumberland National Park Authority’s £14.8m state of the art visitor centre on Hadrians Wall.

The varied programme will visit Howick Hall and gardens. Chipchase and Coupland Castles- neither of which are open to the public, Ford village and Lady Waterford Hall, with Meldon House and gardens and Chillingham Castle also on the itinerary. Most of these visits will include a guided tour.

Highlights of the last day include a visit to Bessie Surtees House in Newcastle, a river cruise on the Tyne and we hope to see the Millennium Bridge open before heading home, stopping for a mean on the way. We are also aiming to include one or two other surprise venues.

Our last evening in the hotel will include a pre dinner talk by an interesting and entertaining guest speaker. Our aim is to arrange an enjoyable and flexible visit to suit everyone. The venues are located in close proximity to each other to minimise time on the coach. For the less energetic the variety of venues caters for all capabilities with plenty of seating available.

The cost of the trip will include all travel, accommodation, entrance fees and meals (including lunches, coffees and teas) but excludes alcoholic beverages.

The tour is proving very popular with our own members and with others from across Scotland and the North of England.  However, there are still a few places remaining but please contact andy_j_mcnab@hotmail.com for more details.  Bookings close early February.


Image by Andrew Curtis / Chillingham Castle / CC BY-SA 2.0


Dumfries and Galloway Environment Fair 2018

AHSS was represented at the Dumfries and Galloway Environment Fair for the first time this year.

Held at University of Glasgow, Rutherford-McCowan, Crichton Campus, Dumfries on 10th March.

Participation by the Society had these four aims –

  1. Representing the built environment at an event otherwise devoted to the natural environment.
  2. Raising the profile of the AHSS as a local and national organisation.
  3. Interacting with visitors in an enjoyable way to encourage them to pay more attention to the historic built environment.
  4. Increasing membership of the AHSS and a greater interest in and attendance at the society’s events.

The Fair ran from 10-3.30 and is estimated to have been attended by 400+ people, with probably about 250 children and young people. The AHSS display was attended by 100+ of these.

As well as advertising the Society’s work and events it was a requirement of the Fair that every participating organisation should have an interactive element. The AHSS contributed this aspect by concentrating on a display of the variety of Scottish housing on display boards. Visitors were offered a choice of four envelopes, each containing pictures of four houses. Visitors were asked to place them in chronological order and then on a time line. They were encouraged to talk about them. They were then directed to the static display and asked to choose which two, of the many on show, were not Scottish. This done they were encouraged to design a house of their own, using the materials provided. They were encouraged to talk about building types, favourite buildings etc.

The interactive display worked well, catching the visitors’ attention and holding them for up to 20 minutes. The drawing, cutting and pasting was popular with more than the children and resulted in about 30 interesting pictures to add to the display boards. The youngest visitor was 6 months, the oldest 80+. All appeared to enjoy participating and there were very few who showed no interest though it was important to approach them directly to catch their attention.

A quick evaluation against the four stated aims was undertaken.

  1. It appeared that the AHSS was the only organisation representing the non-natural environment and thus made an important contribution which was commented on by both visitors and organisers.
  2. Reasonably effective at this within the limits of 100+ people. It was noticeable however that people chose to be more directly interested in local problems such as The Cruck Cottage and its recent fire.
  3. Successful at this with clear enjoyment and involvement shown by both children and their parents with both students and older people also showing interest.
  4. Probably of limited value. Some 3-6 people showed interest in joining and a few more in the events programme. This included several students at the University of Glasgow.

The question as to whether it is worth another go next year is answered by

‘probably’, but it would need more people to help with the display and a wider and more challenging range of activities to hold the interest of the older age groups. AHSS participation at the Environment Fair 2018 can be considered a successful first try. It demonstrates, however, just how much effort is required for a modest return and that the Fair as a whole enjoys a higher benefit ratio than the individual participating organisations. Another time it will be worth demonstrating more sustainability and the embedded energy which old buildings have which is wasted if they do not continue in use.


National Study Tour 2018

Continuing our exploration of Scotland, our renowned Study Tour will next visit Galloway!

This event is now fully booked.

The AHSS 2018 Spring Study Tour will be to the south west of Scotland, exploring the built heritage of Kirkcudbrightshire and Wigtownshire. We will be ‘on tour’, starting in Edinburgh with a pick-up in Glasgow and based near Gatehouse of Fleet, and then Stranraer. We will be accommodated in style, staying in the celebrated Cally Palace Hotel, begun in 1763 by Robert Mylne as the country house of the Murrays; it has substantial and important landscaped gardens. Then to its sister, the North West Castle Hotel, the 1820s former townhouse of Sir John Ross (he discovered the ‘North West Passage’) which is on the shores of Loch Ryan. Both hotels have excellent facilities including gyms and swimming pools.

The tour will be led by Simon Green and Adam Swan and administered by Caroline McFarlane.

Galloway is scenic, remote from the central belt, and with a heritage reflecting Anglian, Norse and Irish influences. From the 12th century Cistercian abbeys of Dundrennan and Glenluce there are castles, tower houses, parish churches, laird’s houses, Victorian mansions, farm steadings, mills, tollbooths, lighthouses and a whole variety of towns and villages steeped in history and character. As well as Gatehouse and the port of Stranraer to explore, there are the county towns of Wigtown, Scotland’s book town and the picturesque artists’ town of Kirkcudbright, as featured in Dorothy Sayers’ Five Red Herrings, and includes EA Hornel’s home and studio (previously the town house of the Murrays), and Jessie M King and EA Taylor’s house. Galloway was also the setting for much of John Buchan’s The Thirty Nine Steps. Elrig and Montreith have Gavin Maxwell associations. Villages such as Creetown, Whithorn, Newton Stewart, Minnigaff and Portpatrick also have much to offer. The Scots baronial mansion of Threave House, has remarkable teaching gardens, run by the National Trust for Scotland, and Castle Kennedy has an 18th century landscape restored by JC Loudon in 1841 and Logan Botanic Garden (RBGE), half way doen the Rhins of Galloway, has Scotland’s best collection of exotic plants; and not far off is Glenwhan Gardens and Arboretum.

The Knockbrex estate near Borgue has an idiosyncratic range of Edwardian buildings provided by a Manchester textiles merchant. Old Place of Mochram has work by the later generation Arts & Crafts architects including Robert Weir Schultz and Ernest Gimson. In the 1930s the Galloway Hydro-Electric Scheme built a series of distinctive power stations, dams and associated structures, now sitting well in the landscape and looking very contemporary. (The above is to give a flavour of the area, and will not necessarily be included in the tour!).

The cost of the tour is £510 per person, based on two members sharing a room and will include visits, accommodation, transportation, meals and refreshments as provided. A limited number of single occupancy rooms will be available, subject to a supplement of £90. If you would like to note your interest in attending, please contact the national office using the form below.

Study Tour 2018 Booking Form


Festival of Architecture 2017

Continuing to celebrate Architecture – AHSS with the RIAS

If you enjoyed the Festival of Architecture 2016, you’ll be delighted to learn that the Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland are bringing the festival back for a second year! FoA2017 will take place across Scotland throughout the month of September and will be exploring the theme of ‘home’. It will join the Scottish Civic Trust’s Doors Open Day events in making this a fantastic month to celebrate architecture.

Exhibitions to look out for include 100 Best Scottish Homes and a return of the popular Adventures in Space.

“This National celebration of great architecture will transform Scotland’s relationship with its built environment. It will improve our appreciation and understanding. It will also be fun!”

David Dunbar, former President of the RIAS and now Chair of the Festival of Architecture 2017

Find out more at www.festivalofarchitecture.scot or see our events planned for September HERE.


Photography Competition Winners Announced


The winners of the photographic competition, organised by the local group of AHSS as part of the Festival of Architecture 2016, were announced at the opening of an exhibition at the Mill on the Fleet, Gatehouse, on Saturday 29 October.  The exhibition, which moves on to Dumfries Museum on 1 December, features the winning photographs together with a short piece of text describing why the entrant likes the building.

In the under 15 age group, three prizes were awarded and two further entries were highly commended by the judges.  The winners were:

First Prize:           Rosie Norman for a photo of the Kirkandrews Bathing House

Second Prize:     Rachel Campbell for an internal view of St John’s Church, Penninghame

Third Prize:         Jack Norman for a photo of the modernist Tongland Power Station

Highly Commended

Toby Iglehart for his photo of Orchardton Tower

Maddison Wallace for her photo of Sweetheart Abbey

In the 16-25 age group, two prizes were awarded:

First Prize:           Roan Ballantine for a photo of the Coo Palace at Borgue

Second Prize:     Connor Bradley for a haunting internal view of Carnsalloch House near Kirkton

Thanks are due to the judges: Martin Robertson (Architectural Historian) and Allan Wright (Professional Photographer), to the Mill on the Fleet for accommodating the exhibition and prize giving, to Solway Heritage for financial assistance and to Wilko’s of Castle Douglas for donating two photo frames.

CLICK HERE to view all of the winning entries.


Autumn Newsletter 2016

The latest news from the AHSS


Once again, it has been a very busy time for the AHSS since the mailing of our Spring 2016 magazine, particularly in this, our 60th Jubilee year!

The Forth & Borders Group are working very hard to protect the Royal High School in Edinburgh, the Dumfries & Galloway Group are running their photography competition, we have launched our new website, and with the help of our North East Group, we are excitedly preparing for our special Jubilee AGM. We do hope that you will be able to join us at Fyvie Castle in October.

As you may know, the AHSS was formed in 1956 to stop proposed demolition in Edinburgh’s George Square. Unfortunately, we were unsuccessful in this campaign, however in the following 60 years we have been successful in many others! To mark this momentous occasion we will be producing a special Jubilee publication this winter, instead of our usual Architectural Heritage Journal. The Journal will return in 2017. If you have any stories, memories or photos that you would like to be included please contact the National Office, we would be delighted to hear from you.

It has been a pleasure to participate in the Festival of Architecture 2016, if you have not been to any events yet, make sure that you do before the end of the year. www.foa2016.com

To find out more about what we have been up to, have a read of our latest news pieces and view all upcoming events here on our website.

Keep up to date with all AHSS activity by visiting our Facebook and Twitter.


Best wishes,

From all at the AHSS.

Did you receive a paper version of our newsletter? Let us know your email address and we can email it to you in the future!


‘My Favourite Place’ Photography Competition

Get snapping to win one of our excellent prizes!

To celebrate the Year of Innovation, Architecture and Design, our Dumfries & Galloway group is organising a photographic competition for young people in Summer 2016. There will be two classes, one for those aged 15 and under, and one for those aged 16 to 24. The competition aims to encourage young people to engage with the built heritage around them, as all entries must feature a whole, or elements of, a building.

The first prize for each class will comprise:

  • £100
  • A framed version of their photo
  • An hour’s photographic tuition with Allan Wright
  • Display of the photos on the web, at exhibitions throughout D&G and in the AHSS national magazine

The second prizes will be £50 and exhibition, and the third prizes £25 and exhibition.

All entries and enquiries must be emailed to photocomp@ahss.org.uk. Entries should be submitted as a JPEG file.
Entries will be judged on the quality of the photograph and on a 100 word statement of why the entrant likes the building.
The judges will be Allan Wright (Photographer) and Martin Robertson (Architectural Historian).
Each entrant may submit up to three photographs, each with a 100 word appreciation statement. The photos must be their own work and taken during 2016.

Entries will be accepted between 1 June 2016 and 30 September 2016. Winners will be announced on 1 November 2016.

For more information and rules:



60th Jubilee AGM Weekend

60 Years of protecting and promoting Scotland’s historic built environment!

Venue: Fyvie Castle
Time: 11am Saturday to 4pm Sunday
Cost: £70 (Discount available for Students)

To mark the occasion of the 60th Jubilee of the Architectural Heritage Society of Scotland, our North East Group will host a wonderful weekend of celebrations.

Join us on Saturday 15th and Sunday 16th October 2016, in Aberdeen to celebrate our 60th Jubilee.

The AGM will take place at the spectactular Fyvie Castle on Saturday afternoon, followed by a tour, talk and 60th Jubilee Dinner in the Castle. Accommodation has been arranged at the historic Carmelite Hotel in Aberdeen’s Merchant Quarter. There will be a coach to transport members from the Carmelite hotel to lunch on Saturday, Fyvie Castle, and back to the hotel.

Sunday’s activities will include a visit to one of Aberdeen’s most historic private houses, Chaplain’s Court, a light lunch, talk on the history and heritage of Aberdeen, and photo opportunity outside our beloved Aberdeen Old Town House.

Members to arrange their own transport to Aberdeen on Saturday morning and return on Sunday afternoon.

Download the Booking Form here.

Download the 60th AGM Notice and Agenda.