Sarah Kettles and Councillor Bob Myles check out the ancient rafters of the Merchant's House in Brechin High Street.
Sarah Kettles and Councillor Bob Myles check out the ancient rafters of the Merchant's House in Brechin High Street.

A PARTNERSHIP between the Prince’s Regeneration Trust and The City of Brechin Townscape Heritage Initiative has announced that work has started on the regeneration of the Merchant’s House in Brechin High Street .

After some 40 years lying empty, work has begun to secure the future of the Category A listed Merchant’s House on High Street, one of the oldest surviving residential buildings in Brechin.

Work began on a regeneration project, that through sensitive repair and adaptation, will create two very special quality four bedroom townhouses for rent.

The project is expected to be completed by the spring of 2012.

The Merchant’s House in Brechin’s High Street is situated within the City’s Conservation Area and was identified as a priority project by the Townscape Heritage Initiative (THI), primarily due to its poor condition, location, high costs to restore and its historic significance.

Historic buildings specialist and entrepreneur, Kit Martin (Historic Houses Rescue) imited, recognised the importance of the building from the moment he became involved with the project in June 2010.

Kit Martin commissioned The Prince’s Regeneration Trust and, working together, they quickly established a Project Steering Group comprising the design team led by Doug Reid of James F .Stephen Architects, the THI, Angus Council and Historic Scotland.

All the partners have demonstrated extraordinary commitment to this fascinating project, not least to enable stringent grant funding deadlines to be met.

A THI grant has been awarded and, thanks to the great efforts of everyone involved, in particular the statutory bodies, the project was granted planning and listed building consent.

W. H. Brown Construction of Dundee has been appointed as main contractor.

The building work will include the removal of the asbestos roof, repair of the rare 15th century ashlar post roof structure, reinstatement of the Nepus gable chimney to the High Street, stone repairs, application of a traditional lime harl to the exterior, reconstruction of a small single storey building to the rear, as well as the introduction of modern services to the building and full redecoration.

The significance of the building will be respected through sympathetic intervention, using traditional building repairs and the results will be complemented by the use of a Georgian paint scheme thus respecting the fine surviving Georgian interior of the rear wings.

The project is one of several projects located on the High Street which is attracting grant funding through the THI.

The significant investment by both the owners of the properties and the grant funding bodies will assist in the regeneration of the High Street.

Some of the work is already underway and this is hoped to provide a catalyst for further improvements to be undertaken to neighbouring buildings.

Kit Martin believes that the THI is brilliant for Brechin.

“For thirty years, empty and derelict, this building has been a blight on the high street; but behind this decaying facade is a building of enormous architectural importance.

“It is Brechin’s earliest surviving house with a 15th century roof structure and some fine 18th century fittings.

“The restoration of this immensely important building will be an important step in the regeneration and transformation of the centre of this wonderful city.”

Bob Myles, chairman, City of Brechin Townscape Heritage Initiative, is delighted that work has begun:

“The news that work is starting is particularly welcome as the poor condition of the Merchant’s House means that it has been on the Scottish Civic Trust’s Buildings At Risk register for a number of years.

“Several attempts have been made to rescue the building but these have all proved impossible to deliver.

“Not only will this grant-aided project ensure the long term future of the building, it will also have a dramatic impact on the regeneration of the High Street and Brechin City Centre.

The Princes Regeneration Trust is eager to keep the community up to date with the progress with the restoration project and plans to organise an open day allowing access into a sample room and exhibition later in the year.

The project will provide opportunities for traditional craft skills training opportunities while creating new, high quality accommodation in the city.

An estimated eight full-time construction jobs will be engaged on the project and a further two full-time service jobs. It is due to be completed within 12 months.

Commenting on the project Maria Perks, projects adviser, The Prince’s Regeneration Trust, said: “When a project such as this moves from development on paper to physical work on site it is truly the beginning of an exciting journey.

“The people of Brechin can now see real progress and real work.

“We are thrilled to be involved with the Merchant’s House project which we are confident will make a great contribution to the regeneration of this beautiful city.

“As well as raising the profile of Brechin this fantastic project will provide excellent opportunities for the public to learn more about their local heritage”.

The Heritage Lottery Fund is supporting Brechin’s THI with £1.4million funding. Colin McLean, Head of the Heritage Lottery Fund in Scotland, commented:

“We launched our THI grant programme in 1998 as we found that for regeneration to really work, it had to have roots.

“Roots that make the place unique and roots which connect people to their history and affirm their identity.

“The Merchant’s House is an important part of Brechin’s roots. The start of its restoration marks the beginning of a brighter era for the city.”