An exclusive look behind the historic doors of Arbroath courthouse has been granted by the group leading plans to rejuvenate the centuries-old landmark in the town’s beating heart.
In a £2 million project, Arbroath Courthouse Community Trust has ambitious plans for the transformation of the High Street building which served a civic and shrieval role over more than two centuries.
Originally the Town Hall, it became the courthouse until a justice service shake-up saw the doors close in 2014 and all Angus business move to Forfar.
Six years after the last sentences were handed down from the bench beneath the ornate ceiling of court one, ACCT secured the building from Scottish Courts for the princely sum of £1.
The deal also brought with it the adjoining former Guild Hall, around four decades younger than the landmark 1804 building.
They are at the heart of the proposal to deliver an expansive and flexible community hub offering exhibition, education and training opportunities.
And leading ACCT figures have set out their ambition for the long-held dream to become reality in 2023.
Trust chairman, Angus Roberts said: “Securing the building from the Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service at the end of last year was a real milestone.
“Since then we have been sorting out all the legal details other necessary things such as re-insuring the building and getting rates exemption sorted out since we are a charity.
“People will pass the courthouse and see that the doors are closed, but there really is a lot of work being done to take the project forward.
“It has been a frustrating six years, but the one thing you learn through projects like this is patience.”
Behind-the-scenes activity includes funding applications to a variety of bodies, including Historic Environment Scotland.
“We have made an application for a repair grant for external and internal restoration and are at the second stage of that process with our engineering and architects,” added retired architect and college lecturer Mr Roberts.
“That is a major exercise, but if approved a substantial grant would come from HES so it is a very important element of the whole project.
“We would have to match any funding, but hope that if we can get the grant funding we could commence work at the end of this year or the beginning of next, with a view to getting it open to the public in 2023.”
Not a walk you’d ever wanted to have made.
The route to the cells of old #Arbroath court.
Look out for an exclusive @thecourieruk peek behind the scenes with the group taking forward £2million community hub plans for the historic building. #LocalMatters pic.twitter.com/8abaXAtpeT
— Graham Brown (@C_GBrown1) May 12, 2021
“There is already real community engagement,” he added.
“The trust started off with about 20 members and now has around 400.
“We also have around 14 local organisations already involved, mainly from the third sector, who have ideas about how they could use the community space.
“Hospitalfield Trust has backed this initiative from the beginning and very successfully exhibited here a couple of years ago.
“D&A College are extremely supportive, they see it as an outreach opportunity with a variety of uses around education and training.”
Mr Roberts continued: “This is the oldest remnant of what was Arbroath’s civic quarter, which included the likes of the Guild hall, corn exchange, Webster Hall and trades hall.
“That is one of the main reasons why our project to rejuvenate these elements is so important.”
Trustee Harry Simpson hailed the trust chairman’s tenacity in keeping the project moving.
“Like all of these projects, it takes a huge amount of time and effort,” he said.
“But if it wasn’t for Angus we would not be where we are today at the next stage of this exciting scheme.
“He has been the driving force and has done a phenomenal job in getting us to this point.”