Banff Preservation and Heritage Society Projects

Banff Preservation and Heritage Society Projects

If you scroll back, you will see that in this section the Society has, from time to time, added accounts of its latest projects. Each new addition has at the top the date it was added. We have held back from using hindsight to go through them and edit what we said at the time. Many things did not quite work out as we hoped, but the actual picture of where we were then is of more historical interest than an airbrushed adjustment to today’s perspective.


Carmelite Street Project

In 2014 Aberdeenshire Council instructed North East Scotland Preservation Trust (https://nespt.org) to carry out a review of properties requiring work in Banff. They then consulted with LDN Architects to accomplish this.

One of these properties was 1A Carmelite Street next to the Market Arch. This grade C building had been unoccupied for in excess of 10 years. It consisted of a shop and maisonette above with garaging and courtyard. The building was water damaged both from frozen pipes and roof leaks.

Banff Preservation and Heritage Society approached the owner to propose a joint project. This would restore the fabric of the building and improve the streetscape of the Low Street area while providing a commercial facility to help revitalize the town centre.

During negotiations an aggressive outbreak of dry rot was discovered on the ground floor. Left untreated the dry rot would have rapidly spread throughout the building. BPHS therefore made the decision in 2016 to carry out emergency work to eradicate this and retain the building.

Various reports were carried out on the building and a final agreement was concluded between the owners and the Society. Local architect Mantell Ritchie was appointed to oversee the works. External works were completed with the assistance of the CARS (Conservation Area Regeneration Scheme) grant of £ 25,202 in 2018. Internal works to the shop were completed in 2019.

A new local cleaning firm now occupies the shop, thus achieving the Society’s goals of restoring the building and bringing business back to the historic town centre.

June 2016 – September 2018

Silver-smithing project

In June 2016, the Society continuing to work with Aberdeenshire Council, sat on the Boards of both Twin Towns’ Regeneration Committee and the Conservation Area Regeneration Scheme (CARS) Bridge Street Project. The plans for a silver-smithing studio in the meal house were moved forward. The meal house was an old grain store, parts of it dating from 1793, used to store and distribute grain to the poor in times of hardship. In the 20th century the building was used as an old smithy. Working with Christine Pert of Aberdeenshire Council and Robert Livingston of Kirkhill Associates, funding of £225,000 was put in place to commence work later that year. In September 2018, the Vanilla Ink studio was opened. It is a silversmithing & jewellery school, and also a not-for-profit social enterprise who support young people and emerging makers. The silversmithing project, has not only brought the derelict building back into use but has also had an economic impact on the town. Part of this project was the idea of “Creative Banff” which would help to foster other cultural projects and improve communications between groups, including Historic Environment Scotland and National Galleries at Duff House. One strand of this idea is coming to fruition with work being carried out on the old toilet block in Castle Street to create a writer’s studio. Furthermore, as part of the silver – smithing project, the building, housing the Library and Museum of Banff, was renovated. This has increased the Library space, providing a room for study, in addition to the main Library room. There is increased exhibition space in the museum and improved access through the installation of a lift. The museum has a collection of Banff Silver produced in the town. The cost of these renovations was £115 000. Another part of this project has seen 3 letting units created in Bridge Street as part of the silver project, an investment of £ 500,000. In keeping with our heritage - will the Banff Silver stamp be resurrected?

2015 This last year has been both our 50th Birthday and also an exciting time in the latest developments on the town. The withdrawal of Tesco's store plans has removed the uncertainty that has been hanging over the town for a number of years.

One such project that the Society has driven forward is the revival of silversmithing in Banff which used to be a main source of income for the town in the late 18th/early 19th Century. Exhibits of this fine work can be found in the Museum of Banff. Working with Aberdeenshire Council, the Old Smithy (once the Meal House), as part of the CARS Bridge Street project has been identified as a suitable building to house a silversmith workshop.

Consultants were appointed (Kirkhill Associates) to look into the feasibility of resurrecting silversmithing and the report was very favourable. Work was then carried out to stabilise the building and restore the bell tower (see picture above). A grant application was put forward to the Regeneration Capital Grant Fund and we are pleased to say it has passed Stage One of the application and we are now awaiting the results of Stage Two (due in February 2016).

Aberdeenshire Area Committee have fully supported the project and, in principle, have agreed to lease the Smithy to the Society for the purpose of the silversmith workshop. We also greatly appreciate the support and encouragement of the local councillors and the Community Council.

June 2015.

The Society's latest publication, 'The Carved Stones of the Royal Burgh of Banff' by Charles J. Burnett and Henry J. Mantell, both previous committee members of the society, was met with great interest at our launch in June. The book is available to buy from the Museum of Banff and also at Imagine at Twenty Seven, 27 Low Street, along with all our other publications and leaflets. December 2014 The Society's latest publication, 'The Kirkyard Vol 2 (complete with location map of all the tombstones) by Dr David Clark and Henry J. Mantell, was launched in December with a short and very interesting talk held in the old Kirkyard, followed by warming mulled wine and mince pies at The Market Arms public house.

October 2011.

The Society's latest publication, Banff Through Time (published by Amberley Publishing) was launched. showing a colourful pictorial history of Banff, then and now. 2010 to 2011 An agreement has been drawn up between Aberdeenshire Museum Service, Banff Preservation & Heritage Society and the Banffshire Maritime and Heritage Association to run the Banff Museum. The idea is that volunteers will enable the museum opening hours can be extended, initially it will be opened from 10am to 12.30 Monday to Saturday. This agreement applies to the 2010 and 2011 seasons.


1 March 2009

Since the last Newsletter there has been little movement with the restoration of the Meal House as much depends on the creation of the adjacent Tesco supermarket. There is still one more legal process to be undertaken before Aberdeenshire Council can release the land for construction to begin. Work on the Meal House will then follow.


1 March 2009

Various Society members were given areas of the kirkyard to record by photography and note-taking. Inscriptions, heraldry, decoration, and condition have been noted and compared with the printed list made by William Cramond in 1891. A report on the restoration of the Sharp tomb has been received and this will prove an expensive exercise. The Committee has decided to await completion of the recording exercise and then prepare a comprehensive report on the condition of the kirkyard in order to seek grant-aid for the repair of the Sharp tomb and other memorial stones which have been broken or toppled.



1 March 2008


The Publication sub-committee has copied a lot of raw material for the history, and carefully filed them in 10 categories, so for some parts of the book we can hand over the evidence, and say "write this up in 500 words". Julian Watson has constructed a mock-up of the final work. We know there will be 160 pages, and about 250 pictures, and so we have roughly planned what will go on every page. There is still room for flexibility in case something important is found to be missing and we can squeeze it in. We have found at least one artist who has already given us drawings of historic events before the days of photography. Based on the mock-up and earlier outlines we have drawn up a list of over one hundred subject areas which will be covered by a variety of authors with specific expertise and knowledge. We shall be sending off all the material for printing the preliminary flier describing the book. This will be used to attract purchasers and those wishing to become a subscriber. The book will contain a printed list of subscriber names. It is hoped all Members will decide to become subscribers. The new Community History will not cost more than £25.00 per copy. Postage will be extra for delivery out with Banff.

The Meal House Proposals.

1 March 2008

As part of the development on the site for the new Tesco supermarket, Banff Meal House will be restored and enlarged for use by the Society. Committee member, Harry Mantell, has produced a plan and views of the proposed appearance of the building. The original building [the three gables to the right of the entrance] will be used as a meeting/exhibition space. There will be French doors on the south elevation leading to a terrace which could be used in the summer months for serving teas. This will look on to a new public square. An office, store, small kitchen, lavatories and entrance foyer will be contained in a new extension which reflects the original building.

A quantity surveyor has prepared an estimated cost for the works involved. Restoring the Meal House will cost £144,000, building the new extension will add £130,000. Other works, plus a contingency sum, will make a grand total of £315,000, excluding VAT. Committee are confident that this sum can be obtained through grants from various bodies. Further sums for fittings and furniture have yet to be calculated, but by considering the possibilities of hiring the building for various events and operating a tearoom in the summer, the building should be self-supporting. Committee will keep members informed of progress with the Meal House.

The Royal Burgh of Banff received its Charter in 1376, but had been a viable community since the beginning of the 12th century. Situated at the mouth of the River Deveron on the coast of the Moray Firth, the Burgh contains the site of a medieval castle, has numerous examples of Scots vernacular and Georgian architecture, and on its outskirts sits Duff House, the finest country house north of the River Forth. It was the County Town of Banffshire until the re-organisation of Local Government in 1975 with the creation of Banff & Buchan District Council and of Grampian Regional Council.

Banff Museum was founded in 1828 as the museum of the Banff Institution and is the oldest museum in Scotland north of Perth. The Banff Institution was dissolved in 1875 and the collections passed to Banff Town Council.

The present museum and library building were built in 1902. Banff Preservation and Heritage Society currently run the Museum in partnership with Aberdeenshire Museums Service. The Museum is on Banff High Street, in the same building as Banff Library. The postcode is AB45 1AE.

The exhibits show a vast range of interesting artefacts from the Celtic period up to the modern day. They reflect life in Banffshire and show some stunning examples of our historical past in Banff and Macduff.

The museum is currently open on Saturdays from 10.30am-1pm.


12 November 2008

In November 2008 a new book was published in hardback called The Book of Banff. About 80,000 words and over 200 pictures present a social history of the community which covers well-nigh a millennium. It is not the first book to feature this Royal and Ancient Burgh. Dr W Cramond's "Annals of Banff" 2 Vols. (1891-93), James Imlach's "History of Banff and Familiar Account of its Inhabitants and Belongings" (1898), Dr A E Mahood's "Banff and District" (1919) and Prof. H Hamilton's (Ed.) volume on Banffshire in "The Third Statistical Account of Scotland" (1961) are but four of the main sources from which the editors and writers of this new book have drawn. More recently, the Banff Preservation and Heritage Society has produced a booklet "Royal and Ancient Banff' 4th Edn. (1998) which is a pocket-sized guide best appreciated as one walks with it around the town.

The initial impetus for the book came from one of our newer members, Julian Watson, who had come to live in Banff after a sojourn in SW England where he had been made aware of a publishing company, Halsgrove, which specialised in producing such community histories of other towns, even villages, according to a designed format. He was able to show the Committee other examples of that company's work, with the inevitable result that he was immediately voted on to an Editorial Committee of four with a brief to produce "The Book of Banff" within the year! Three others, including myself, made up the team - but in the end we were able to recruit with, surprisingly, little or no arm twisting, more than twenty other contributors - all working to tight deadlines. Little did we know how much work we were letting ourselves in for!

There is a lot in the book which will titillate the interest of many readers - and for non-readers there is such a wealth of intriguing and historic pictures that they may even buy a coffee table to put it on. The book is not a history book in the ordinary sense. It has tried to be historically as accurate as possible but also to present history in as personalised a way as possible. It is the history of a community and its people. There will be personal reminiscences which are openly nostalgic. But there are also references to the more substantial visitors to our town - King Robert Bruce H, King Haakon VII of Norway, Robert Bums, Dr Johnson and Boswell, Lord Byron, the Duke of Cumberland etc. etc. But how many of you know about James Edward Kyber or Susannah Emmet or Captain George Duff? And how many of you know about "riding the stang" or that fines for fornication were part source of the cash to build a new harbour? David F Clark OBE

* Previously referred to in these project articles as - 'A New Community History of Banff'

The book is available at many good bookshops and from the Society itself by contacting: Dr Alistair Mason, Hon Secretary, 14 Old Castlegate, Banff, Price £19.99, plus £3.01 for postage.


The first Banff Preservation Society Founders’ Commemorative Lecture will take place on Thursday 20th November 1997 at 7.30pm. Dr. Gavin Stamp MA, Mackintosh School of Architecture, Glasgow, will give a lecture entitled – Alexander "Greek" Thomson of Glasgow – Scotland’s Greatest Architect?


Society to pay £1000 towards the restoration of Duff House gates (entrance to the Wrack Woodlands).


Banff Castle Gates to be restored at a cost of £1500 to the Society. These were taken from the Deveron Bridge approach to Duff House. Statues of Bacchus and Hebe from 1 St. Catherines are to be loaned from Grampian Health Board Trust to the Museum Service and will be put on display in Banff Museum. £6000 has now been paid to Banff Castle to aid in its restoration.


NEPT (North East Preservation Trust have asked BPS if they are interested in the Old Smiddy building. Banff and Buchan District Council has confirmed they own the building as it was gifted to Banffshire County Council by Duff House Trust Properties in 1911.



Banff Castle restoration fund is to be given £6000 from Banff Preservation Society. Peter Anson drawings purchased by the Society in the 1970’s were shown to the Society. Concern raised with the council about the condition of the Old Smithy and Panton House at the bottom of Bridge Street.



Banff Castle Committee and Banff Preservation Society to meet to discuss the castle restoration.


Forglen table to be refurbished and restored – Mr Irvine Barclay to examine it. (Forglen table later loaned to the Town and County Club).


16 Plaques were ordered for notable buildings throughout the town.


43a High Street has been surveyed and estimates are being drawn up to renovate it. The Society received a Commendation from the Civic Trust for the restoration of the Shoemaker’s Building.


Two of the houses in the Shoemaker’s building were sold. Miss Ann Lowe and Mr Ian Flory set up an exhibition in Collie Lodge, the tourist information centre, and they offered to take people on guided tours of Banff’s historic buildings.


43 High Street Banff completed – the Shoemaker’s building. Mr Flory and Miss McColl reproduced the Shoemaker’s Banner from a detailed description supplied by Mrs Blackwell. Mr Flory set up an exhibition on the top floor of the building. An open day at the houses attracted 800 people in one day.


1 High Shore was restored.


Castle Gates – Duff House gates restored after being found down near Banff Bridge, damaged but craftsmen were able to restore them.


12 Deveronside, having been bought by the Society for £12, has been renovated and sold for £4000.


11th February 1965 - Banff Preservation Society was formed to preserve the town as a historic and architectural centre by fighting the replacement of old buildings with "ugly" modern ones.