The Buildings at Risk Register for Scotland, set up in 1990 and today maintained by Historic Environment Scotland, presents information about listed buildings or buildings in conservation areas that are empty and falling into disrepair. The Register lists around forty properties in Dundee, although planning permission has been granted for redevelopment of some of these; and redevelopment is underway on others. Recent success stories include the restoration of the High Mill at Verdant Works and conversion of the former Lower Dens Works, now occupied by Hotel Indigo.
Buildings at Risk are important for a variety of reasons: they may be of historical significance; exemplify a particular architectural style or tradition; reflect shared memories; or offer exciting and sustainable redevelopment opportunities. Collectively, they make an important contribution to Dundee’s urban landscape, helping to shape its unique identity. It is essential, therefore, that they are maintained well and brought into positive use.
The Trust works to raise the profile of the buildings on the Register and supports appropriate regeneration proposals.
You can access the register at: https://buildingsatrisk.org.uk
King’s Theatre, 21-29 Cowgate (Category B listed; Conservation Area)
One of the most lamented buildings at risk in Dundee, this has been the subject of a lengthy campaign by the King’s Theatre Trust for potential restoration.
The King’s Theatre and Hippodrome was built as part of an improvement scheme which involved the elimination of the Narrows of the Cowgate. Opened on 15 March 1909, it was designed by Frank Drummond Thomson (son of the City Architect) and cost £44,000, featuring an opulent auditorium with baroque and rococo plasterwork, a domed ceiling with frescoes and a marble proscenium frame. Its capacity was 2,500, of whom 2,227 were seated in stalls, dress circle and balcony.
Conversion to a cinema in 1928 left Dundee without a theatre equipped to stage the largest productions: a situation which has continued to the present day. In 1950 the building was acquired by the Gaumont chain, under whose stewardship a number of structural alterations were made. It became the city’s second Odeon in 1973, after closure of the original premises at Coldside, and eventually closed as a cinema in 1981.
After thirteen years as the County bingo club, the building saw use as an ‘entertainment bar’ and nightclub. It is currently in a partial use as a music venue.
2 Roseangle (Category B listed; Conservation Area)
It is a matter of great concern that, with every passing year, this prominent building falls into a state of greater decay. Designed by local architect David Neave and dating from circa 1815-20, it is a three-bay, two-storey coursed rubble villa with basement. Later alterations by Leslie Ower included two prominent oriel windows (recently destroyed), a cast iron balcony and a small cupola over the internal stairwell.
Pre-dating the extensive land reclamation associated with the coming of the railways, this was one of a series of early suburban villas with terraced gardens stretching down to the shore of the Tay. Sadly, 2 Roseangle is still remembered as the scene of the brutal double murder in May 1980 of Dr Alexander Wood and his wife Dorothy, their bodies in the basement discovered by a student who had gone to retrieve a stray football from the garden.
Since 2008, at least three proposals for change of use to a restaurant/bar have been made, but the current owner’s intentions are not clear. Barely secured and at risk from the elements and vandalism, the building is in danger of reaching the ‘point of no return’ unless action is taken soon.
Crossroads Station, 276 Clepington Road (Category C listed)
Forget Noele Gordon and shaky studio sets! Hidden within the grounds of King’s Cross Hospital, this is Dundee’s Crossroads. The significance of this apparently unexceptional building lies not in any particular architectural merit, but in the fact it was one of the earliest railway stations in the world.
It is one of the few surviving relics of the original Dundee and Newtyle Railway, opened in 1831. Emerging from the north end of the Law tunnel, the line struck northwards across level ground towards Baldovan. Crossroads station was built beside a level crossing on Clepington Road, then still just a country lane.
In 1861, the Law incline and tunnel were bypassed by means of a massive deviation via Lochee. Crossroads station, which never seemed to do much business, may well have closed even before this date. The building became a private residence and was eventually engulfed by the hospital grounds.
The position of the property, adjacent to Clepington Road with its own entrance, would make it easy for the health board to dispose of this fragment of its estate in a way that might lead to the preservation of a significant piece of industrial heritage. It is to be hoped that such a solution might be found.
The Seamen’s Chapel, Candle Lane (Category B listed; Conservation Area)
We are pleased to see the Seamen’s Chapel removed from the Buildings at Risk Register with its conversion (as of 2021) into two 2-bedroom flats.
The chapel, which adjoins the former Sailors’ Home at the corner of Dock Street and Candle Lane, is one of only two such buildings remaining in the UK (the other is in Swansea).
However, it is regrettable that more of the interior—notably the panelled upper gallery—could not be saved after the years of dereliction.