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
Foresters’ Halls, 6 Nicoll Street (Category B listed; Conservation Area)
Tucked away in a side street off Ward Road, this imposing building is probably known to few present-day Dundee citizens. It was completed in 1902 to the designs of David Baxter. As its name suggests, it was provided as the meeting place of the Ancient Order of Foresters. In 1939, however, it was leased to the newly-formed Dundee Repertory Theatre and it was here that many of the Rep’s stars in the making (including, of course, our own Brian Cox) first trod the boards.
In June 1963, soon after a £3000 refurbishment programme, the building was gutted by fire. Most of the interior was destroyed and the event resulted in the Rep’s relocation to Lochee Road. However, by 1969 the building had been rescued by Dundee College of Technology (now Abertay University), serving as an annexe which became known as the Wedderburn Building. This use came to an end when the property became surplus to requirements early this century.
The building occupies the full width of the block between Nicoll Street and Rattray Street. It is currently derelict with the exception of a solicitor’s office on the ground floor at the Rattray Street end. In 2005, the city council received an application for change of use of the whole building to two office units, but nothing came of this. Since September 2020 the building has been the subject of proposals for conversion to 10 residential apartments (reference 20/00598/FULL).
Former Royal British Hotel, High Street/Castle Street (Category B listed; Conservation Area)
The deteriorating appearance of this building, which occupies one of the most prominent corner sites in the city centre, has been a subject of concern. While the ground floor remains in retail use, the upper storeys have been largely vacant since their function as a university hall of residence ceased some years ago.
The close of 2021 saw the property encased in scaffolding, suggesting that at very least some necessary repairs must have been taking place. The Trust has been trying to obtain more information.
The building dates back to the opening of Castle Street at the end of the eighteenth century. It may well have been built as a hotel, and certainly served as such from an early date. The four-storey elevations were originally rather plain, but around 1880 they were embellished with balustrades, pediments and other additions to match the new street frontages erected nearby under the Improvement Act.
The Royal British Hotel, as it had become, ceased trading in the mid-1960s. Almost immediately the building found a new use as the Chalmers Hall of Residence of what was then still part of St Andrews University. This function continued under the stewardship of Dundee University for some thirty years.
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.