Welcome to ‘Civic Dundee’

To mark our fiftieth anniversary, Dundee Civic Trust’s popular annual journal ‘City Scene’ has been renamed ‘Civic Dundee’. This 2023 issue contains a rundown of our Awards past and present, as well as a host of other fascinating material about the city.

Members can look forward to their free copies soon. Get a taste of the diverse contents here.

Picking up the Telephone

The forthcoming relocation of British Telecom’s Dundee operations to new premises at West Marketgait will mean complete abandonment of the ‘new’ Telephone House, lying between Ward Road and West Bell Street. A planning application for conversion of this building to student accommodation has, however, been submitted (23/00684/FULL).

The office block was erected in the mid-1970s for what was then still known as Post Office Telephones. Built as an extension to the earlier Telephone House at the junction of Ward Road and Courthouse Square, it was one of the city’s biggest office developments. It was designed by the architectural practice of Ian Burke Associates. Visually it is very much of its time, although not necessarily unappealing. The site is a historic one, formerly occupied by the central fire station and (much earlier) the Dundee and Newtyle railway station.

The new proposal is to completely refurbish this outworn building inside and out to make it fit for modern student accommodation, providing over 400 bedspaces and support facilities. This is one of several applications for purpose built student accommodation (PBSA) in the city; and whilst a few projects are underway, significant demand for more quality accommodation remains.

While awaiting further details, the Trust is minded to be supportive of this project in principle.

50th Anniversary Awards

Further celebrations of the Civic Trust’s 50th anniversary took place at a Civic Reception at the City Chambers on 12 October, at which awards were made under three categories:

  • Dundee Civic Trust Awards for 2023 – for projects completed since our previous awards in 2019, exhibiting a high quality of design and exhibiting excellent use of materials, energy conservation and sustainability;
  • Dundee Civic Trust/Dundee Historic Environment Trust Awards for 2023 – for projects deemed worthy of restoring and preserving the city’s built heritage and historic buildings;
  • Dundee Civic Trust 50th Anniversary Awards – for outstanding projects not previously considered for a Dundee Civic Trust Award and parties who have made a consistent contribution to Dundee’s built environment.

Full details will appear soon on the Awards page.


Nutshell whimsy at Dundee Museum of Transport

The Courier’s ‘Craigie’ column of 21 August featured a small item about the Nutshell miniature caravan now on display at Dundee Museum of Transport.

Manufacture of the Nutshell was a remarkable diversification project by local firm Wm R Stewart and Sons (Hacklemakers) Ltd. The Civic Trust’s Roderick Stewart, of that family, told the story of the wee caravan in our 2016 edition of City Scene. You can read the article here.

Meanwhile, the Civic Trust is delighted to witness the transport museum’s steady progress in restoration of the Category B listed Maryfield tram depot, with a view to opening on the new site in 2025. Most recently, the renovation work has made use of serviceable roof slates recovered from the former Regal cinema building in Broughty Ferry.

The words of an Elder Statesman

On Thursday 4 May 2023, the members of Dundee Civic Trust marked our 50th anniversary with a celebratory dinner at the Woodlands Hotel in Broughty Ferry. Our much-loved senior member and former Chairman, Jack Searle, provided the address.

Londoner Jack, thanks to his marriage to local girl Joyce, has been an honorary Dundonian for sixty years. His speech provided as good a summary as any of the work of Dundee Civic Trust.

There is a strong possibility that Dundee Civic Trust might not exist at all today but for Jack’s energy in helping to revitalise it some 25 years ago. One thing is certain: without him it would be much the poorer.

Read Jack’s address here.

New purpose for the High Kirk

The contraction of church congregations in today’s secular age is resulting in many architecturally and historically important ecclesiastical buildings becoming redundant. Churches are significant elements of townscape; yet they can be difficult—in practical and economic terms—to convert to other uses.

The Civic Trust is therefore pleased to see proposals presented to enable what was latterly St David’s High Kirk to be converted to eight flats (Dundee City Council planning references 23/00388/LBC and 23/00389/FULL).

The High Kirk is one of the city’s most familiar and prominent buildings. Erected as the United Free High Church in 1877-78, to the designs of local architect James Ireland of the practice Ireland and Maclaren, it originally stood in isolation on the slopes of the Law at the top of what was then called Hospital Wynd (now Kinghorne Road) and almost directly above the disused tunnel of the Dundee and Newtyle Railway.

Read Newsflash 59

Spring is here; and our 59th issue of Newsflash brings a fresh crop of items to provoke thought about developments in Dundee, along with some interesting historical content.

Open this page and click here to read more.

Newsflash 58 is here

Our February 2023 Newsflash marks the 50th anniversary of Dundee Civic Trust. As ever, it also covers a number of other developments (good and not-so-good) affecting the Dundee urban scene.

Open this page and click here to read it.

50 years of Dundee Civic Trust

2023 marks the fiftieth anniversary of the foundation of Dundee Civic Trust. The Trust was formed in February 1973, when the post-war reshaping of the city was nearing its conclusion and the resultant sacrifices made in terms of lost architectural heritage were becoming clear. This was also the year in which the penultimate edition of the Dundee Directory was published. In its review of 1972, the Directory states that:

“The city’s most familiar sound became the roar of bulldozers. Vast areas of property in the older parts of the city were razed including almost the whole area between King Street and Victoria Road, and large tracts in Lochee and the Watson Street area. The city at the end of the year was beginning to resemble a vast builder’s yard.”

Our picture shows the Dundee into which the Civic Trust was born: a view of the cleared Wellgate, looking down from the steps towards the Cowgate. Now the Wellgate Centre, which stamped its heavy footprint upon this scene, has an uncertain future.

The world of 1973 was so different from 2023 that one is reminded of the quote from “The Go-Between”, by L P Hartley: “The past is a foreign country: they do things differently there.” Some things, however, are not that different. Elected representatives and local government officials don’t always get it right. The local media have been inclined to occasionally portray the Civic Trust as a “watchdog” and we would like to think that an appropriate description. In the third decade of the 21st century, the work of community organisations like ours is as important as ever.