Over the years, and I mean in decades, not just single years, one would have to be bordering on delusional or blind not to have seen how Rothesay has become neglected, BUT saying that alone would selectively ignore the simple fact that ALL the towns which enjoyed prosperity as Clyde resorts over the years suffered the same downturn in their fortunes once the cheap package holiday took hold around the 1970s, and Brits deserted their local holiday venues.
It was simply cheaper to jet off abroad than holiday at home. And truth be told that wasn’t really the fault of the Clyde (and other) resort towns, but a consequence of a massive new package holiday industry backed by smart operators and the money to invest in it and make it pay for them. Sell cheap, sell lots, collect a small margin, but collect lots of it.
But there’s been a quiet revolution on the Clyde, and even before I had to give up regular visits to many of the former resort towns, they were being slowly turned around at the start of the millennium, and the process has been continuous.
Too slow for some, I still get the sense of a derogatory tone when some writers just chant the same mantra of doom and gloom as has been heard since the 1970s, but that is unfair.
Change really has to be slow to be effective. Think of the stupid fad diets pushed by ‘celebrities’ – their purpose is to make celebrities rich by having stupid people eat their ‘magic food’. Rapid change in a place is the same. Both leave the buyer unsatisfied, are ineffective, and their only effect is to empty pockets.
Rothesay has seen such a long-term initiative: The Rothesay Townscape Heritage Initiative (THI)
This 5 year plan concluded in 2016, with numerous sites and buildings throughout the town benefiting.
I’m lucky enough to access to pics of the changes made in the town, but it was tough to pick just a couple to provide a representative ‘Before and After’ example.
In the end, I went for the facade behind the car park on Guildford Square, NOT because of the infilling of the long standing gap site there (that was easy), but for the view either side, where the existing buildings have been retained and restored:
Guildford Square in 2013
Guildford Square in 2015
Don’t get me wrong on this, I’m not saying it’s perfect – I’m the type that would have dearly loved to see the chequered original of ‘Maison Gina’ restored rather than swept away (I even miss the gap, it was an old friend), but… I’m also a realist.
See this gallery for a look at many of those projects while underway:
Zak’s Gallery: Rothesay Townscape Heritage Initiative
It’s not my place or intent to ‘Name and Shame’, but it can be disappointing/depressing to read some commenters derogatory remarks about how slow this project was (in their opinions) and some even criticised the 5% contribution asked of those who wanted the THI to assist with their property.
Still others may be found who still sneer and call ‘failure’ as they point at the building which may still be referred to as ‘eyesores’, as if the THI was supposed to fix ALL the town’s structural problems.
They won’t be happy…
In fact, they’ll probably be hopping mad, as a new initiative aims to target “prominent buildings on the seafront to ensure as big a visual impact as possible.”
Rothesay is to share in a £6.2 million fund which will help to upgrade the seafront.
The Conservation Area Regeneration Scheme (CARS) funding which has been announced, will see £500,000 of funding by Historic Environment Scotland (HES) for essential repairs and improvements to buildings on Rothesay’s seafront.
Alex Paterson, Chief Executive of HES, said: “We’ve seen how successful this approach can be in previous schemes across the UK, and I’m looking forward to seeing the results for Rothesay.”
The aim of Rothesay CARS will be to repair prominent buildings on the seafront to ensure as big a visual impact as possible.
CARS specifically targets conservation areas with disadvantages that make it difficult to attract investment in sustainable regeneration.
The scheme assists these areas through channelling funding towards opportunities to enhance sustainable economic growth and help support projects that develop an area’s sense of place.
The scheme is open to Local and National Park Authorities, community groups and other third sector organisations delivering multi-funded projects.
Funding can be utilised for a number of purposes, from priority repairs and small grants to homeowners and retailers, to providing traditional craft training opportunities.
Via ‘The Buteman’: Rothesay seafront to get £500k boost
I really don’t care about the naysayers any more, and just ignore them in passing now, and enjoy the various improvements made to the town and its facilities. They can go wallow in the pit of their own self-imposed misery – the rest of us will move on.
It’s not been that long since I finally decided to give the unfortunate West Church in Rothesay a mention.
After many years of doubt, and not a little controversy with conflicting views, the church is now set to take on an altered appearance to render it safe:
Councillor Robert Macintyre, chair of Bute and Cowal Area Committee, told The Buteman: “The building standards section of the council have been in continual discussions with the structural engineer to establish the absolute minimum of work and most cost-effective way to make the building permanently safe.
“It has been decided that the roof of the main church building must be removed as soon as possible and the remaining walls lowered to a safe height.”
Via Partial demolition for former Rothesay church – The Buteman
I hope the cats that once called it ‘home’ have somewhere to go (of course they do).
It used to be fun watching them, and even thought they were too wary to let strangers near them (although the ladies that looked after them were, of course, tolerated), they would jump up on the car and stare at the occupants…
Maybe they thought we were in some sort of ‘Travelling Zoo’, and were placed there for them to look at!
Any love for the former West Church in Rothesay, on the Isle of Bute?
It’s one of a number of similar derelicts you can find on the island if you go for a wander, but is the only one I see being picked on in the media.
I’ve known this one for years, as it lies on the edge of once hidden car park. Access was via a narrow gap between two building on the main street, but was made easier when a second access was created using the space left at he front of the church, when it fell out of use.
It was a handy place to park off-street many moons ago when we stayed in a nearby attic flat. In later years it served as a handy place to stop for lunch, being close to the shops for some food (if we had no sandwiches), and a kiosk on the esplanade that sold giant mugs of tea (albeit in a plastic cup) to help wash it down.
Going back to the church, it was taken over by the local stray cats, and they were adopted by the ladies that look after and feed such lost souls, and make sure they see the vet. It used be fun spotting them, but they were generally wary of strangers, so little or no fun playing with them.
But the building has been derelict and abandoned for years now, and concerns are growing over its condition. Some are calling for it to be demolished, while others are trying to find a use for it, or maybe just part of it.
As always, not being there, or being involved, makes it hard to get at the truth.
Are those calling for demolition after the ground for themselves for some reason?
Are those who want it retained just sentimental, and have no idea how safe it is after years of neglect?
And now those who live nearby are claiming nobody is listening to them.
But I doubt that (since we are obviously hearing their story), and suspect more likely a desperate reporter who wants some clickbait for an attention-grabbing headline. Rather than reporting concerns, I suspect leading questions were asked, and that legitimises the application of some ‘artistic licence’ after the writer raises the issue… after prompting those being interviewed.
That said, I do have to be fair and say that there is a tenement block to the immediate right of the church, on the hidden side in the pic below. But I’d still take the view that claiming they are not being listened to is wrong on the neighbour’s part – what they really mean is that they think their voice is the one that should be heard, and those seeking to retain or re-use the church should be ignored. I don’t have a pic to hand, but you can see the building if you look in Street View.
What we are seeing is merely due process being followed, and they don’t seem to like that since they are not being given blanket priority without debate.
Here are the most recent news articles that appeared this month:
Former Rothesay church beyond help, says councillor – The Buteman
Can former Rothesay church really be saved? – The Buteman
‘No-one listening to us’ say West Church neighbours – The Buteman
Decision soon on fate of former Rothesay church – The Buteman
While I wouldn’t go so far as to say I was worried about the future of Rothesay’s iconic Art Deco pavilion, that doesn’t mean I don’t still harbour some concerns.
Although I don’t see the building as being at any particular risk, in the sense that we will see it become abandoned, derelict, and lose its roof, I do worry slightly about the time everything takes to progress from stage to stage, and how the funding is slow to be secured (that’s not to misread as any criticism of those securing it).
However, things do keep moving forward, and the latest news of approval for designs for the building which will go forward to form the basis of a business plan, and planning and funding applications, is good to hear.
And comes with a projected date of mid 2017 for the renovated building to open its doors.
I’ll be watching that date, and hoping it doesn’t slip.
The plans include upgrading of the main hall and facilities, with a goods lift to the lower floor.
Creation of new space for performances, and extensions on the roof for office space and other use.
A new café with improved facilities., including a lift to all floors.
The building to be refurbished inside and out.
Rothesay Pavilion design scheme approved – The Buteman.
One of the sad losses seen on the Isle of Bute recently was that of the ‘Umbrella Tree’ that used to stand on the esplanade.
Seen below as it was back in 2008 (thanks to Zak’s archives), old age and disease caught up with it, and it was cut down in 2012: 4th September photo – Zak photos at pbase.com
The wood from the tree was transformed into a bench by craftsmen on Bute, and a sapling planted to replace the former landmark tree.
The story also appeared in the island’s newspaper:
Rothesay’s ‘umbrella tree’ lives on in new bench – The Buteman
Memorial web site returns
I was really pleased to see a media article which announced the return of a web site which had unfortunately evaporated due to unfortunate circumstances some years ago, and which I therefore thought had been lost forever, which would have been sad.
The site had been created as part of a much wider effort to mark the 60th anniversary of celebrations to mark V-Day on Bute. Considerable material was collected at the time, much of it not generally known, and a book was also published at the same time.
“Bute’s War”, a book by Jess Sandeman, who was a War veteran, former Chief WREN, and a long-time voluntary genealogist at the Bute Museum, was launched early in June 2005 to coincide with the island’s V-Day festivities. I was able to obtain a copy from the author, who ultimately passed away only a few years later, in August 2009.
Circumstances, changes, and losses in the years following this event eventually saw the site disappear from the web, and my contacts were also lost, so I had no idea what happened to the content – fortunately, the person who actually organised it retained a copy, and the material is now back online.
There is a wealth of local information regarding the part the Isle of Bute played during the war – and it’s now so long since I saw the site I dare not try and summarise, rather just recommend it for a good trawl if you are at all interested in the area and its war time history:
Bute during World War II
See also: New website keeps Bute’s WW2 story alive – The Buteman
A feature post and pic from Zak’s Bute collection today, and I think it’s a beauty.
For strangers to this phenomenon, I should expand on this by noting the presence of a swan family on Bute, which resides in the area of Rothesay castle, and breeds there every year, with the moat providing a handy and safe water feature for their convenience. However, they do go down to the harbour, and to the sea, and when they do, the town can come to a momentary halt and see parents and cygnets enjoy a police escort. See them in this past feature.
I was unaware of the presence of one of the recipients of the Arctic Star medal, who lived in Rothesay on the Isle of Bute until 2011, and passed his 100th birthday there.
Commander Ian Hamilton joined the Clyde division of the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve (RNVR) in August 1932, then served in the Royal Navy from 1936 until 1957.
During World War II, he saw service in the Atlantic, the South Atlantic, the Mediterranean, the battles of Taranto and Matapan, the D-Day landings, and took part in the Arctic Convoys which carried supplies to Russian ports between 1941 and 1945, described by Churchill as “‘the worst journey in the world.’
His Arctic Star medal was presented at Erskine in April 2013 following approval by the Queen of an award to recognise the service of Royal Navy and Merchant Navy personnel. Commander Hamilton’s campaign medals already included the Naval General Service Medal, the 1939-45 Star, the Italy Star, the Africa Star, the Defence Medal, the War Medal, the Defence of Malta Medal and the Soviet Union’s Arctic Convoy Medal.
The body of Commander Ian Hamilton, who passed way in the Erskine home for former service personnel at Bishopton in Renfrewshire on February 9 at the age of 103, was piped on board MV Argyle, en route to his funeral at Greenock Crematorium.
Rothesay naval hero dies aged 103 – The Buteman
VIDEO: Lone piper gives Rothesay naval hero a fitting send-off – The Buteman
Seems this is another video source I can’t embed.
Fortunately, Zak was on hand to record the event (and I’m grateful for permission to use the occasional image):
I seem to have been following this story – and its variants – regarding replacement windows, the council, listing (as in ‘listed building’), planning permission, and appeals for years.
And I have, as a quick search of the archives on this subject goes back to 2008, which probably means it started some time before then, and that is just when it began to hit the media.
At its simplest, the saga revolves around heritage legislation and the need for planning permission to be granted by the council before work can legally be carried out to modify a listed building. This leaves Bute hotel owners (and others) who want to upgrade their properties with uPVC double glazing (or any other modern window type) with a problem, as they can find that listing means they are obliged to replace like with like. In other word, if the building came with single glazed wooden frames, then that is what they must fit if replaced old worn out windows.
The same rules apply to any owners with listed properties, even private home owners.
The situation has become one of stalemate, with the owners reluctant to fit old style wooden frames, as they wish to upgrade their facilities to make the rooms quieter and warmer for their guests, but the council is standing by the rules and refusing planning permission for the newer and more efficient window, despite repeated applications, and even an appeal to the Scottish Government (also rejected).
There seems to be no way forward, even though the owners have the support of their neighbours, and a number of residents in favour of the new windows, the council appears unwilling to compromise.
Now, an online petition has been organised, together with a paper petition being made available in local businesses:
Bute House Hotel
We, the undersigned, disagree with the decision of Argyll and Bute Council to refuse planning permission for the installation of double-glazed UPVC windows at the Bute House Hotel in Rothesay. Following the Scottish Government’s dismissal of an appeal against refusal, we call on Argyll and Bute Council to reconsider its decision and to work without delay towards a solution which will address the urgent need for quality hotel accommodation on Bute, and be of benefit to the economy of the island.
Petition Bute House Hotel
Web site: Bute House Hotel
See also: Petition urges Bute House Hotel rethink – The Buteman
If you visit The Buteman’s web site, and just insert the word ‘windows’ into the Search Box which appears at the top right of their page, then you will be given a listing of the many stories which have appeared in that publication over the past few years.
Bute House Hotel can be seen below, and is the narrow white building on the right, on the corner of Rothesay’s Guildford Square, just inland of the harbour on the left edge of the pic, as captured by Zak’s Photo Galleries at pbase.com during October 2013.
A response from the council appear later, published in The Buteman and available online:
‘We understand planning frustration’, says councillor – The Buteman
Argyll and Bute Council has apparently gone power mad
At the same time, a local builder working on a private home, which is NOT listed and therefore presumably NOT covered by the rules attached to that status:
John Morrison installed the windows in the property at 19 Battery Place last year, but has now been told Argyll and Bute Council will seek to take action against him unless the windows are removed.
Mr Morrison has hit out at council planning officials’ attitude towards conservation in Rothesay, pointing out that permission was retrospectively approved for UPVC windows at a neighbouring C-listed property in Battery Place – even though Mr Morrison’s own building has no listed status at all.
Council threatens Rothesay builder with action over UPVC windows – The Buteman
While the case of the hotel has to be resolved within the scope of the relevant rules and regulations which apply to listing, the action being taken against the owner of a property which does not fall under this category clearly shows that the personnel within Argyll and Bute Council are not competent to discharge the duties for which they are responsible, and need to be subject to some sort of audit and review which holds them accountable for their actions.
Rothesay Pavilion, overlooking the bay and located at the west end of the town on the Isle of Bute, dates back to 1935, when the local council announced a competition to find a design for a new attraction in the form of a pavilion to occupy the site it had purchased in the town’s Argyle Street. 24 entries were received, and the winner was JA Carrick of J & JA Carrick of Ayr. The building was recognised for its heritage value in 2005, when Historic Scotland upgraded its listing to that of a Category A Listed Building.
Argyll and Bute Council has since worked with The Prince’s Regeneration Trust on the Rothesay Pavilion restoration project, and in 2012, the pavilion benefited from a grant of £500,000 from Historic Scotland’s Building Repair Grants fund, as one of 16 buildings across Scotland which received a share of the available £4,061,535 fund.
Opened on July 1, 1938, the Pavilion sees its 75th anniversary in 2013, and the island’s newspaper, The Buteman, is planning to publish an article on the building’s history in the next issue of its sister title, Back In The Day. Due to be published just before the anniversary date, the paper has launched an appeal for any readers with memories of working, playing, or dancing in the landmark building:
If you have especially vivid memories of a particular concert or event at the Pavilion, if you have fond (or even not-so-fond!) recollections of working there, or if the building played a big part in any unusual or memorable events in your life, please let us know. You can call our news room on (01700) 502503, or you can get in touch by email by clicking on Craig Borland’s name…
Via Appeal for Rothesay Pavilion memories – Community News – The Buteman
We noted its 70th anniversary in 2008, but nobody was celebrating then, and various problems were causing a decline its use as a venue.
But, in the following years the building’s significance has led to better things, with both grants and plans are appearing to refurbish the building and save it from decay.
Last November, it was announced that this had resulted in the first stage of securing some £2.7 million from the Heritage Lottery Fund, and this month saw an announcement that the project had been given ‘stage one’ development funding of £103,000, to be used to work up a bid for the larger ‘stage two’ award.
See the full gallery of Zak’s pics Pavilion pics over the years at:
Rothesay Pavilion Photo Gallery by Rothesay at pbase.com
I’ve been looking outside for the past few days and counting myself and my neighbours to be lucky, for once.
In the storms and gales that have arrived over the past few years, I’ve seen many walls blown over, bricks and tiles ripped off roofs, and anything light (such as a felt-covered roof) being torn loose and carried away, never to be seen again. Last year saw many trees blown over to, with some landing on nearby houses.
This year, even though I have watched some alarming leaning and bending by some structures, I’ve yet to see the same sort of thing repeated. So far, all I have come across is some hefty branches ripped off tall trees, and they looked weakened by disease or decay. Part of this I put down to the number of repairs and renewals made after the damage of past years, but I still think we’ve been lucky, and the hills around Glasgow have sheltered us – this time.
Less fortunate of areas near me seems to have been the coastal areas of the Firth of Clyde, and after some hearing some descriptions of local damage in the area, got to see the sort of damage that the Isle of Bute suffered. While it has not escaped completely in recent years, it often seems to get off lightly, and when I used to take a jaunt over at Christmas and Hogmanay, was often surprised at just how nice it could be there, even though it was only a few miles away from ‘home,’, where things were not so cosy.
Click on the first picture below, which shows damage to the unfortunate roof of one of Rothesay’s fine ornate tenement buildings on East Princes Street, to see a gallery of the damage done on January 3, 2011.
Damaged tenement roof, January 2011 © Zak
Updated pic by Zak showing the hidden side of the damage caught in the pic above:
Damaged tenement roof, January 2011 © Zak
I’m pleased to see that the (presumably) last pic in this series confirmed my location of the unfortunate roof shown above (which was not really difficult):
Damaged tenement, January 2011 © Zak
I noticed another pic that perhaps serves to convey how serious things were, not only on the island itself, but (as I was informed by others) anywhere in this particular corner of Argyll and Bute served by the same electrical supply.
Heavy winds knocked out the supply from about 7 am on the 3rd until about 1 am on the 4th!
Below is a pic Zak took of a snack bar ferried over from the mainland to provide hot meals on the 3rd.
Bad as things were, seeing this is actually a good thing as it meant the weather had subsided, and the island was not suffering the additional hard of being cut off from the mainland by the high winds, which can force the ferries to stay in port because of the risks involved with going to sea.
Snack bar ferried from the mainland, January 2011 © Zak