New use for old school

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WORK began in September 2013 to restore and give new life to one of Helensburgh’s architectural treasures.

The former Clyde Street School, later the Clyde Community Education Centre, which has looked increasingly derelict in recent years, is to become a major Civic Centre.

Argyll and Bute Council’s idea is to offer a one stop shop for all council services — instead of several current local council premises — and combine it with an outstanding new community facility.

The contract has been awarded to Graham Construction, and it is scheduled for completion in 2015. Extensive preparation work has gone into what is a large project, and there were several public consultations.

In addition, Helensburgh Heritage Trust and the Anderson Trust, which looks after the Anderson local art collection, have been involved in discussions to ensure heritage content and art display facilities.

The proceeds of the sale of the former Templeton Library, ring-fenced for just such a project, will be released to pay for this facet of the development.

There will be a new build office block on the former football pitch to the west of the school, where the main council staff will be based, and it will be connected by a glazed walkway to the old school building.

Downstairs the old school will house community facilities including a café, seating area in a flexible central hall, wedding suite/lecture theatre, meeting and conference areas, and a gallery. Upstairs will be more council offices.

Further community facilities will be in the annexe. The former janitor’s house will be improved, and the whole area will be landscaped and have parking areas.

The burgh’s rich heritage will be reflected throughout the complex, inside and out.

The ‘B’ listed building was designed in 1903 by noted burgh architect and artist Alexander Nisbet Paterson, ARSA, FRIBA, RSW, who moved to the town in 1897.

He and his wife, painter and expert needlewoman Maggie Hamilton, sister of another renowned painter, J.Whitelaw Hamilton, set up home at Ard Rhu, 22 Millig Street, then moved to Long Croft at the west end of Rossdhu Drive which he designed in 1901.

In 1902 he was commissioned to design an extension to the Municipal Buildings in Sinclair Street, to contain a Police Office with cells, a Fire Station, and an entrance to the Court Hall. Paterson’s quirky side is reflected on the outside where he placed a stone cat and handcuffs.

Another of his significant burgh projects was the Cenotaph in Hermitage Park in 1923. He died at Long Croft in 1947.

The school, where so many Helensburgh people began their education, was built in a Scottish Revival style with 17th century Renaissance details.

It has bell-cast roofs, mullioned and transomed windows, varied fenestration including a Venetian window, base and string courses, cornice, gabled bays and coped skews.

The interior has a fine hammerbeam roof, and in the centre is the Glasgow-style galleried hall, surrounded by arcaded doorways to classrooms on the ground and first floor.

The two lodges are of different designs. The East Lodge is a one-storey asymmetrical building, while the West Lodge is a two-storey asymmetrical building in Scots Baronial design, including a bell-capped tower.

After it ceased to be required as a school, it became the Clyde Community Education Centre run by the local authority, and then by a local management committee. It housed all sorts of activities, from model-making to orchestras, badminton to table tennis.

The council closed the building some years ago when the cost of repairs necessary because of dry rot and general neglect became too much.

It was mothballed and steadily deteriorated from then on — so much so that it was featured on the Scottish Buildings at Risk Register, as were the lodges.

The cost of the project has not yet been officially revealed, but it will run into millions. The hope is that all the council properties it makes redundant, including Blairvadach at Shandon, can be sold to pay for it.