The old Harbourmaster’s office at Stranraer was extensively repaired and extended as part of the Stranraer Conservation Area Regeneration Scheme (CARS), and the Gateway to Galloway facility operated by Stranraer Development Trust has become well-established in the new part of the building.
However, the small size of the original building presented a challenge in considering how it could best be used for the future. Originally the Harbourmaster’s office for the adjacent public weighbridge, the building was constructed with a bequest from John Simpson in 1938. A well-known local businessman, John Simpson, is believed to have had a love of clocks, which would explain the prominent clocktower memorial.
To bring the old building back into use, a heritage exhibition has recently been developed with valuable input from members of Stranraer and District Local History Trust, John Ross and Stranraer Development Trust, alongside input from the Council.
The exhibition includes information about the history of the waterfront, from the development of the west and east piers through the ferry service years to the current changing waterfront use.
Visitors can find out about the history of the building and the Loch Ryan oyster fishery, and a listening station has been installed where people can hear recollections from local people about how the building and waterfront have been used over the years. Further oral histories can be collected and added to change the audio content over time, capturing stories of the waterfront past and present, which both local people and visitors can enjoy.
Designing the extension necessary for the practical use of the old building needed careful consideration. The sensitive redevelopment work carried out has recently been recognised with a Commendation in the Dumfries and Galloway Design Awards. The Awards celebrate restoration and adaption of buildings in a way that helps the region meet its economic and environmental goals. The Council’s Local Development team organises the Design Awards with an independent panel of architectural specialists judging the entrants. The judges appreciated how the new extension echoed the style of the original building while allowing the clocktower to remain the dominant feature as well as the complementary effect of the external landscaping.
Councillor Ian Carruthers, Chair of the Council’s Economy and Resources Committee, said, “Investment in Stranraer’s historic buildings ensures the high quality of Stranraer’s built environment is maintained for the benefit of the local community, businesses and visitors to the town. Establishing this heritage exhibition will allow the old Harbourmaster’s building to re-open to the public and celebrate the many facets of Stranraer waterfront past and present.”
Councillor David Inglis, Vice Chair of the Council’s E&R Committee, added, “Unusual buildings like the Harbourmaster’s make an important contribution to the unique character of our town centres and are part of our cultural heritage. The Design Award for the redevelopment of this building highlights the careful work undertaken to create a complementary extension while ensuring the clocktower remains a local landmark long into the future.”
The Harbourmaster’s heritage exhibition is now open to the public during the opening hours of the adjacent Gateway to Galloway facility. Work at the building has been enabled by funding from Historic Environment Scotland, the Scottish Government Regeneration Capital Grant Fund, Stranraer and District Local History Trust and Dumfries and Galloway Council.