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Law's Close, Kirkcaldy

Law's Close, Kirkcaldy

A series of investigations were conducted to inform the restoration process of this A listed 16th century townhouse

Overview

Law’s Close is a 16th Century Merchant’s House situated at 339-343 High Street, Kirkcaldy. The building is A listed. The high status of the townhouse is demonstrated through the fine interior decoration, with details including timber panelling, early plasterwork and moulding, ashlar work and a 17th century wall painting of a ship.

Scottish Historic Buildings Trust (SHBT) became involved in the 1980s after the building had fallen into disrepair. A series of investigations and research were conducted to inform the restoration process. Following the refurbishment, office and retail spaces have been created, along with an education room which holds a permanent exhibition about the restoration work.

In addition, a rigg garden has been designed, as part of the Kirkcaldy Riggs Garden Project. Law’s Close was officially opened to the public in 2005 by Gordon Brown.

Approach

A long process of investigations and research were undertaken to understand the archaeology of the site, identify different building phases and record all important features. This process, lasting 20 years, informed the restoration.

In 1986, the Scottish Historic Building Trust secured funding for repairs to the basic structure of the building to make it weatherproof and to restore the external appearance.

The front wall was strengthened and repaired using the ‘lime method’. The roof was strengthened and a 19th century chimney gable was removed. A ‘conservator in charge’ was responsible for a number of individual tradesmen who were appointed to work on specific parts of the project.

Following this mainly structural work, the building again lay empty while additional funds were sought to complete the restoration. In 1998, the garden and ground floor were excavated and findings recorded but it wasn’t until 2003 that the restoration work began again.

Services including computer cabling were installed and interior finishes completed. Lime plaster, decorative painted ceilings and panelling decorations were restored.

Performance

When the Scottish Historic Building Trust acquired the buildings, it was evident that it contained historical treasures and was

‘the most important previously un-restored C16 / C17 town house in any Scottish Burgh’.

The repair and refurbishment work cost £950,000, with an additional £80,000 spent on the gardens.

Lessons

Significant time was spent understanding the various phases of development at Law’s Close, from the 16th century through to the 20th century interventions. All findings have been researched and recorded.

‘It is a privilege to work in such a significant and interesting historic building which has been carefully restored and conserved. Law’s Close provides a refreshing alternative to the bland offices typically available to lease, and a cost-effective alternative to home-working.’

Craig Frew, Laing Traditional Masonry Group; Tenant

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