A 17TH century almshouse, where male and female inmates were banned from marrying and policed for fear they would be tempted into fornication, is to benefit from a £2 million lottery grant towards its restoration.
Cowane’s Hospital in Stirling, next to the Church of the Holy Rude where James VI was crowned, was established in 1637 with a bequest of 40,000 Scottish merks – about £400,000 – from the estate of local merchant and MP John Cowane, known to townsfolk as Auld Staneybreeks.
Also known as the Guildhall, its stated purpose was to provide shelter for “decayed Guild bretheren” – merchants who had fallen on hard times. It later became an isolation hospital during a cholera epidemic which killed around a third of Stirling’s residents in 1832.
Its modern use was a functions venue, and a meeting place for the city’s Merchant Guildry, and the headquarters of Cowane’s Trust, Scotland’s second oldest functioning charity, before it moved out when the building was no longer fit for purpose. In recent years it had fallen on hard times itself, and deteriorating rapidly, recently had to close to the public due to lack of funds and rising costs. It is now run by the Cowane’s Hospital Maintenance Trust.
The trust said an estimated £3m was needed for major repair work, leaving £1m still to find.
It is hoped the hospital will be able reopen as a national visitor attraction and community resource.
The trust plans to create a visitor attraction telling the story of how modern Scotland was made, through trade, charity and leisure.
Hazel Barton, charity officer for the Cowane’s Maintenance Trust, said the funding boost was “the best possible news”.
She said: “Cowane’s is an important part of our national heritage and it has been terribly sad to see it deteriorate.
“The building and the charity founded by John Cowane have been important to our community for 400 years, providing help and support for others. It’s great this wonderful building is receiving the helping hand it needs to put it back at the heart of local and national life.”
The renovated hospital will include restored rooms and kitchens, with the gardens and bowling green also returned to their original splendour.