Dumfries convent: Fire crews battle blaze at historic St Benedicts Convent

An historic former convent in Dumfries has been badly damaged by an overnight fire.

Streets around the area were sealed off on Tuesday as firefighters worked to try and get the blaze at the historic St Benedict's Convent on Corbelly Hill under control.

The 44,832sqft, category B-listed building, which dates back to 1884, was the setting for Peter Mullan's 2002 film the Magdalene Sisters.

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It has been abandoned for some time and has been a target for vandals.

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The fire reportedly started in the early hours of Tuesday morning.

As many as 65 firefighters have battled the blaze. Nine Scottish and Fire Rescue Service (SFRS) appliances were sent to the scene.

Cars parked close to the property were left covered by ash and debris.

Flames engulfed the historic former convent on Corbelly Hill.Flames engulfed the historic former convent on Corbelly Hill.
Flames engulfed the historic former convent on Corbelly Hill.

A SFRS spokesperson said: “We were alerted at 2:25am on Tuesday, August 9 to reports of a fire affecting a derelict building on Maxwell Street, Dumfries.

“Operations control has mobilised nine appliances and a number of other resources where crews remain in attendance as they work to extinguish the dire.

“There are no reported casualties.”

One social media user wrote: “I am a good few miles away and smoke is filling my house and I could see it in the distance. Thinking of everyone nearby. Hope fire brigade get it safely under control."

Nearby Maxwell Street and Hill Street remained closed off throughout the day.

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Police incident officer, Sgt Adam Potts, told the BBC there had been “extensive damage” to the historic building.

The Benedictine convent, which was built in the 1880s, served as a girls-only school until the early 1980s.

Attempts were made to sell the building in 2008, and 2020, with the property listed as a development opportunity with potential to be transformed into homes, a hotel or wedding venue. However, no-one stepped forward to buy the property.

The convent has also been used as a temporary sheriff court and a museum.

The property had been used to film The Magdalene Sisters, which won the Golden Lion honour at the Venice Film Festival in 2002. The film was about three teenage girls who were sent to Irish Catholic Church-run asylums.

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