Auction house in bid to become Globe of the north

Members of the working group, Andrew Turner and Lyndsay Fergus outside the auction mart. Picture: Neil Hanna
Members of the working group, Andrew Turner and Lyndsay Fergus outside the auction mart. Picture: Neil Hanna
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SCOTLAND’S last surviving octagonal timber livestock market may be transformed into a miniature Globe theatre and restaurant if new plans for a community buy-out are succ­essful.

The vision for the Old Saleground and auction mart in the East Lothian village of East Linton is for the two-acre site once again to be a vibrant focus for arts and interaction by creating educational and social spaces alongside purpose-built business units, offices, studios and workshops.

The residents’ group behind the plans hopes sympathetic and eco-friendly development will save the mart for future generations while bringing many benefits for the 1,700 people who live and work locally.

The distinctive building is of a historically common design, with similar stone-built versions still standing in other parts of the country. However, East Linton’s 150-year-old wooden structure is believed to be the last of its kind in Scotland and urgently needs extensive restoration if it is to be saved.

Resident Andrew Turner, a member of the working group behind the plans, said it was important to find a way to restore and use the B-listed building sympathetically.

“The sort of thing we have in mind would be to transform it into a community hub that could be used as a meeting place, exhibition space and arts venue,” he said.

“The building would be a wonderful place for music concerts, as it has amazing acoustics. When you go inside it’s like walking into a mini cathedral. It could become a sort of Globe-style theatre with its own cafe and restaurant.”

The original Globe theatre in London was built in 1599 and used by William Shakespeare’s playing company, the Lord Chamberlain’s Men. It was a large, round theatre that burned down in 1613. The current Globe, which opened in 1997, is a faithful reproduction close to the site of the original.

According to local author, historian and conservationist David Affleck, the East Lothian saleground and mart were set up in 1850 by agricultural pioneer Thomas Mitchell Innes, who foresaw the opportunities that would come along with the arrival of the railway in East Linton in 1846. He bought the site in 1840 from local farmer George Rennie, brother of East Linton’s famous son, the engineer John Rennie, who built London Bridge. This new transport link made the village an ideal centre for farmers and market gardeners from miles around and meant fresh Scottish produce could be transported for sale as far afield as London. The market thrived for a century before the axing of East Linton station in 1963.

Outline proposals for the mart and grounds have been welcomed, sparking interest from local artists and craftworkers with wide-ranging specialities including glassmaking, jewellery and textiles.

Gill Gardner, head teacher of East Linton Primary School, said the concept would enhance the educational experience for local children. “The potential is huge, it’s a fantastic idea,” she said.