Building conservation hub opens at Stirling munitions depot

A new national building conservation hub combining research, education and visitor attractions has been officially opened at a former munitions depot in Stirling.

The Engine Shed, Scotland's £11m new conservation hub for historical buildings and monuments, has opened at a former munitions store in Stirling. Picture: Rob McDougall
The Engine Shed, Scotland's £11m new conservation hub for historical buildings and monuments, has opened at a former munitions store in Stirling. Picture: Rob McDougall

The £11 million Engine Shed, based at the old Forthside military compound, will serve as centre of expertise in preserving and restoring Scotland’s historical buildings and ancient monuments.

The centre has been set up to ensure the knowledge, skills and materials are available to look after the country’s 450,000 traditional buildings, which make up an important cultural and economic asset.

It is being run by Historic Environment Scotland (HES), the public body charged with caring for, protecting and promoting the country’s built heritage.

The newly revamped building is now home to HES’s building conservation research and education facility, as well as offering augmented reality experiences and interactive exhibits.

Opening of the pioneering new centre has come a year later than planned.

Work on the project, including a complete renovation of the building and the erection of extensions on either side, began in 2013.

However, bad weather and unexpected problems such as site contamination from earlier use of the land delayed completion.

The building, owned by Stirling Council, formed part of the extensive Forthside military compound in central Stirling between 1890 and the 1980s.

The exact details of its construction were subject to an information blackout and are still unknown, as it was part of an important military complex.

The strategic base, on the banks of the River Forth, was a key resource for the army during both world wars.

It was a core Ministry of Defence storage and transfer shed, from where supplies, equipment and munitions were transported across the country via the rail and river network.

The Engine Shed housed small shunters known as Pugs, which were used to move wagons loaded with supplies for distribution.

“Today’s opening marks a significant milestone in the journey of Historic Environment Scotland, and the Engine Shed is a visible demonstration of our commitment to both leading and supporting the vital heritage economy,” said HES chair Jane Ryder.

“This world-class facility is a wonderful living classroom with science and technology at its core, demonstrating that innovation can be inspired by the past.

“The Engine Shed is about thinking differently and challenging perceptions, which will act as a catalyst and a beacon for the historic environment.”

The centre was officially opened by culture and tourism secretary Fiona Hyslop.

She said: “The new Engine Shed will couple state-of-the-art technology and world-leading innovation with our historic building traditions, inspiring a new generation to learn the traditional skills and use the authentic materials that will help to keep Scotland’s history alive.”

Stirling Council leader Scott Farmer added: “This adds another world-class attraction to Stirling, which will have a big impact economically, culturally and socially across the whole area.”

The Engine Shed, which opens to the public next Monday, has unveiled a new programme of events designed to encourage a greater understanding of Scotland’s historic buildings and traditional craft skills.

Workshops will include creating pieces inspired by Charles Rennie Mackintosh artworks recovered from the blaze at Glasgow School of Art in 2014, which are currently on temporary display at the Engine Shed.

The building is also available to hire as a conference space, with room for up to 200 delegates.