Museum plan for Dalkeith

Dalkeith’s historic Corn Exchange is set to be brought back into regular community use for the first time in more than 40 years.

The Advertiser can exclusively reveal that Melville Housing Association, Midlothian’s largest registered social landlord, has been shown the green light to progress a £3.5m project to repair and restore the iconic High Street building.

Melville plans to turn part of the dormant venue into new offices. It is also proposed that the refurbished landmark will comprise a new Dalkeith Museum, to be managed by the Dalkeith History Society.

The museum would have its own entrance and be fully accessible to the public.

The reception area of Melville’s new office will also be open to the public and have a permanent exhibition of the history of the Corn Exchange. In addition, the original boardroom would be available for community meetings and events.

In April, Historic Scotland awarded the Corn Exchange £83,864 from the Building Repair Grant scheme.

Melville learned last week that its bid to the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) for Development funding of £48,800 had been successful. A further HLF grant of £1,416,400 has been agreed in principle.

In addition, Melville intends to pump around £2m of its own cash into the project.

It is anticipated that work will begin later in 2013 and be completed the following year.

Brian Christie, chairman of Melville Housing, said: “We’re delighted that the Heritage Lottery Fund and Historic Scotland have given us this support. The Corn Exchange has a long history of community use, and is close to the hearts of many local people.

“We have received overwhelming support for our proposals, which will revitalise a building that has played such an important part in the heritage of Midlothian.

“As well as permanent offices for the Association, the plans for the museum and community use will ensure that the Corn Exchange continues to play a key role in the community.”

Preserving and enhancing the unique character of the Grade A listed building, Melville’s plans include sustainable low carbon technologies such as solar panels and a ground source heat pump to provide power and heating to the renovated building.

Melville also hopes that the project will provide training opportunities in conservation work for unemployed youths.

Alan Mason, chairman of Dalkeith History Society, added: “The Corn Exchange is an iconic building, of concern to all the citizens of Dalkeith and for over 150 years has been at the centre of the commercial and social life of the town.

“We are especially pleased that once restoration is complete, part of the building will be set aside for community use, and that Dalkeith History Society will have the opportunity to use part of that community space as a Museum.

“We have long felt that Dalkeith, which has played such an important part in the history of Scotland, should have a museum worthy of its heritage.”

Colin McLean, head of HLF Scotland, commented, “The Heritage Lottery Fund is delighted that our grant will now help progress plans to restore this much loved landmark to regain its rightful position as one the most beautiful buildings in the town, and once again open its doors to let local people make full use of the variety of new community facilities planned.”

Built in 1854, the Corn Exchange played host to Winston Churchill and William Gladstone In its heyday. It was the largest indoor grain market in Scotland when it opened