Bridgend Farmhouse is a late 18th century traditional farmhouse and outbuildings within its own walled site. Although the farmhouse is only 2.5 miles from the city centre, it is surrounded by the green spaces of Craigmillar Castle Park, a cemetery, council allotments and Inch Park across the main arterial road. The rocky outcrop of Arthur’s Seat to the North and the Pentland Hills to the West form distant backdrops. It was purchased by the City of Edinburgh Council from the last farmer occupants in the year 2000 as part of a plan to create a gateway to the under-used Craigmillar Castle Park. However, the farmhouse fell into disrepair following a long period of neglect and vandalism, eventually ending up on ‘The Buildings at Risk Register’. In 2010, a group of local residents and allotment plot holders saw the potential of the farmhouse as a hub that could benefit local communities. We started running consultation events and with a growing body of supporters set up a charity, Bridgend Inspiring Growth from which we applied for grants to run community activities and to incubate ideas for its future use. With funding from The Big Lottery, we appointed Malcolm Fraser Architects and Sandra MacAskill Co to draw up a feasibility study, business plan and options appraisal. In 2014 the farmhouse was put up for sale by the council and although it attracted 14 bids, councillors voted to give us a year’s licence to use the building and site and to seek the funding required to restore it. In 2015 we were awarded a National Lottery grant of over £1 million to restore the farmhouse, build four new workshops and get the community centre up and running. After further campaigning, the council sold the farmhouse to us for £1 in an early example of a Community Asset Transfer.
We chose Halliday Fraser Munro architects and Cornhill Building Services as our contractor and we appointed a part-time project manager to oversee the work and act as our ‘go-between’. The brief was to undertake a sympathetic restoration of the farmhouse and build new workshops that would provide facilities for learning, eating and exercise – the key requirements agreed by members of the local communities; the work began in 2017.
With community support and the help of Historic Environment Scotland, our architects planned for a training kitchen and café, and toilets, including accessible toilet with shower. On the upper floor small rooms were reconfigured to make a gallery/meeting room and admin space and a platform lift links both levels. Stone lintels, shutters and old alcoves were retained, creating small homely spaces. A new timber porch with canopy provides a welcoming entrance and outside the new workshops divide the wide garden into a flexible and attractive events area and growing space. We officially opened our new community hub on March 24th 2018 with over 600 people attending. We are now a Development Trust, open seven days a week, and with over 80 regular volunteers.
Supporting StatementBuild and design quality
Our lead architect Malcolm Fraser was interested in applying the community empowerment lessons learnt from across Scotland. We commissioned a feasibility study on sustainability from Harley Haddow Energy, so that trustees could make informed decisions about this. The choice of building materials was based on sustainability, as far as cost constraints allowed.
Volunteers attending our twice-weekly drop-ins undertook training in timber charring for the larch cladding of the workshops. This provides an attractive, weatherproof and durable, external finish. Volunteers also did all the painting and decoration the interior, including making the cafe counter and items of furniture. They have developed the garden and recycled old wood and slate tiles. Volunteers have also learnt to use lime mortar to rebuild the perimeter walls and continue to develop the site including the construction of an eco-bothy to provide additional space.
Enhancement of local built environment
Formerly an eyesore with its boarded-up windows and signs of dereliction, the restored farmhouse has been described ‘as a visible piece of history…at the knuckle of large housing estates, Inch, Craigmillar, and Moredun'. These estates form the area of benefit for the Farmhouse, as high unemployment and poverty has left a legacy of poor health, stress related disorders, struggling school pupils, lack of affordable facilities, isolation and inequalities. Founding chairperson Will, says ‘it helps to be on the edge of the communities we serve, rather than right in the middle of it all, so it is not territorial’.
The first five years of the organisation were spent running community-led design events and community education projects as an iterative design process. During the build we held three Hard-Hat Tours for the public to visit and to see the work in progress.
Community involvement continues to be at the heart of our democratic management structures, with five sub-groups and a monthly Volunteers' Forum. In 2019 we became a Community Benefit Society with Charitable Status enabling 404 ‘members’ to become investors and owners of Bridgend Farmhouse.
The farmhouse is a place where people can carry out creative, physical and purposeful activities and develop and share skills and knowledge with others. Our kitchen provides training in cooking a nourishing and healthy meal for our café and local community. Our workshops provide facilities for woodworking, arts and crafts and bike hire with led family rides and bike maintenance. The Farmhouse is already playing a part in improving the well-being of local residents. Tam, café volunteer says, ‘the work’s been great – it enhances my confidence. It’s therapeutic too as it changes my mood. And then there’s the healthy eating…that’s good too.’ Stevie, woodworking volunteer tell us, ‘I like the company. My confidence came right up – I came out of myself. When I first came, I wouldn’t talk, now you can’t shut me up! It helped me a lot’. We have taken part in ‘Doors Open Day’ three times and we were commended in the MacEwan Award 2019 – Architecture for the Common Good.