High Mill Open Gallery, Scotland’s Jute Museum@Verdant Works


Building owner/client:

Dundee Heritage Trust

Architect or lead designer:

Doug Reid, Partner, James F Stephen Architects

Local Authority Area:


Nominating Body:

Friends of Dundee Heritage Trust

Project Description

The High Mill Open Gallery at Scotland’s Jute Museum@Verdant Works is an exciting and ambitious £2.75 million project which has completed the restoration of the ‘A’ listed Verdant Works site, securing a sustainable future for this nationally important complex. Supported by development funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund the Trust has worked with a skilled professional team of architects, designers and engineers to produce an innovative and unique scheme for the High Mill and adjoining Glazed Alley. The development has almost doubled the size of the existing museum, transforming the oldest part of the Verdant Works site, the High Mill of 1833, into a stunning cathedral-like gallery and learning space. The new displays explore themes such as Dundee engineers, the development of power and the city’s distinctive mill architecture, and the viewing platforms on the first and second floors give amazing views of the building and displays below. The centrepiece of the High Mill space is the lovingly-restored 1801Boulton and Watt steam engine, on loan from Dundee City Council via a partnership with Leisure and Culture Dundee. One of only four of its kind surviving in the UK, this engine is typical of the type used in textile mills in the 1800s (this example was originally used to drive the machinery at Douglasfield Bleach Works, Dundee). Now driven by an electric motor, the engine is fully operational and regular demonstrations are given by our team of volunteers. Also on display in the High Mill is a wide selection of industrial objects, previously unseen by visitors, in our new Open Collections storage displays, giving an insight into the workings of a museum. Adjacent to the High Mill is the restored Glazed Alley Building, which now houses two new features: the ‘Red Box’, our new learning and activity pod, and the ‘History Hub’, a dedicated area for further study of Dundee’s historic collections and genealogy. The Red Box provides a space for a variety of audiences to engage in heritage-related events and activity-based learning. Large enough to accommodate a full class of pupils, the Red Box is the focus for the museum’s award-winning education programme, where schools can participate in a wide range of workshops. It is also the base for our community engagement provision, offering activities and events for audiences from pre-school to post-retirement. The second key feature of the Glazed Alley is the History Hub, a relaxed and welcoming space for people interested in local, family and Scottish industrial history. Aimed at both general visitors and specialist researchers, it provides information on the services offered and the material held by various local heritage organisations. Access to these is via computer terminals which link directly to their websites and on-line databases. The Hub also contains a small library of relevant books and source material which visitors can browse through, and acts as a focus for events such as local history fairs, specialist talks and research days.

Supporting Statement

The Friends of Dundee Heritage Trust supports the Trust’s work by raising funds, providing volunteers and encouraging people of all ages to engage with the museum collections and learn about their local heritage. We are very proud to nominate the High Mill Open Gallery project for this Award as it has inspired a whole host of new activities and events, attracting a wide range of audiences and providing focus for a number of community projects. The dramatic gothic architecture of the High Mill has provided a wonderful venue for a variety of unusual and innovative events, including: Pure Evil: Hallowe’en at the High Mill: The public voted for artist Charley Uzzell-Edwards (Pure Evil) to come to Dundee to transform the High Mill for Halloween, as part of Museums at Night. His experimental soundscapes, light and projected sculpture brought the High Mill to life, while local singer Sheena Wellington and the St Paul’s High School choir performed traditional mill songs. Weaving a poem with Lindsay Macgregor: Hands-on creative exercises helped participants create a Verdant inspired poem in under an hour, as part of the Dundee Literary Festival. The Four Marys play: A popular play that brought to life four famous Dundee Marys - Slessor, Brooksbank, Walker and Baxter - as they discuss the history of the city and their roles in forcing change. Developed by Eddie Small for the Mary Slessor Centenary, the play premiered in the High Mill as part of 2015 Dundee Literary Festival. Due to popular demand it will be performed again as part of the Dundee Women’s Festival, in March 2016. Suffragettes: Fact and Fiction : Debut novelist Lucy Ribchester and St Andrews University lecturers Professor Gill Plain and Dr Clare Gull discussed Lucy’s novel The Hourglass Factory. The High Mill, complete with costumed suffragettes offering visitors London ale and pies, provided the ideal atmosphere to explore the fiction and fact behind the suffragette movement. In addition, the Red Box learning space has hosted a number of regular and special community events and projects, including: Historic Scotland: a project in collaboration with the Dundee International Women’s Centre, focussing on the role of women in Dundee and immigration, past and present. Memory Exchange: themed monthly reminiscence sessions for over 60s, facilitated by former author-in-residence at Dundee Libraries, Zoe Venditozzi and Learning and Audiences Officer Anna Murray. The participants will also be invited to take part in an intergenerational music project in early 2016 and assist with an academic study of Jute Cultures in Dundee, Kolkata, and Venice led by the University of St Andrews. PEEP @ Verdant Works: PEEP (Parent Early Education Partnership) has the aim of promoting the role of parents and carers as their child’s first and most important educator, focusing on how to make the most of learning opportunities in everyday life. PEEP groups take place in a variety of community venues across the city. Young Engineers Club (11-16 ): Fortnightly hands-on after school science club for 11-16 year olds.