Stow Station House was built in 1848 by the North British Railway. The station closed in 1969 and the station house buildings were converted into two dwellings. Although the railway station reopened in 2015, it had first been proposed to demolish the station building as it was not required for the reopened station. However, the building was saved and after an award-winning conversion and refurbishment project, it has been re-born as a fully accessible bar/kitchen with multi-purpose function room, with separate Cycle Hub.
Before the project started, the community at large were consulted to help inform the potential use of the station house building. What has been delivered directly relates to the result of an options appraisal where a community consultation outlined the preferred mix of spaces and uses.
In 2019, Aitken Turnbull Architects were appointed to the project. Although delayed by Covid-19, the project was delivered on budget – testament to the determination and dedication of volunteer Trust members.
A key element of the refurbishment project was an emphasis on quality materials, reusing as much of the historic building as possible and replacing insensitive modern uPVC windows with new, high-performance timber double-glazed sash and case windows. The former station master’s parlour has been carefully converted into use as The Engine Room (named by the community in an online vote), a multi-purpose community room. We re-used original joinery with the original window shutters being ideal for film-nights and presentations. The extension replaced modern garages on the site of what had been a covered platform waiting area. The timber-clad structure was deliberately designed to be distinguishable from the historic fabric, but taking a form that echoes the platform-facing gable of the original waiting room. The interior of the extension, which has space for 50 covers, is full of light from platform-facing windows, clerestory lights and roof lights, and is dominated by full-height reproductions of a contemporary nature-themed lithograph by a local artist, Andrew Mackenzie, who kindly donated the high-resolution copy for reproduction. The eatery is supported by a fully-fitted out commercial kitchen, which benefited from the advice of local hospitality experts. The Snug – a small, private sitting room richly detailed with thick tartan carpet, lined with bookshelves (for which the community contributed sets of antique books) and furnished with leather and tweed – is one of the most popular spaces. Ideal for small meetings, or as a quiet space to retreat to during busy events, it was the former waiting room and has sash windows looking on to the station platforms. Throughout the interior are artefacts and artworks donated by the community or sourced from our village archives. The cycle hub is entirely self-contained and has gone from strength to strength since opening in 2021 – the facility provides bike servicing, maintenance workshops and hires out a growing variety of e-bikes to locals and visitors.
Supporting StatementSince opening to the community in November 2021 we have hosted nearly 200 events of various sizes in the new facility. Ranging from meetings to craft fairs, from private parties to jam-packed Nepalese-themed pop-up dining events, the people of Stow have quickly adopted The Station House as a key community facility at the heart of our growing ambitions for our village.
Although we have not yet recruited a tenant operator for the facility, (a temporary set-back given the challenging times for the hospitality industry) we have not let that deter us, nor has it stopped us working with a range of local businesses and suppliers - our local brewery even launched their new gin at one of their pop-up bar events in the Station House. The completion of the project has given the community appetite for more and the Station House has acted as a spring-board in the development of our community action plan, as we look to see what else we can achieve.
The project has been a successful collaboration between the community of Stow and the building owners, Network Rail, and the station operators, ScotRail. The success of the project is also a reflection of the dedication and support from a range of funders. As an example, the role of the Railway Heritage Trust has been so much more than grant-funders. They’ve inspired the sensitive regeneration of what is the only original 1840s building on the reopened Borders Railway that is open to the public. With their support, we also transformed the setting of the restored and extended building by replacing the modern metal mesh screen fencing with traditional timber picket fencing. The RHT even sourced a large clock from Glasgow Central Station which we have restored and now takes pride of place in the eatery.
We are really proud of what our small community has achieved. Stow wasn’t originally intended to have a station on the reopened Borders Railway: the community lobbied hard, and got our station. We then had to campaign to save the station building which was to be demolished to make way for a larger car park. Over the last decade the community has been successful in identifying a new use for the building, fundraising, and then delivering a high-quality project during the exceptionally challenging circumstances of the pandemic.
We believe that this project is an exemplar of heritage-led regeneration - delivering not just a high-quality and well-loved facility for our community, but creating opportunities for employment and economic growth, and improving our community’s wellbeing. Most of all, it has given us the confidence to take on even bigger, even more transformative projects.