The Ridge is working with East Lothian Council to explore ways to save the historic Black Bull Close, where ruined buildings thought to date from the 17th Century have reached the point of being almost beyond salvage.

Not much detail is known about the history of this intriguing close off the High Street. Along with the Backlands garden rigg behind it, it forms part of the distinctive herringbone pattern of the Scottish Burgh townscape of Dunbar’s high street Conservation Area.

We want to uncover more detail about this particular close’s history, and to come up with plans to consolidate what remains of the buildings. We hope to explore new uses for the buildings, which will serve the Dunbar community, as well as giving the opportunity for everyone to engage with our local history.

To these ends, we had applied for funding to commission a Feasibility Study, which will cover both some of the historical research aspect and (via community consultation) establish viable plans for future uses.

The Architectural Heritage Fund has already granted us £5,000 towards the study, with The Heritage Lottery Fund having matched this. As part of the grant application process, we undertook a tender process to select an Architectural practice to carry out the study. The successful bidder was Simpson & Brown Architects, who also have an in-house Archaeology practice.

We are absolutely thrilled to be able to instruct the undertaking of this work, and are very much looking forward to engaging the local community in helping us come up with the best possible future for this hidden gem at the heart of Dunbar’s historic town centre.

We would like to thank the Dunbar and East Linton Area Partnership for their generous support which allowed the vital initial clearance of the vegetation which had overwhelmed the site, allowing the necessary initial surveys to take place.

We are already working with Historic Environment Scotland, to deliver hot lime mortar training in the Backlands garden, which is allowing people to learn conservation building skills at the same time as restoring the historic boundary walls. This training will continue into the Black Bull Close buildings, with opportunties to deliver training across building trades, historic and modern.

We are also undertaking a volunteer surveying project, directed by HES’ Scottish Urban Past’s team, who will give 6 local people the skills to explore, interpret and record aspects of the site. The intention is that this will allow these volunteers to share these skills, to engage local community groups including schools in the journey to uncover the hidden past of life in the Black Bull Close.

Altogether, we are really excited about the opportunities this multi-faceted project is opening up for Dunbar, and we hope that many people will engage with it over the coming weeks, months and years.

So a big thank you to all our funders, and to the many volunteers and Ridge staff who have already put in so much hard work to help us get the ball rolling.