Museum idea for court building

Could the Arbroath Sheriff Court building be transformed into a town museum once it closes?
Could the Arbroath Sheriff Court building be transformed into a town museum once it closes?

The Dean of Arbroath Guildry has called for the town’s sheriff court building, which has an uncertain future to maintain a civic purpose.

Ian Lamb believes that it would be a disaster for the heritage of Arbroath if the building and its history are sold off for commercial purposes.

The court is set to close in May next year as part of a cost cutting measure by the Scottish Court Service, with all work moving to Forfar Sheriff Court.

And with the facility potentially leaving an empty building on the High Street, local people have been coming up with suggestions of what the historic property could be turned into, including a cinema or picture house.

However, Mr Lamb believes a town museum showcasing the town’s history and heritage could prove an attraction.

He told the Herald: “Unfortunately, the departure of the court will mean the emptying of two historic buildings, the old Town House and the former Guildry Building.

“There’s no public indication yet as to whether or not the Courts Property Services are intending to dispose of the buildings, or retain them until the new court arrangements have proved themselves to be practical.
“But might this not be a unique opportunity for Arbroath to regain a general interest museum?

“The Signal Tower is a superb facility and focuses, appropriately and as it should, on the Bell Rock Lighthouse.

“But what about all the other Arbroath art and artefacts held by Angus Council for which there is currently no suitable home?

“What about a facility where the development of the flax, sailcloth and engineering industries in the town could be demonstrated, where the story of fishing and the world-famous Smokie could be told, or where popular features like the old schoolroom that once existed at the Signal Tower could be brought back to life?”

Mr Lamb concedes that cash to pull off such a project could be an issue but adds the closure of the court could be a unique opportunity.

He added: “Of course, the big excuse would be cash.

“But isn’t this the sort of occasion when Angus Council should pull out all the stops to attract grants from wherever possible, government, Heritage Lottery, Creative Scotland, etc to make this happen?

“A town with a history as proud as that of Arbroath should have a museum, and this is a unique opportunity.”

MSPs on Holyrood’s justice committee voted last week to close Arbroath Sheriff Court as well as several other courts across Scotland.

And local MSP Graeme Dey has already said he and Angus MP Mike Weir are eager to make sure the building does not stand empty for too long once the court closes in May.