The Ardross-man


Building works

Floored it

One thing that has bugged me since I bought the Barony St John is the floor as you enter the hall building. It’s a dull red colour, cracked in many places with a black border around the edge. The paint is peeling in some places and it badly needs repainting.

So, in between classes, I decided to paint it.

I opted for grey as that is the colour of the adjoining kitchen floor.

Now the entrance to the hall is the only lockable entrance and exit to the hall building so I began by painting half of it – leaving a walkway so I could come and go without walking on the fresh paint.

The paint takes 4 hours to dry.


The net day, I came in to find footprints all over my floor – someone had been in despite me warning everyone that the floor was painted.

Now you can imagine how frustrated I was – but mistakes happen so I issued another warning and painted the other half, leaving by the half that was now dry.

The next day I came in to find someone had walked on it again – I was livid. So mad in fact that I forgot to take a photo to show you the footprint (or rather the skid mark) of whoever had walked on my floor.

No-one admitted doing it (although I’ve since caught the culprit responsible for the first set of footprints.

A touch-up of the skid area, the crack and the entrance to the kitchen area was required….but this left the floor in two different shades of grey.

There was nothing else for it….I would have to repaint the entire floor again!


Hopefully you’ll agree though that the finished results were worth the effort. The entrance looks brighter and cleaner than before.

Another job done. 🙂


The Barony St John Regeneration Project

I thought I’d give you an update on my plans to save the Listed Barony St John buildings and preserve their prominence on the Ardrossan skyline. Here’s a wee potted history;

Standing on the seafront of Ardrossan is Barony St John’s church complete with its iconic spires and clock tower, and sitting next to the church is the Barony St. John hall with its huge circular window whose pattern resembles the Star of David. Both buildings are connected by an internal corridor but their future has been uncertain for a number of years now.

Back in 2010, the buildings were placed on the “Buildings at Risk” Register and then upgraded to “At Risk” in 2012 before subsequently being sold to me by the Church of Scotland in December 2014.

Since that time, the church building has remained unused and in disrepair whilst the hall building has been partially renovated and is currently being used by my charity, The Scottish Centre for Personal Safety, for the provision of its Personal Safety and First Aid training courses.

For some people, the question was – why save these buildings? Well, for one reason, they are steeped in history;

The Category “B” Listed Barony St John Church building was built in 1844 to designs by Glasgow architects Black and Salmon. James Salmon remains one of Glasgow’s most accomplished architects of the 19th Century responsible for the design of a number of church buildings throughout the West of Scotland.

Of huge historical significance, the church, originally named The New Ardrossan Parish Church, converted to Scotland’s first ever “quoad sacra” (“concerning sacred matters only”) church in 1851 following the introduction of the New Parishes (Scotland) Act 1844.

There are also a huge number of historical features within the buildings which myself and the Barony St John Project Team want preserved for prosperity;

During construction of the extension to New Ardrossan Parish Church in 1889 a number of beautiful stained-glass windows were placed in the north end of the church by the late Archibald Douglas Bryce-Douglas, a Marine Engineer, shipbuilder and youngest son of the late Reverend John Bryce, first parish minister of Ardrossan Parish Church. (See my posts Bryce-Douglas windows and James Mutter windows)

Two further stained glass windows were donated by the late James Mutter of Meiklelaught and the infamous “Jesus with the Mutton Chop Moustache “ window was donated by the family of John Moffat of South Crescent, Ardrossan.

The works of 1889 also created an ornate carved pulpit and organ which, although reconfigured in 1933, remains a prominent feature within the nave of the two-storey traditional “horseshoe” configured main church building.

Externally the Barony St John clock tower spire is crowned by a massive four feet eight inches long by eight inches broad by three feet high weather vane of a sailing clipper vessel donated again by Archibald Douglas Bryce-Douglas and erected in 1885.


The spire clock itself bears the brass nameplate on the clock mechanism “Muirhead & Arthur, Glasgow. 1845”. Muirhead and Arthur were Glasgow clockmakers and retailers who had premises in Glasgow from the early 19th Century to the end of the 19th century. James Muirhead, was a guild member from 1817 to 1841 and appointed watchmaker to Queen Victoria and the Admiralty.

So the big question was; “What could be done with these historical buildings to not only preserve them for future generations but to use them in a way that would be beneficial for the local community and surrounding area?”

To answer this question, you need to look at the location and surrounding area. North Ayrshire has unfortunately suffered in recent decades from the decline of traditional industries and sources of employment, and currently has very significantly deprived communities.

Six data zones in Ardrossan, as determined by the Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation (SIMD), are within the fifteen percent most deprived in Scotland – and one of these, Ardrossan Central, is the seventeenth most deprived area out of 6,976 national areas.

This profile has led to a variety of policy and development activities to regenerate the town and wider area including an Ardrossan Town Centre Regeneration Plan which contains a range of activities to realise a vision for the town as ‘…an attractive place to live, work and relax by the sea’, and of specific relevance to Barony St John notes the need to maximise the impact of regenerating the promenade, and generally accessing and connecting the town to the sea.

Regenerating Ardrossan and the wider “Three Towns” is also a key element of the North Ayrshire Council’s refreshed Economic Development and Regeneration Strategy 2016-2025, particularly its strategic objective ‘to maximise the economic potential of our islands and towns’.

In December 2017, North Ayrshire Council Tourism and Coastal Economy also launched their Tourism Action Plan 2018-2022 titled “Making Waves in North Ayrshire”. A wide-ranging and ambitious tourism blueprint the document has been drawn up to help North Ayrshire fulfil its potential as a major destination for visitors. The newly-approved tourism action plan aims to utilise the area’s coastal beauty as a key element in strategy. The four-year plan will provide a particular focus on promoting the marine and coastal tourism available along the mainland coast and islands;

“We’re developing a vision for Marine and Coastal Tourism, identifying investment needs and an action plan for implementation. Together we all want to set North Ayrshire on a new course, to create a real sea change. This will see our region deliver brilliant visitor and resident experiences and on the journey, strengthen local businesses, improve the wellbeing, life chances and employment prospects of all our communities. It will also put our places and people firmly on the national and international map.”

According to this same report, North Ayrshire and Arran tourism performance in 2016 saw over seventeen million visits with a spend of over £186m which was an increase of over six percent on 2015. Within five kilometres of North Ayrshire coastline, including Ardrossan, fifty five percent of the population of North Ayrshire are housed, eighty nine percent of North Ayrshire Towns are located (with populations of over 10,000) whilst forming the destination for eighty percent of international visitors;

“The next five years will see North Ayrshire and the islands come together to deliver unique and memorable coastal and island experiences for the community and the visitor….A priority is to attract more visitors to North Ayrshire and we will support and encourage the development of outstanding products and experiences that draws out what makes North Ayrshire different from other destinations.”

All of these plans build upon and take forward the legacy of the Irvine Bay Regeneration Company that from the early 2000s led physical project activity to support transformational change. Its activities in Ardrossan note the on-going significance of the promenade and aspirations of ‘…rejuvenating the beachfront with interesting buildings, better parking and facilities’.

North Ayrshire Community Planning Partnership have also established the Three Towns Locality Partnership which recently confirmed their priority themes as Tourism, Community Regeneration, Civic Pride/Environment and Communication with a focus on the major project areas of Ardrossan Harbourside, Irvine/Ardeer Harbourside and the Clyde “Way” or Clyde “Rings”.

These priority themes, set out at the meeting in Ardrossan Civic Centre on the 19th December 2017 links with the strategies set out in the North Ayrshire Council “Making Waves” tourism strategy document and the Ayrshire Growth Deal.

To support these aspirations for the area, a number of recent developments have sought to engage and involve local people in identifying ideas and priorities to support the regeneration of the town.

One of these engagements was The Three Town Charrette whose goal was to record proposals and organise them into themes and/or locations so that the Council and community organisations could develop the best approach towards successful implementation.

Willie Miller of Urban Design who released The Three Town Charrette Report at the beginning of this month commented; “Barony St John and its potential for a music venue is mentioned in the table on page 40 of Town Specific projects which could have a beneficial impact on Quality of Life helping to create a Vibrant Economy, an important component of an Attractive Town helping Culture and Community.

The Irvine Bay Regeneration Company also undertook community and stakeholder consultation in preparing their Ardrossan Town Regeneration Plan. This document noted three key development areas and featured Barony St John prominently in articulating these aspirations.

The three key development areas which were identified as particular aspects of the town where attention should be focussed to maximise the impact of the regeneration process were;

  1. Heart of the Town
  2. Sense of Arrival
  3. The Promenade.

I believe the Barony St John Regeneration Project compliments these three strategic aspects through its key nodal location within Ardrossan, its architectural prominence and scale which creates a sense of “arrival” within the town and the iconic visual association with the promenade, beach and shorefront.

Additionally, since 2014 the Big Lottery supported ‘Our Place’ initiative has led a comprehensive community involvement approach in Ardrossan Central and North East. This was fronted by an extensive community consultation and audit process commencing in 2014 which culminated in a ‘Vision for Ardrossan’ (December 2015) where community members identified areas for improvement, local assets and people who had a shared passion for making their Town a better place to live.

The “Vision for Ardrossan” listed five main aims and aspirations for the regeneration of the town:

  1. Our physical environment is one that compliments the natural beauty of our location
  2. More quality employment opportunities in the area
  3. Better social facilities and activities for young people
  4. Ardrossan is a town where tourists visit for Arts, Culture, History and Music
  5. Our older generation have opportunities to participate within our community

With support funding from the Architectural Heritage Fund and The Big Lottery Fund through “Our Place”, The Barony St John Regeneration Project undertook a more focused community consultation exercise on the potential future development options for the buildings.

Through a variety of activities, this generated over three hundred returns to a questionnaire that sought to capture: views on the priority future uses of the building; likely usage rates by local people; the importance of this to the wider Ardrossan regeneration context; and future interest levels in supporting a community led transformation of Barony St John.

  • 91% of people surveyed thought the “B” listed Building should be redeveloped.
  • 80% of people thought it important Barony St John stays in use for local people.
  • 96% of people thought this type of development important in the regeneration of Ardrossan.
  • 65% of people surveyed thought an Events Venue centred on arts, music and culture important.
  • 60% of people surveyed said they were likely to use an Events Venue centred on arts, music & culture.

Comments taken during this consultation process included the following statements from residents of Ardrossan and the wider Three Towns community;

“I hope this wonderful building gets saved”.

“It would be great to see it a vial part of the community again.”

“We need a good local venue for young people to experience arts & culture“

“An Events Venue would be ideal to draw local people & from surrounding areas to Ardrossan.”

“I think it is a very important landmark which should be preserved & restored.”

“It’s important to keep this iconic building maintained and used by the community as it is Ardrossan’s heritage”

“The building is iconic and should be put back into a use that benefits the community”


Following twelve months of survey, structural assessment, analysis and development of outline proposals, the future vision of The Barony St John Project has evolved into the newly published Regeneration Feasibility Report as:

“To provide a high quality, flexible, sustainable and community managed venue to promote and support music, arts, and culture in Ardrossan and the wider area, and a space to hold a wide range of community events and functions”.

But the Barony St John Church is not alone as a historical asset in Ardrossan. There are nearly fifty Category B and C Listed Buildings within three hundred metres of Barony St John, clearly demonstrating the Townscape Heritage Significance of the area. These Listed Buildings include;

  • The Bath Villa at 90 Princes Street. Category B Listing
  • The Royal Bank of Scotland building at 93 Princes Street. Category B Listing
  • The Clyde Estuary Hotel at 78 Princes Street. Category B Listing
  • The Obelisk on Castle Hill. Category B Listing

The Barony St John Regeneration Project Team also believes the completed facility can form an integral part of a wider tourist and community strategy to promote the history and historic assets of Ardrossan in their local and national setting.

I believe this could be achieved as part of an integrated strategy forming a “Heritage Trail” approach by which the building, as an iconic structure fronting onto the main thoroughfare through the town and a strong visual beacon for users of the shorefront, is integrated into a tourist and visitor loop circuit through the town.

This would create a structure where visitors could follow the “Heritage Trail” from the shorefront to visit The Barony St John, Ardrossan Castle Heritage Site and the numerous Listed Properties which activate the main “high street” frontages of Glasgow Street and Princes Street thereby forming the “Ardrossan Loop” as outlined in the diagram below.

My hope is that each location will have a plaque with a QR Code which when accessed will show the history of the building / landmark with “past” and “present” photos. Kids (and adults) would live this interactive trail and if you answer all the questions on the Heritage Trail Question Sheet, the kids win a prize.

Turning the Barony St John buildings into an Events Centre would provide the opportunity to retain the characteristics of the original building whilst reinterpreting these for a more commercially viable and sustainable development model which will provide new and improved facilities for the local and wider area.

The new facility will provide flexible and traditional “hall” facilities through the smaller hall whilst the new “main venue” will create a facility which can be used for music festivals such as The Ardrossan Music Festival, live bands, art, comedy, theatre, weddings, cinema screenings, corporate events, training, education and community events.

The new facility will also feature a café area attached and linking the existing Barony St John buildings and this will support services for the public using the shorefront beach area.

Options are also being considered to introduce an additional floored area to the smaller hall building providing dormitory-style accommodation for residential courses, groups participating in watersports, youth groups and visitors to the area.

With the potential “William Wallace Visitor Centre” in the café area to highlight Wallace’s connection with Ardrossan and the Castle and you can see how this development will benefit visitors and tourists alike and a fully redeveloped Barony St John Centre would sit centrally at the heart of the planned urban regeneration simultaneously being a symbol for its continued re-birth and providing numerous jobs to the town.

My team have recently completed a Regeneration Feasibility Study and an outline business case has been submitted to the Architectural Heritage Fund and The Big Lottery for consideration.

The next stage in developing these proposals is to engage with potential funders to allow the current proposals to be developed. The Barony St John Regeneration Project will now undertake this engagement with The Big Lottery, The Architectural Heritage Fund, Historic Environment Scotland and of course potentially the most important funder of all, North Ayrshire Council’s Economic Growth Services.

One challenge which does lay ahead relates to the future ownership and governance of the proposed Barony St John Regeneration Project. Consultations held throughout the Feasibility Study and Outline Business Case process have identified a number of community based ownership models which were discussed with representatives of potential project funders.

But, as I have always maintained, my objective is to save the Barony St John buildings and to have a base for my charity. If I need to give up ownership of the buildings to accomplish this  then that is what I will do.

I hope you agree with me that this is a really exciting project not just for the people of Ardrossan but for The Three Towns, North Ayrshire and beyond.

Exciting plans

Over the Summer months we conducted several street surveys (over 300 in fact) and the overwhelming response was that the church building should be converted into an Events Centre.

This would mean that the building could hold lots of different events including weddings, parties, live bands, musicals, plays, wedding fayres, art exhibitions, conferences, boxing matches, martial arts exhibitions – the list is endless.

So here are the plans;

This is what the inside of the church looks like now –

You can see the rows of pews in the main church building on the right with the hall building ion the left and the gap between the two buildings which is currently sealed off.

This is what we hope it will look like –

There will be a bar at the entrance end of the church building and a stage at the alter end. The gap between the two buildings will contain toilet facilities and a kitchen area while the front of the buildings (which is currently gravel) will be encased in glass and made into a seafront facing cafe with William Wallace exhibits on show.

The final development will be in the hall building. I hope to have the Training Hall room floored with the upper floor being converted into dormitory style accommodation. This would allow us to promote residential courses, offer rooms to people attending events and provide accommodations for people visiting Ardrossan. It could look something like this;

What are your thoughts?

200th post in two years

It’s hard to believe that it has been two years since I started blogging this journey.

6th November 2015 saw my first post being published and I reached my 100th post less than a year later on 18th September 2016.

Things have slowed down since then and my updates have become slightly less frequent but here we are at my 200th post on my 2nd year anniversary of blogging (anyone would think I had planned this LOL).

I hope you have enjoyed reading my trials and tribulations, the woes of owning a disused building and the joys of renovating a historical landmark.

I hope the next 100 posts will be just as insightful, revealing and entertaining.

Thanks for following my exploits.


The Ardross-man

Raindrops keep falling on my head

Another potential disaster diverted –

We had a leak in our Training Hall which we found out came about because the last storm ripped a few slates off our roof.

So an intrepid young roofer climbed up and despite the high wind managed to hold on, albeit somewhat precariously, and fix on some new tiles for us.


Many thanks to Paul Marchetti for arranging the roofer and the brave lad who carried out the work.

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Storm Brian

Having survived the tail end of Storm Ophelia, I thought my church building had weathered the worst of it – and then along came Storm Brian!


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(I mean, who names a storm Brian anyway??)


Winds in excess of 70mph ripped off the seafront and into the church building and pulled off one of the protective glass windows.


Hopefully you can just make out the outline of the protective glass on the ground – and thankfully it’s in one piece so we may manage to get it back in situa.

Fingers crossed.


Waterfall wall

Oh dear – more water ingress in our Training Hall area. 😦

This time, it’s the wall of our equipment store area which leads to the main doors of the church hall.

I came in to find that the entire floor area was a pool of water and the water had flowed under the doors and into the hall room, under the training mats.

The problem was, I couldn’t find the source.

Initially, I thought it was seeping up from under the floor but a check of the external wall didn’t reveal the problem. But I did notice that the flat roof above the entrance area had a drain pipe which went inside the wall – could this be what was causing the leak?

I had to rip off a piece of the hardboard wall covering to reveal the down pipe and sure enough I had discovered the leak source – or sources a it turned out.

There was a pipe which seemed to be blocked as water was flowing down the connection with the U-bend – but there was also water flowing down the wall signifying another leak probably on the flat roof.


For the time being, I’ve caught the water in a bucket until builder extraordinaire Paul Marchetti can come fix it…..which may be some time as i got this photo from him –

Apparently Paul broke is leg in a number of places when a heavy pallet being unloaded from a lorry fell on top of him on another job.

Get well soon Paul

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The new Training Room

In 1886 an appeal was made for funds to erect a hall, able to seat around 300 people, on ground adjacent to the Barony St. John’s Church (or as it was known then, New Ardrossan Parish Church). Funding was successful and the hall building was opened in 1887 at a cost, including furnishings, of £1,000 (around £120,000 in today’s money – which is still a bargain).

Now, exactly 130 years later in 2017, we have finally managed to renovate a major part of the hall building into a Training Room for my charity (The Scottish Centre for Personal Safety).

The before and after photos below show a dramatic change;


Rotten timbers and broken floorboards, crumbling wall and ceiling plaster, water ingress, wet rot, dry rot and decaying, broken windows meant this room was completely unusable.

But now, it looks like this –


We have a wonderful new Training / Meeting Room which can seat up to twelve people for the various training courses we provide including Personal Safety in the Workplace, Lone Worker, First Aid at Work, Refresher First Aid, Emergency First Aid, Paediatric First Aid etc. as well as accommodating meetings and social gatherings for both ourselves and other groups within our community.

Dr Danielle Farrel will be offering independent advice for carers and those living with a disability via her social enterprise, Your Options Understood (YOU), which will be operating out of this room from this week onwards and we will be offering free Personal Safety classes for people with low or no vision, every Thursday from 11am until 12.15pm.

All this is thanks to our funders; The Hugh Fraser Foundation, The Clothworkers’ Foundation, the Garfield Weston Foundation and the Trusthouse Charitable Foundation who funded the building works for the room.

hughfraser  clothworkersfoundationlogo       The Trusthouse Charitable Foundation 

And “Thank you” to Howdens Joinery Co. in Ardrossan who kindly donated the kitchen units and worktop for our tea/coffee area.



Without your funding, this room could never have been completed. Thank you one and all.

If anyone is interested in renting this room out, booking one of our courses or simply finding out more about volunteering or fundraising for our charity, please contact us via our website or look us up (ScotCPS) on Facebook or Twitter.

Goodbye for now.

Many, many, many thanks 😀

My Office

At long last, I have finally started to clear out the old Vestry Room and make it into an office space where I can store confidential documents, hold private meetings, etc.

Here is what it currently looks like –

The skylight window is cracked in several places and letting in water…

The plasterboard is completely off one of the walls due to water ingress which has now been stopped. This water damage has also caused a lot of the plaster work to comedown…


And the whole place needs painted and decorated…..


It’s going to take a bit of time but I’ll get there……………….Watch this space! 😀

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