A Community Asset Transfer Application (CAT) has been made by Stonehaven Tolbooth Association (STA) to Aberdeenshire Council in order to take over ownership of the Tolbooth, the oldest building in Stonehaven. The Association is the local community group which runs the Tolbooth Museum on the ground floor of the building. The Tolbooth Restaurant occupies the upper floor.
The Tolbooth Museum has been a great success and a very popular tourist attraction for Stonehaven since it was reopened by the community group in 2011 after it had been closed by the Council Museums Service. Faced with closure of the Museum and removal of the entire contents to Mintlaw, a group of hard-working volunteers got together to reopen the Museum and to fill it with a large and interesting collection of items. The Museum is now run and managed by volunteers with free admission given to the public. STA also organizes private visits for schools, other community groups, and for a tour company. It has also been the venue for several wedding ceremonies. Over the past 11 years, visitor numbers have expanded and since 2014, the Tolbooth Museum has been visited by more visitors than any Museum run by Aberdeenshire Council. (In fact, during the Covid period, the footfall was greater than all the other Council Museums combined). Visitor numbers in 2019 were 28,862, compared to 8,717 in 2010 when the Council last operated the Museum and numbers are now recovering post-Covid.
In 2019, the Association received The Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service, the highest award possible for voluntary groups, and the Museum was visited by The Duke and Duchess of Rothesay, now our King and Queen Consort.
The Tolbooth building is owned by the Council, having been gifted to the Town of Stonehaven by the Marquess of Lansdowne in 1934, and therefore forms part of the Stonehaven Common Good. Having fallen into disrepair after World War 2 and following local and national fundraising by Stonehaven Town Council, the Tolbooth was fully rebuilt and restored, and was opened by HM Queen Elizabeth, The Queen Mother in September 1963. A Museum was first opened in 1975. However there has only been minimal maintenance of the building over the past 60 years, and STA have had the building fully assessed and made a list of the necessary repairs now required. STA have only a 12 month rolling licence to occupy the ground floor of the building, although a Lease would have been preferred. In 2016, STA obtained Planning Permision for a large extension to the Tolbooth building, in order to create a bigger and better Museum. Funding is required for the extension and for essential maintenance work, and the current short-term agreement prohibits STA from seeking grants, as funders demand either a long term lease or ownership before releasing funds. The first floor of the Tolbooth is leased as a Restaurant by the Council, and which would continue if STA take over the building.
In discussions with the Council, STA discovered that the Council have a fund of around £55,000, earmarked for the Tolbooth. STA believes that this Fund can go towards the urgent repairs and maintenance required to the Tolbooth. In order to progress the Museum extension and obtain funding, STA wish to take over the whole building and, to this end, the CAT application was made to the Council in November 2021. STA believe that if the Museum extension can go ahead. and the whole building improved, it will become an even more popular attraction for Stonehaven and an iconic building that local folk can be pround of.
In support of the CAT application, STA is embarking on a programme of community engagement in order to inform local residents of their plans for the Museum and to gather input and comments. To this end, STA would welcome any comments from the local community, and these can be submitted either via the form below or by visiting our Facebook page. In addition, if the public want further information, the Museum are hosting a Drop-In Clinic on Saturday 11 March 2023 between 12 noon and 3pm, when Museum volunteers will be delighted to see you, show folk over the Museum and answer any questions.