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Bennet House: A Study House in Culross

The National Trust for Scotland will be working on an innovative project in Culross this summer, restoring an historic building and in the process helping people find out how conservation skills are put into practice.

The building in question is Bennet House, a house which sits directly opposite The Bessie Bar Hall in Culross and has its origins in the late 16th/early 17th centuries.

Bennet House has been unoccupied for around 20 years and the damaging effects of Scottish weather, combined with a lack of regular maintenance and upkeep, have taken their toll on the building.

Slipped and missing tiles, vegetation growth, water penetration, decaying wood and broken windows together with structural problems mean that Bennet House is an a sorry state. In common with many important old buildings across Scotland this building at risk needs considerable investment of time, money and skill to bring it back to a condition where it can be occupied and put to use once more.

In early 2015 the Little Houses Improvement Scheme, the National Trust for Scotland’s in-house building preservation trust, was able to purchase Bennet House in order to safeguard its future. Since the 1930’s the National Trust for Scotland and the Little Houses Improvement Scheme have played a key role in the conservation of the historic burgh of Culross, and Bennet House provides a wonderful opportunity to revisit the scheme’s past activities through the restoration of another little house in the heart of the burgh.

While the restoration work is going ahead Bennet House will be used as an extensive learning opportunity which has given the title of ‘The Study House’. This will be a live project to demonstrate Conservation in Action, and allow local people, visitors, school children, heritage professionals and other interested parties to follow a restoration project from start to finish.

From preliminary research to project completion the public will be invited to participate in a number of workshops and activities on topics spanning the investigation of the structure through buildings archaeology to practical activities such as repointing in lime and the repair of traditional sash and case windows.

It is hoped that the Study House is delivered as a model for conservation in the community, and that Bennet House is given a viable new use which will ensure its preservation for future generations.

There will be an exhibition detailing the history of the Little Houses Improvement Scheme on display in the Town House, allowing visitors to discover the role played by the scheme in preserving many of Culross’ historic buildings.

Work is expected to begin at Bennet House in early May, and the Study House programme will run alongside the restoration work. Details of events and activities, alongside project updates and findings will be published on the project website (http://www.nts.org.uk/Site/LHIS/Bennet-House), and through the project Twitter account @StudyHouseNTS.

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