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Wemyssfield, Kirkcaldy

Report on the refurbishment of The Buildings at Wemyssfield and East Fergus Place Kirkcaldy 7th Feb 2017.
Prepared by Dougie Downie Building Services Team Manager.

In the summer of 2015 I was approached to undertake the project at the former Social Work and CARF Offices situated within the buildings at Wemyssfield and East Fergus Place Kirkcaldy. At that time it was expected to be a small maintenance job consisting of only a few repairs to the roof areas and some minor works throughout the Building. It was thought that this would be a good “fill in Job!” to be done between major projects we were then currently managing and certainly not expected to take any more than 6 or 7 weeks to complete and only with a small maintenance size budget.

This transpired to be somewhat of a under estimation. Nearly two years have passed and approaching £1.6 million pound spent on construction costs, this wee “fill in job” turned into an almost top to bottom full refurbishment of these truly beautiful buildings. The final plan, and there were many, was to turn these somewhat neglected gems back into offices fit to house a variety of Charities and Agencies that could provide help to the people of Kirkcaldy and the wider community.

The Buildings themselves are magnificent, fantastic examples of mid Victorian and Arts and Crafts architecture.  Wemyssfield was built first in 1866 as a very up market merchant’s home and was known then as Wemyssfield Tower Villa. Situated in the heart of the then developing central Kirkcaldy area favoured by the affluent merchants who brought commerce and prosperity to the town.

In 1914 it was taken over by the War Office for the duration of WW1 used as their Northern Britain HQ and in 1919 bought by the Local Authority for the sum of £1500 (roughly the same amount we’ve just spent repairing cracked window panes!) They added the “w” wing in 1923 and the link to the East Fergus Building in 1938. It housed the then Fife Education Authority HQ and evidence of this is still found throughout the building in the form of beautiful hand painted stained and acid etched glass.

The Building at East Fergus Place begun to be built in the late 1870’s and was completed around 1881. Commissioned by Sir Robert Rowland Anderson and called “St Margaret’s”.  This was built in the Art and Crafts style and features a stunning timber staircase and colossal stone fire place both within the entrance hall.

Now the challenge for us, as it has been during the refurbishment of many other historic buildings in Kirkcaldy, is to maintain and preserve the historic and sometimes listed elements of these buildings whilst achieving the functionality of a 21st century office space.  This is not easily achieved and requires absolute cooperation from all the stakeholders involved in the project. To this end I was blessed. From Building Services I had my team of supervisors Ryan Cappie, Craig Walsh and John McNulty, M&E support provided by Scott Jamieson and Russell Bowie whom without there 100% commitment and tireless devotion this project would not have been possible. Likewise the design team of CA Andy Cotburn and Harry Anderson provided the solutions and helped us navigate our way through this vast project. Having on at least four occasions to stop regroup, re-plan and renew the entire project programme to accommodate an ever changing scope of works. A scope of works which ended up with a full strip and renewal of the Fergus and Wemyssfield Place roofs plus all new lead works ,completely new Rhone’s and outlets, some replacement windows and full décor inside and out. The creation of 4 new kitchens and new accessible toilets throughout the buildings, the reconfiguration of office spaces and removal of all the office areas install during the 1985 upgrade of the building (of which I took part as an apprentice with the KDC). The complete strip out of the two old heating systems and replacement with a new Hi Spec system which will perform far better and significantly more efficiently and suspended ceilings, lighting, alarms and flooring, the list goes on and on !!!

All of this has to be programmed, planned, negotiated and agreed, instructed, measured, checked, commissioned and supervised while adhering to the budget!.

We managed to achieve this with the help and priceless assistance of the “Sharon’s” Ward and Orr from our sister service and the thankless task of collating the cost fell to Grieg Hill of which I’m sure spent many hours head scratching wondering how we could provide the biggest bang for our ever decreasing buck!

Last but in no way least are the troops that actually carried out the construction works from our own Building Services Tradesperson’s and apprentice’s to our partnership contractors like Reid Roofing ,Bells Group, Logie Builders and Joiners to Scan Heating and BM Flooring.

The level of quality workmanship delivered by all on this project is to be the benchmark for all projects to come. I cannot over emphasis that the quality I have witnessed on this project is some of the very best I have seen in my 33 years with the Local Authority. The communication and cooperation between all the contracts has been as good as it gets! And has been a key element in our success.

The reality is that these types of projects are never really about the bricks and mortar however beautiful they are and they really are! They are about the hard work, dedication and commitment to work together shown by this team on this project that are the true valued products of our labours. The willingness to forgo our own preferences to work on a single shared vison to communicate and understand all our stakeholders’ needs whilst promoting our organisations values within our own and the wider community.

This project has breathed new life into these old buildings and will, as before, enable them to be of service to our community once again. The buildings will house the vital services and charities to whom we turn to in times of crisis and provide help and advice that can make living in these challenging times that little bit easier.

Working on projects like these is a privilege as is to work within a team and organisation that when all are aligned, have the ability to produce great things and in the case of our organisation Fife Council do so every day!


Dougie Downie
Team Manager Major Projects Team
Fife Council Building Services