Listed Building

The only legal part of the listing under the Planning (Listing Buildings and Conservation Areas) (Scotland) Act 1997 is the address/name of site. Addresses and building names may have changed since the date of listing – see 'About Listed Buildings' below for more information. The further details below the 'Address/Name of Site' are provided for information purposes only.

Address/Name of Site

Former Cumbernauld Cottage Theatre (single-storey cottage row) excluding all later additions to rear, Braehead Road, CumbernauldLB52631

Status: Designated

Documents

Where documents include maps, the use of this data is subject to terms and conditions (https://portal.historicenvironment.scot/termsandconditions).

Summary

Category
C
Date Added
17/01/2024
Local Authority
North Lanarkshire
Planning Authority
North Lanarkshire
Parish
Cumbernauld
NGR
NS 76762 75594
Coordinates
276762, 675594

Description

A gabled row of three adjoining single-storey estate cottages, built in the 1700s and historically associated with nearby Cumbernauld House (1731), which is located 0.5km to the northeast. The cottages are of sandstone rubble construction with an irregular arrangement of window and door openings to the front (south) elevation. There is a part timber, part metal-frame roof structure with a grey slate roof covering and two surviving chimney stacks. There is a small piend-roofed outshot to the rear (north) elevation. The cottages were re-purposed as the Cumbernauld Cottage Theatre in 1962–63.

The interior of the cottage row reflects its conversion to a community theatre, studio and bar in 1962–63, with little of the former cottage room plan surviving. One room has a substantial sandstone rubble fireplace with a consoled mantle of 18th or early 19th century character. The roof of the easternmost cottage (known as The Brian Miller Studio) has a metal frame.

There are additions to the rear, which were constructed largely between 1966 and 1980 (these are excluded from the listing).

Legal exclusions

In accordance with Section 1 (4A) of the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) (Scotland) Act 1997 the following are excluded from the listing: all later additions to the rear.

The various additions on the sloping ground to the rear (dating largely from between 1967 and 1979) include an enlarged auditorium, theatre bar and foyer. These interlinked, modular components are visually modest and discreet with few windows or openings. The additions are simply constructed of standard mass-produced building materials including cinderblock and red brick. While the additions to the rear evidence the incremental development of this theatre complex over time, they do not represent a notable example of 20th century theatre design.

Historical Development

The row of three former estate workers' cottages at Braehead Wood were constructed as part of the extensive parkland estate of Cumbernauld House (LB24086) built in 1731 by William Adam for John Fleming, Earl of Wigton.

The cottage row is likely to have been built around the same time as Cumbernauld House. The cottages are shown on the First Edition Ordnance Survey map (surveyed 1859-61). The map shows a short track, aligned with Cumbernauld House to the northeast, leading from the cottages to a sheepfold on the perimeter of the parkland.

The Cumbernauld Development Corporation (CDC) acquired Cumbernauld House and its estate grounds in 1955 through a compulsory purchase order. The house was used as the Corporation's offices during the early design and development of Cumbernauld New Town.

The Cumbernauld Theatre Group formed in 1960. Early members of the group included CDC Chief Planning Officer Derek Lyddon, Tom and Jenny Laurie, Bill Thomson, Sam Shearer, and Robert Bowie. Various cultural facilities were planned in Cumbernauld Town Centre but these either took time or never materialised. The Group converted the cottages at Braehead into a community theatre for drama, music, poetry, lectures, and art exhibitions in 1962. The building opened as the Cottage Theatre on 1 February 1963 (HES Online consultation report: Mackenzie, I. p. 7)

Uptake in membership led the Theatre Group to seek planning permission for the addition of a 200-seat theatre, cinema and gallery space, theatre bar and courtyard area on sloping ground to the rear of the cottages (The Scotsman, 1965). These works were carried out in phases as funds allowed.

Numerous folk artists of international renown performed at the theatre in its early years including Euan McColl, Peggy Seeger, John Martyn, Bert Jansch, and Billy Connolly who also debuted his first comedic revue at the theatre, entitled 'Connolly's Glasgow Flourish', in 1972.

Following a fire in 1975, the complex to the rear was remodelled again, with changes to the auditorium, new rehearsal rooms, communication systems and other alterations, at a cost of over 300,000 pounds. The building officially re-opened as 'The Cumbernauld Theatre' in October 1979 under the direction of the newly formed Cumbernauld Theatre Trust and Theatre Company (Stage and Television Today, 1979). The theatre was known for its innovative Unemployed Youth Theatre Association projects during this period.

Further refurbishments took place in 1996. The theatre operated along increasingly commercial lines into the 2000s, supporting productions by professional theatre companies, alongside a continuing programme of community projects and events for schools and other local groups.

North Lanarkshire Council and the Cumbernauld Theatre Trust began planning for a replacement theatre in 2015, at the Cumbernauld Academy High School development. The former Cottage Theatre closed in 2019.

Statement of Special Interest

The former Cumbernauld Cottage Theatre meets the criteria of special architectural or historic interest for the following reasons:

  • as a representative example of 18th century estate cottages that also demonstrates in its adapted design its later use as a community theatre.
  • as an early and relatively uncommon example of its building type in the Cumbernauld area.
  • for its semi-rural woodland setting which contributes to understanding of its function as an ancillary of the former Cumbernauld House estate.
  • for its pioneering role as a community theatre associated with the developing identity of Cumbernauld New Town during its formative years and beyond.

In accordance with Section 1 (4A) of the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) (Scotland) Act 1997 the following are excluded from the listing: all later additions to the rear.

Architectural interest

Design

The cottage row / theatre retains design features that are typical of 18th century buildings of this type. These features include the overall massing, single-storey profile, and the long rectangular plan form of the gabled row. The near one metre thickness of the random rubble sandstone walls, and the survival of the substantial stone fireplace, are representative of 18th and early 19th century dwellings of this type.

The cottage row in its present form also demonstrates its re-purposing from 1962 as a community theatre, studio, public bar and exhibition space. While changes are evident in the internal alterations, and the reconfiguring of some door and window openings to the front (south) elevation, these changes are largely in keeping with the traditional form, character, and fabric of the building.

In its current form, the cottage row has special architectural interest as a representative example of 18th century estate-worker's cottages that also demonstrates, in its adapted design, its later use as a community theatre.

Setting

The cottage row / theatre occupies a relatively secluded site within Braehead Wood to the east of Cumbernauld Town Centre, with tree coverage to the rear and to either side of the building. It is located on the north edge of the Kildrum residential area, and to the west of the boundary of Cumbernauld House Park and Glen. Cumbernauld House itself is located 0.5km to the northeast. The line of sight between the house and the cottages is interrupted by trees. There is a car park area in front of the cottage row, accessed via a winding single-track road.

Some components of the historic estate remain evident in this modern landscape. The semi-rural woodland and parkland setting and the survival of other (listed) built features of the estate, notably Cumbernauld House (LB24086) and Dovecot (LB24088), contribute to the interest of the cottage row as a functional ancillary of an historic estate.

Historic interest

Age and rarity

The cottage row at Braehead was constructed over 250 years ago and is among the earliest surviving buildings in Cumbernauld.

While adjoining rows of workers' cottages that are ancillary to an historic estate are not a rare building type, this example is unusual for its later adaptation. The cottage row at Braehead retains its elongated footprint, and its single-storey profile and massing, and retains its vernacular form, belying its rather unconventional function as a theatre.

A number of theatres were created in Scotland from the conversion of other building types during the latter 20th century. Examples include a church in Dumfries converted to the Brigend Theatre in the early 1970s; a laundry house on the Colzium Estate, Kilsyth into the Clock Theatre in 1974 (now a visitor centre and café); the East Kilbride Public Hall into the Village Theatre in 1977; and in 1994, the conversion of farm outbuildings in Whithorn into The Swallow Theatre.

The cottage row at Braehead is of interest under this heading, both for its age within its building type and for its unusual adaptation to a community theatre and bar, functioning as such for a period of more than 50 years.

Social historical interest

Theatres are an important part of Scotland's social history and as venues they have played a key role in the development of our performing artists, theatrical professions, and the cultural life of our communities.

The Cumbernauld Cottage Theatre has strong social historical associations as an important part of the developing identity of Cumbernauld New Town in its formative years. It was the principal outlet for the arts in the town during its ambitious and rapid early phases of development, helping to bring the newly established community together, with plays and performances programmed to appeal to a broad demographic of residents and age groups. In 1965 the Cumbernauld Theatre Group noted that artistic nourishment was as necessary for a healthy town as shelter and drainage (The Scotsman, 1965).

The social historical associations between the cottage theatre and the identity of Cumbernauld New Town in its formative years (and well beyond) is of special interest.

Association with people or events of national importance

There are some associations with people both of national and local importance (See Other Information below). However, the significance of those associations are not considered to be of national importance.

While the performing artists noted below have had a significant impact on Scotland's cultural heritage, performances by their nature were fleeting, and the associations are not shown in the fabric or design of the building.

Other Information

The Cumbernauld Theatre Group's first director and chairman was Tom Laurie OBE (1938-2020). Laurie has been described as a towering figure who helped transform Scotland's cultural landscape, both physically and creatively (The Scotsman, 2021). He went on to become involved in many organisations in Scotland, including the Scottish Arts Council, the Traverse Theatre in Edinburgh, the Tron Theatre and Piping Centre in Glasgow, a trustee of the Scottish Civic Trust, and establishing Workshop and Artists' Studio Provision Scotland (WASPS), specialising in 'finding new uses for existing buildings, usually in a community focused way' (The Scotsman, 2021).

Another early member of the Group was 'Town Artist' Brian Miller (1934-2011). Appointed by the Cumbernauld Development Corporation in 1962, Miller was involved with the Cottage Theatre for around 20 years, producing promotional material, branding, and writing and occasionally directing more than 30 plays. He was arguably the world's first 'Town Artist', employed to influence the artistic direction and cultural identity of the newly established New Town of Cumbernauld as it grew. The concept was adopted by many New Town development corporations, in Scotland and abroad. The performance space within the cottage row (the location of the original cottage theatre) is known as the Brian Miller Studio. Miller's work is also recognised in the listing of his concrete totem sculpture in the Carbrain area of the town (LB52419).

The youth theatre programme developed at Cumbernauld Theatre was later taken forward by the National Theatre of Scotland under Simon Sharkey, former Artistic Director of Cumbernauld Theatre (HES Online Survey Report, Harrison, K. p.7)

Individuals with an association through performance include folk artists Euan McColl, Peggy Seeger, John Martyn and Bert Jansch. Billy Connolly, who debuted his first comic revue at the theatre in 1972, achieved national and international renown as an actor, writer, comedian and artist in the late 20th century. He was knighted in 2017 for services to comedy and was presented with the Bafta lifetime achievement award in 2022.

References

Bibliography

Canmore: http://canmore.org.uk/ CANMORE ID 348729 - Cumbernauld, Wilderness Brae, Cumbernauld Theatre | Canmore

Maps

Ordnance Survey (surveyed 1859, published 1862) Map Sheet - Dumbartonshire (Det.) XXVI.1 (Cumbernauld), 1st Edition, 25 inches to 1 mile, Ordnance Survey, Southampton.

Ordnance Survey (surveyed 1946, published 1952) Map Sheet - Dumbartonshire nXXIX.SW, 5th Edition, 6 inches to 1 mile, Ordnance Survey, Southampton.

Printed Sources

Scotsman (18/06/1965) Cumbernauld Plans Arts Centre - £50,000 Project, p.8.

Scotsman (02/10/1965) Norman Thomson - Cumbernauld Cottages Which Became a Theatre Club, p.13.

Stage and Television Today (25/10/1979) Modern Theatre Complex in the Former Cottage Theatre, p.15.

Online Sources

Change.org (2015/16) Petition · Save Cumbernauld Theatre [accessed September 2023]

Change.org (June 2023) Petition · Save the Cottage: We Need a Community Hub · Change.org [accessed September 2023]

Cumbernauld Cottage - History of the Cottages (cumbernauldcottage.co.uk) [accessed August 2023]

HES Online Survey Report - https://haveyoursay.historicenvironment.scot/heritage/cumbernauld-cottage-theatre [accessed December 2023]

The Scotsman (31/01/2021) Obituary – Tom Laurie OBE - Tom Laurie, towering figure who transformed the cultural landscape. [accessed September 2023]

Theatrestrust.org Database: Cumbernauld Theatre | Theatres Trust [accessed September 2023]

About Listed Buildings

Historic Environment Scotland is responsible for designating sites and places at the national level. These designations are Scheduled monuments, Listed buildings, Inventory of gardens and designed landscapes and Inventory of historic battlefields.

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Images

Former Cottage Theatre, Braehead, Cumbernauld, view from southwest during daytime, on sunny day with blue sky and trees to rear
Fireplace within west cottage range, former Cottage Theatre, Braehead, Cumbernauld

Map

Map

Printed: 04/03/2024 01:40