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Midsteeple

Mid Steeple (1707), Dumfries
©2016 Gazetteer for Scotland

Mid Steeple (1707), Dumfries

An iconic three-storey building located on a sloping site in the middle of the the High Street in Dumfries, Midsteeple represents one of the town's oldest buildings. It was built in 1705-7 as the townhouse, or administrative centre for the town, by Tobias Bachop of Alloa to a design by John Moffat of Liverpool. Its other uses included a court-house, prison, armoury and guard house, and more recently as the Register Office for births, deaths and marriages. A forestair rises across the front of the building to reach the entrance on the first floor. The six-storey clock tower is very similar to one on the Tolbooth in Stirling, designed by Sir William Bruce in 1703, which was also constructed by Bachop. It features an ogee-shaped leaded cap, surmounted by a weather vane. The facade was refaced in polished ashlar in 1909, substantial strengthening and underpinning was undertaken in 1973 and the entire building subject to a major restoration 2007-09 at a cost of 1.35 million. The building was A-listed in 1961 and remains in the ownership of Dumfries Common Good, an ancient endowment which benefits the people of the town.

Fine carved stone plaques on the front depict the Royal Arms of Scotland and St. Michael, the Patron Saint of Dumfries, standing on a dead dragon. These were restored and brightly painted in 2010. A further plaque lists the distances from Dumfries to various Scottish towns, as well as London and Huntingdon, the latter because of the importance of the wool trade with that town.

The body of poet Robert Burns was laid out in the Midsteeple in 1796 to allow local people to pay their last respects.


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