Project: Fairfield Shipbuilding & Engineering Office, Govan, Glasgow, Scotland
Client: Govan Workspace Limited
AHF Support: Options Appraisal Grant, 2007-08; Working capital loan, 2013-14
New Use: 18,000 sq. ft. of managed workspaces and offices to let; Volunteer-run Heritage rooms
Find out more at www.fairfieldgovan.co.uk
What’s So Special About This Place?
Think of Glasgow and you think of shipbuilding on the Clyde. It is central to the city’s, and Scotland’s identity. Govan has been at the heart of this industry since the 19th century. The Category A listed Fairfield Shipbuilding & Engineering Office has been described as the best in Britain. Completed in 1891 to designs by John Honeyman and Keppie, its imposing red sandstone façade extends for 350 feet along Govan Road. This is where some of the most famous Clydeside ships were designed and launched, including Royal Navy battleships and transatlantic liners. Fairfields was also the venue of the famous Upper Clyde Shipbuilders work-in in 1971, led by union shop stewards to prevent the closure of the Govan yards.
Why Was The Building Under Threat?
The building was closed in 2001 when it was deemed surplus to requirements by BAE Systems, the shipyard operator. Its condition steadily deteriorated and by 2004 it was boarded up and included on Scotland’s Buildings at Risk Register. It became symbolic of the decline of shipbuilding on the Clyde and the neglected Govan community.
How Was It Saved?
The building’s fortunes changed for the better when Govan Workspace got involved. This social enterprise is deeply rooted in the local community. Since the late 1970s it has supported the creation of jobs in Govan by acquiring redundant buildings and converting them into managed workspaces with support services. In 2007 it was contacted by the building’s owners, Clydeport plc, who had been unable to find a viable future for the site. Govan Workspace acquired the building in 2009 and commenced on a £1.4 million emergency repairs contract, funded by Historic Scotland and Glasgow City Council. Over subsequent years it raised the £5.8 million required to repair and adapt it into a centre for start-up businesses, with space set aside for telling the story of the building and its place in Glasgow’s industrial and social history. Pat Cassidy was the driving force behind the project.
How Is The Building Used Now?
This iconic building has regained its place as a centre of industry and activity in Govan. The Fairfield Heritage Centre includes the former boardroom, management offices, directors’ dining room and main entrance and lobby. Modern office suites occupy the former drawing offices on the first floor and the former counting house on the ground floor.
How Did The AHF Help?
The AHF awarded Govan Workspace a grant of £11,720 in December 2007 towards the cost of an options appraisal. This gave Govan Workspace the confidence to acquire the building and develop detailed proposals for bringing it back into commercial use.
A £125,000 working capital loan acted as a ‘bridging facility’ in 2013-14.