Valuable bust worth £1.4m to save Invergordon Town Hall at Easter Ross

Locator – Invergordon Town Hall, High Street, Invergordon..

A LIFELINE has been thrown at a deteriorating landmark in the heart of an Easter Ross town.

The prospect of selling the listed Invergordon Town Hall was considered by councilors who instead agreed to postpone a decision for six months.

Solutions currently being considered include the possible sale of a bust listed in the commons fund and valued at £1.4m or identifying other sources of funding to refurbish it after years of neglect.

The prospect of the sale of the Invergordon Common Good Fund asset had previously spurred unsuccessful local efforts to prepare a business case for a revamp.

The gradual revamping of the former Picture House in nearby Tain – for which a number of funding sources have been identified – has fueled hopes for the Invergordon High Street landmark.

Cromarty Firth councilor Mike Finlayson said: ‘I know a lot of work has been done to secure funding but since then, just recently since Covid, we are now inundated with money and there is certainly a lot of funds that materialized. ”

The marble bust of John Gordon, by Edmé Bouchardon.
The marble bust of John Gordon, by Edmé Bouchardon.

He referred to funding from Crown Estates and downtown development funds among them. He also asked how much had been spent on refurbishing the townhouse in Inverness.

Cllr Derek Louden said: ‘What I’m afraid we’re doing here is abdicating responsibility for the upkeep of the hall and we can’t do that. The Local Government in Scotland Act 1973 gave the Highland Council responsibility for looking after the commons. If this asset has been reduced to a state where the only prospect is that it will be sold immediately, well, how did it get into such a bad state?

“It happened in the period that followed, because the council did not deal with it, because the assets outside Inverness in no way seem to accept the duty of the council to deal with it.

“I assume it is a listed building and if it is a listed building we should have maintained it.

“There’s another asset, which I don’t think the community is desperate to hold on to, so can we spend six months investigating the chances of raising funds through the sale of the bust or other sources? “

The marble bust, worth £1.4million, was created by 18th-century French artist Edme Bouchardon in 1728 and is believed to be currently in storage. Its eventual sale is also likely to spark debate and has been mooted in the past.

Cllr Pauline Munro feared being ‘tough’ about the issue, saying it might only be realistic to consider getting rid of the building, but she was not averse to trying again.

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