Chambers trust aims to secure charity status

Chambers Institute, Peebles.
Chambers Institute, Peebles.
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The trust responsible for Peebles’ historic Chambers Institution is bidding for charity status.

The Grade A-listed High Street building was gifted to the people of Peeblesshire in 1859 by publisher William Chambers, a native of the town.

Trustees’ chairman Ronald Ireland said: “Achieving charitable status is an essential element in meeting the trustees’ objectives and an application to become a registered charity has now been lodged with the Office of the Scottish Charity Commissioner (OSCR).

“Steps are also being taken to effect a complete financial separation from Scottish Borders Council who will, however, continue to occupy a large part of the Chambers Institution buildings as tenants. This includes the library, museum and Burgh Hall, as well as the parts now occupied by Visit Scotland and the Citizens’ Advice Bureau.”

This is the latest stage in a process which began in November 2010. Because there were no active trustees at that point and the trust had effectively been dormant, Scottish Borders Council appointed seven councillors as trustees in an ex-officio capacity in order to resurrect the trust. Steps were taken to put it on a more modern basis and to re-establish it as an independent public trust, separate from the local authority.

Mr Ireland explained: “This new development is very much in line with the objective of the trustees of the Chambers Institution to fulfil the original purpose of William Chambers, to provide a centre for education and the arts in the form of a museum and gallery, and a library accessible to everyone, as well as a public hall.”

He said the trustees planned to hold a public meeting early next year to report on progress and the way forward.

The trust acquired additional High Street premises in 1911-12 by using a gift of £10,000 from Andrew Carnegie, which allowed it to provide a bigger library, museum and art gallery. At that time, the Chambers Institution Order Confirmation Act 1911 was passed to enable Peebles Town Council to accept this gift on behalf of the people.

The 100th anniversary of the Carnegie gift will be recognised by an exhibition of Joan Eardley paintings which opens to the public on October 13.

The trustees have reached an agreement with The John Buchan Heritage Museum Trust for the latter to become tenant of the former council contact centre, where it will run a new museum dedicated to the life and work of John Buchan (Lord Tweedsmuir) – the eminent writer, politician and former Governor of Canada – who had strong family connections with Peeblesshire and spent many summers in Broughton. The new museum will have its official opening on November 3.