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New chapter for Hunter House as church takes ownership of site

Calderwood Baptist Church restores 18th century building into a coffee shop and community hub.

Hunter House
© STV and East Kilbride library

After conflict there are always hurdles to tackle at home. Following World War Two, one of these was the overcrowded tall tenements of Glasgow.

The promise of Scotland’s first new town brought hope to many in 1947 as families packed their bags and prepared to move to the rolling green hills of East Kilbride.

Housing estates sprung up in stages and community centres were created. But among the new architectural additions there was one building in particular that offered a glimpse into the past.

Long Calderwood Farm is an idyllic light blue house, and is thought to be the oldest in East Kilbride.

It was also the childhood home of the 18th century medical pioneers William and John Hunter.

The brothers were both physicians to the Royal family and left behind a legacy because of their contribution to medical advancements.

“Hunter House is the most beautiful A-listed building in East Kilbride," reflects Calderwood Baptist Church pastor John Mackinnon as he looks around the historical site.

The church is the proud owner of Hunter House and has recently opened the venue, which includes Hunter House Coffee Shop, to the public following an extensive refurbishment.

The building had previously been running as a museum but was closed by the council in February 2011 due to funding cuts.

A total of four applications were received to run the historical site and Calderwood Baptist Church was chosen in November 2011 to take the neighbouring building under its wing.

“We are heavily engaged with the community but had previously been restricted by space so it was a natural step for us to buy Hunter House and develop it in a way that would be beneficial,” said John.

“We bought it in June 2012 and since then, we have stripped the building back to the walls, preserving all its historical and architectural features and exposing a few more.

Hunter House

Original features: The fireplace takes pride of place in the A-listed building.

“What you now see is a building which is completely fit for this century and useful to the community, while still preserving the legacy of the Hunter brothers.”

When you walk into the doors of the tastefully converted building, the welcoming aroma of coffee is the first to greet you. This is quickly followed by the chatter of companions sitting in the coffee shop.

Original features are dotted around the building, from the exposed brickwork to an original fireplace and sloping beams.

As well as the coffee shop, the former stables have been converted into a 50-seat conference room, there is a cosy counselling room at the back of the house and a couple of offices upstairs.

Hunter House

Coffee house: The Hunter House cafe is now open six days a week.

The opportunities for this new space are endless.

John said: “If there is need within the community, we will work to address that need. It is important to research and review what we can deliver and make sure we can deliver it well.

“We don’t want offer something that is here one day and gone the next.”

Counselling services are already running from the Calderwood location and there are plans for classes on parenting, cookery for single dads, marriage enhancement lessons and debt management.

They are also looking at the possibility of setting up a food bank for people in need.

He said: “We have had a mobilisation of volunteers throughout this process and we couldn’t do it without them.

“A big part of who we are as Christians is that we should serve others so a lot of our volunteers are people who are very committed to serving others and making a difference where they can in people’s lives.

“We sit at the heart of the community so we want to serve that community.

“Our church strapline is ‘A community ignited by a passion for God – growing the church, serving others, living the life’.

“Everything we make through the coffee shop and conference room hires will be put back in to serve the community.”

Hunter House

Smiling service: Calderwood Baptist Church hope the community will relish in the new space.

As well as providing for the local area, the church has plans to run a number of historical events to retain the legacy of the Hunter brothers and treasure the landmark figures.

“The Hunter legacy is central to East Kilbride and its history,” John said.

“We are in the process with working with The Hunterian Museum and The Hunterian Society to tell the story of the brothers at Hunter House.

“It is staggering the amount of people who don’t even know this building exists. But this is the history of our town and we hope it is something people will enjoy using.”

Hunter House coffee shop is open between 9am to 4pm Monday to Saturday.

For more information on the coffee shop or for information on room hire, email Calderwood Baptist Church.

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