The Trustcowan_hall

The Trust grew from a meeting 10 years ago, on 14 March 2005, called to save the Town Hall after the press announced it might be surplus to council requirements.

The building was originally the Cowan Institute, built in 1894 by the papermakers Alexander Cowan & Sons and bequeathed to the town “for the promotion of education and leisure-time activities.” 

A packed hall resolved to act to create a new community development trust and a decade of volunteer action has followed.

The Trust aims to use the skills, energy and enthusiasm of local volunteers to make Penicuik a better place for all, young and old, for business to flourish, and visitors to enjoy. Since 2005 it has achieved a great deal:

  • weekend entertainment, education, and companionship at Open House and Penicuik Cinema
  • community gardening at The Lost Garden of Penicuik
  • volunteers run the Pen-y-Coe Press, a traditional printing and stationery shop.

Now we’re also developing the Penicuik Museum and Papermaking Heritage Centre to celebrate the history of Penicuik and explain to new generations the wonders of papermaking.


Aims and Objectives

Penicuik Community Development Trust Ltd is a registered company and charity no. SC037990. Its charitable objectives are to promote the benefit of the people of Penicuik and its environs, without distinction of sex, sexuality, political, religious or other opinions by actions to advance community development, education, the arts, heritage, culture, science and to provide facilities for recreation and other leisure time activities in the interests of social welfare so that the conditions of life may be improved.

The Trust is responsible to the Penicuik Community (defined as all those who live within the town of Penicuik and its immediate surroundings, and any others who participate as active members of community organisations based in Penicuik). All members of PCDT have equal voting rights at the Public Meetings of the Trust where members of its committee are endorsed. The aims of the Trust are:

  • To promote community activities and community regeneration in Penicuik.
  • To make the Cowan Institute a sustainable focus for community development, seeking to keep it open and active all day, and to restore local responsibility for its management.
  • To use the Cowan Institute to build confidence in the people of Penicuik to participate in the community and value its assets, making Penicuik a better place to live in for young and old, and a more attractive place to visit and invest in.
  • To develop activities that generate income for the community but that do not restrict the use of the Cowan Institute for community use.
  • To work in partnership with Midlothian Council, Penicuik & District Community Council and other local organisations to achieve these aims

We have real achievements that demonstrate our practical commitment to these aims and objectives, currently through five projects:

  1. Saturday Open House in the Town Hall
  2. Penicuik Cinema
  3. Penicuik Museum and Papermaking Heritage Centre
  4. Pen-y-Coe Press
  5. The Lost Garden


The Trust marries community activities with the conservation and improvement of significant buildings and places in Penicuik.

  • Open House and Penicuik Cinema, are helping to re-establish the Cowan Institute as the focus of community life.
  • Pen-y-Coe Press and the Penicuik Museum and Papermaking Heritage Centre are re-invigorating buildings on Bridge Street.
  • The Lost Garden of Penicuik is bringing back to life the old walled garden of the Penicuik House Estate.