Author: Ros MacKenzie

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Tuesday, May 15th, 2012 at 1:47 pm
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A Future at last for Mavisbank House?

Several years ago I wrote an article for Lothian Life which told of the splendour and downfall of Mavisbank House in Loanhead. At the time there was much discussion as to what would happen to the house, and how ways could be found to preserve this architectural gem and save it from gradual destruction by the elements.
Fiona Hyslop, Cabinet Secretary for Culture and External Affairs, has today announced a £500,000 grant from the Scottish Government to help secure the future of Mavisbank and save one of Scotland’s most famous houses. The Cabinet Secretary was visiting Mavisbank to announce the funding and witness the signing of a concordat agreement between Historic Scotland, Midlothian Council, the Mavisbank Trust and the Edinburgh & Lothians Greenspace Trust which looks to bring the house back into use and provide a community resource by opening the grounds to the public as a community park.
The house, at Loanhead in Midlothian, is considered one of Scotland’s most important “A “listed buildings and is of international significance. The building was commissioned by Sir John Clerk of Penicuik, a key figure of the Scottish enlightenment, and designed by William Adam, the leading architect of the early eighteenth century, between 1723 and 1725. The interior of the building was devastated by fire in 1973, although its intricately carved exterior remains.

The Mavisbank Trust plans to raise £12 million pounds from public, private and charitable sources to restore the exterior of the building and provide a sustainable and economically viable long term use, adapting the interior to self-catering holiday accommodation and a community facility. A programme of regular open days will give the public access to the House and the designed landscape will be partially recreated, providing community volunteering, training and educational opportunities during construction and after completion.

 

The signing of the concordat follows discussions led by Historic Scotland to bring together all interested parties to help secure a sustainable future for the site, and sets out the shared aims for Mavisbank House and the Policies, the grounds surrounding the iconic building. This includes Midlothian Council taking forward a compulsory purchase order for the House and transferring ownership to the Trust once appropriate funds have been raised. Historic Scotland will then transfer the policies to the Trust, reuniting the House with the surrounding designed landscape. The signing of the agreement took place at Penicuik House which was commissioned by James Clerk, son of Sir John Clerk. A six year project has seen consolidation works to the ruin of the House, offering valuable training opportunities in traditional building skills which will also form part of the Mavisbank project.

Ms Hyslop said at the signing,“I am pleased to announce a £500,000 grant from the Scottish Government and to witness the signing of the concordat agreement to help secure the future of this iconic building. With its architectural beauty, history and international significance, the plans for Mavisbank House will not only enhance Scotland’s rich historic environment but also have the potential to become one of the most beautiful landmarks in the Lothians, delivering significant benefits locally. This project puts the community at its heart, and I am pleased that the partner organisations have taken such a joined up approach in seeking to achieve a positive outcome for this nationally important building and landscape.”

Alex Hammond-Chambers, Chairman of The Mavisbank Trust said, “We are delighted that the concordat will enable the Trust to take forward the project, removing previous barriers to progress and demonstrating a firm commitment to its success by Historic Scotland and Midlothian Council. Whilst securing the project funding will be a huge challenge in such difficult economic times, the grant from the Scottish Government is an important step towards reaching our goal.”
Kenneth Lawrie, Chief Executive, Midlothian Council said, “The Council is very pleased to be joining with Historic Scotland and the Mavisbank Trust in securing a future for this currently endangered iconic historic building. In particular the Council will assist by taking the agreed actions to support the Trust in its work to restore this vitally important part of the national and local heritage, and to secure the long term future of the grounds as a public open space.”

Anyone interested in finding out more about the project or making a donation should visit www.mavisbank.org.uk

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