City Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland

City Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland

Public Money For Mavisbank House

By edg - Posted on 16 May 2012

Fiona Hislop & architect at Mavisbank House

Renovation of Mavisbank House considered to be one of Scotland's earliest examples of a Palladian style villa, moved a step forward yesterday with the announcement of a £500,000 grant from the Scottish Government.

Fiona Hyslop, Cabinet Secretary for Culture and External Affairs, made the announcement while also witnessing 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 run-down mansion is situated a few miles south of Edinburgh and tucked away between the Midlothian communities of Loanhead, Bonnyrigg, Lasswade and Dalkeith.

The interior of the building was devastated by fire in 1973, and although its intricately carved exterior remains, it currently stands as a roofless ruin in a perilous state of repair. There is also no public access to either the House or Policies.

In spite of its decrepid state, it is architecturally renowned and is Listed Category A and a Scheduled Ancient Monument, envisaged and built within a designed landscape.

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 policy grounds of about 140 acres (57 hectares) are also Scheduled as an Ancient Monument, have Conservation Area status and are included in the Inventory of Scotland's Gardens and Designed Landscapes.

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 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.

Midlothian Council will take forward a compulsory purchase order for the House and transfer 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.

“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,” said Alex Hammond-Chambers, Chairman of The Mavisbank Trust.

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:  “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.”