– Meeting to establish Friends of Seafield House (FoSH) on 15 October 2012

Friends of Seafield House (FOSH) was established on 15 October 2012 to support the campaign by SAVE Britain’s Heritage among others to save Seafield House, securing a new use for the building & developing proposals for its restoration.

Over 15 of Scotland & Britain’s leading conservation architects & engineers, architectural historians, academics, authors, entrepreneurs & local residents met in Ayr to launch their campaign to SAVE Seafield House. Two Arrol family members are involved: Andrew Arrol who has become a Patron & Kirsty Menzies as a Founding Friend.

The meeting was introduced by Marcus Binney, President of SAVE Britain’s Heritage, and Patrick Lorimer, Director of ARPL Architects who are spearheading the campaign. The new Friends of Seafield House unanimously endorsed their initial proposals to rescue the building, beginning with a swift programme of urgent works to stop further deterioration during the forthcoming winter.

Video kindly provided by ELGATO Film Productions

Marcus Binney says:
“Ruined castles tower houses and mansions have survived centuries of abandon and neglect all over Scotland and during the past  60 years not just dozens but hundreds have been brought back to life and use by enterprising new owners. Seafield House must not be allowed to join the long list of over 200 major historic houses demolished in Scotland since 1945”

Patrick Lorimer says:
 ”Not only is the building iconic in the  light of its original owner it is also a critical and vital element within  the historic landscape of this unique part of Ayr, it should and can be  rescued”

Andrew Arrol, one of two Patrons of the Friends of Seafield House, who as Surveyor to York Minster, is in charge of one of the most important and ambitious repair and restoration programmes in the British Isles, says:
“In my view Seafield House can certainly be saved. It is very well built of good durable materials and potential has many years of life ahead of it.”

Charles Blackett-Ord, a leading structural engineer with long experience of endangered historic buildings who also attended the meeting says:
 “Despite the loss of most of the roof in the fire, the walls remain substantial and stable and a quite modest programme of urgent works could safeguard the building while plans are drawn up for its rescue”

Seafield House owners, NTS Ayrshire & Arran, seem reluctant to discuss Seafield House with SAVE Britain’s Heritage despite SAVE having a wealth of success in achieving new uses for buildings, including Dumfries House. The NHS Trust refused all attempts to secure a hard-hat site visit for Marcus Binney, Patrick Lorimer & a core group of eminent conservation professionals. The refusal was made despite each professional having the required indemnity cover. The group instead had to inspect the neglected exterior of Seafield House. Its conclusion was unanimous: Seafield House can be saved.

Over a lunch meeting at the Savoy Park Hotel, those present discussed next steps in the campaign, including a Public Meeting in December and an event in February 2013 to celebrate the Centenary of Sir William Arrol’s death.  Two substantial proposals were put on the table. The first proposal is for a phased programme of repairs, the first phase of which would consist of re-roofing the house and creating a secure interior with reinstated windows and floors. The second proposal is for using the house for engineering training and a permanent display of the life and achievements of Sir William Arrol open to visitors including school pupils.

The NHS Trust has set up a Viability Group to consider the future of Seafield House. SAVE Britain’s Heritage with the supp-ort of the Friends of Seafield House will present their proposals to the NHS Trust and are determined to seek and receive a positive response. The message from the Friends of Seafield House to the NHS Trust is simple: Seafield House can be saved.

Friends of Seafield House will seek to persuade South Ayrshire Council and Historic Scotland of the need for an urgent works notice to be served on the owner, the aim of which is to secure the building from further deterioration.