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 in Ayr, securing a new use for this iconic building and developing proposals for its restoration.
Patron: Andrew Arrol
On 15 October 2012, over 15 of Scotland and Britain’s leading conservation architects and engineers, architectural historians, academics, authors, entrepreneurs and local residents met in Ayr to launch their campaign to SAVE Seafield House in Ayr – the former home of Sir William Arrol – by establishing the Friends of Seafield House. This Steering Group meeting was opened by Marcus Binney CBE Hon FRIBA, Executive President, SAVE Britain’s Heritage, after which it was chaired by Patrick Lorimer FRIAS.
Sir William Arrol (1839-1913), the Scottish civil engineer, bridge builder, and Liberal Member of Parliament (MP) for South Ayrshire constructed the iconic Forth Rail Bridge, London’s Tower Bridge and a host of other important bridges and buildings across the world.
For many years Seafield House was a roofless ruin that stood empty and neglected, slowly decaying after a savage fire had gutted the interior in 2008. On first sight of the B-Listed building in 2012, Marcus Binney described it as “poignantly beautiful”. At that time it was owned by NHS Ayrshire & Arran, which had proved to be a poor steward of the building. In 2011, faced by strong local and national opposition, the NHS Trust withdrew its application to demolish the category B listed building.
Friends of Seafield House (FoSH) was set up following the Steering Group meeting opened by Marcus Binney CBE Hon FRIBA, Executive President, SAVE Britain’s Heritage, after which it was chaired by Patrick Lorimer FRIAS, as Interim Chair.
Marcus Binney said:
“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 said:
”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, Patron 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, said:
“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 said:
“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”
Rob Close was elected as Chair at FoSH’s 1st Committee meeting on 30 October 2012. With the support of SAVE Britain’s Heritage and others, FoSH began its campaigning to save Seafield House. We welcomed the support of Kyle & Carrick Civic Society in the latter part of our campaign.
In September 2013, NHS Ayrshire & Arran commissioned Ryden, the commercial property agent, to launch a fresh enabling development opportunity marketing campaign. FoSH stepped up its campaigning when Ryden announced no buyer had been found. FoSH challenged this announcement, knowing that this announcement was the precursor to a third attempt to obtain Listed Building Consent (LBC) to demolish and that a local developer was, indeed, an interested purchaser. In October 2014, FoSH marked the sale of the house and grounds to local developer Econstruct.
Econstruct Estates Seafield Ltd was set up to restore and convert Seafield House into apartments and partnered with Westpoint Homes to develop the grounds. FoSH supported the developer throughout the planning and listed building consent phases. We understood clearly that conservation of Seafield House would be made possible only by using a substantial part of the profits from the new development for the conservation of the building. We lobbied to have this written into the planning consent for the new housing, describing the development as a classic ‘enabling development’. FoSH was pleased to see this made a planning consent condition in the planning authority’s approval of the LBC and planning application.
FoSH has continued to offer support, particularly in the developer’s discussions with NHS Ayrshire & Arran while Seafield House is being restored and converted into 10 apartments and Westpoint Homes is building 27 new houses in the grounds.