Friends of Seafield House logo

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 & developing proposals for its restoration.

Patron: Andrew Arrol


Our exhibition

Screenshot of the home page of the exhibition titled "Arrol's Seafield House revealed" with balck and white photograph of the house.

Click on the image to enter the exhibition website


Our history

On Monday 15 October 2012, 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 in Ayr – the former home of Sir William Arrol – by establishing the Friends of Seafield House.

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 Tower Bridge & a host of other important bridges & buildings across the world.

Seafield House is a poignantly beautiful roofless ruin that stands empty & neglected & slowly decaying after a savage fire gutted the interior.  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 & national opposition, the NHS Trust withdrew its application to demolish the category B listed building.

Marcus Binney, President of SAVE Britain’s Heritage, and Patrick Lorimer, Director of ARPL Architects 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.

Colour photograph of the derelict building with ground floor windows boarded up and upper windows and roof missing

Seafield House, 2012.  Copyright ELGATO.


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, 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, 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”

11 thoughts on “About

  1. Sir William Arrol was my Grandmother’s (Margaret Arrol) Great Uncle.
    When I came across the our organization, I was elated.

    We heard many stories about his achievements, but nothing of this grand Castle in Sure.

    Thank you so much for working hard to rebuild such a beautiful home.

    • Thank you for getting in touch. It is great to hear that you found our website and learned something new about our amazing family member (I am related through his first wife who was my Great Grandmother’s sister). Seafield House is such a special building to so many people for different reasons, either through the Arrol connection or its time as a hospital. We are really pleased after 8 years campaigning to see work proceeding on its restoration by Econstruct Estates Seafield.

  2. I recomend reading the book The Briggers,about the building of the Forth Rail Bridge,the people that worked on the bridge and around it,how Arrol invented machinery as it was needed.

    • I agree, I have read it and it is a fascinating book. It shows that although there was a high number of fatalities during construction, some of the machinery and measures introduced by Arrol were to improve safety and helped prevent many injuries and deaths.

  3. My father started work at William Arrol’s works in 1923,aged 14,he worked 5 1/2 days a week.In the evenings he went to what was,Glasgow Technical College to learn more about civil engieering.In 1839 he went to England as there was little work in Scotland.He became an aircraft inspector for the MOD.His name was William McMillan Gunning.

    • Hi Susan. Thanks for sharing the story of your father. In some ways he shared a similar start to his career as Sir William Arrol ie. starting work at a young age ( in Arrol’s case, just 9 years old) and after a long days work spending the evenings studying to further his career. I expect that he had a good apprenticeship with Arrol’s and I wonder what constructions he worked on during his time with them.

  4. I would be devastated if Seafield House was demolished(God forbid) or left to rot.My father worked at The Arrol works in Dalmarnock from 1923-1939,he was so proud of the achievements of the company,he told me about walking across the Forth Rail Bridge where the Briggers had gone to build and paint the Bridge.Years later 2 of my daughters were treated at Seafield Children’s Hospital and my son was taken there when he died.It’s only recently that I have found out about the history of the Hospital and I’ll sign any petition to repair and reuse the historic building

    • We totally agree with your sentiments Susan. The house is very special to a lot of people with it’s history of Arrol and as a Hospital. You are tied to the building both with your amazing family history in the Arrol works and with your children having been treated at the hospital and so your connection to the building is doubly strong.
      We are currently waiting for Econstruct Design and Build, the owner of Seafield House, to submit their application for the restoration and conversion of the house into flats. If that goes ahead then the house will be saved. Friends of Seafield House have been campaigning to secure the future of the building since 2012 when the council refused permission for demolition. Now 6 years down the line we are hoping that the house will finally be restored and converted in such a way as to honour its special history.
      You might be interested in our sister website https://sirwilliamarrol.wordpress.com which has a history of Sir William Arrol and the Company. Although the site mainly covers the period up to 1913 when Sir William Arrol died, we would be interested in any stories you have concerned with your father’s time working for the company.

  5. A commendable campaign, but I cannot feel that a plaque at the site, and all monies probably raised for the conservation project might be more worthwhile spent upon bursaries/funding for engineering apprenticeships, to allow another generation to find a path to success as did the great Sir William, who worked so hard to escape his humble origins, educate himself and build up his business through time; if they have the drive as did he. I realise that University students are already benefiting from his generosity, but some youngsters not wanting to take the academic route might also benefit in his memory if so arranged.

    • In our aim to save Seafield House we hope not only to prevent a magnificent building from being destroyed but also to retain a part of the legacy that Sir William Arrol left behind. Whilst I agree that funding for engineering apprenticeships is important, I think that there is also a place for spending money to save historic buildings for future generations to appreciate. Sir William Arrol had a large hand in the design of Seafield House and it stands as a testament to to his engineering prowess that the house has withstood fire and years of neglect. It also serves as an illustration of the life he came to achieve through his own hard work and of a story that is an inspiration to all who might dream of following that path to success.

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