Lord-Lieutenant of Ayrshire & Arran visits Arrol exhibition

Sheriff Iona Sara McDonald, the Lord-Lieutenant of Ayrshire & Arran visited the ‘Spanning the Centuries: Sir William Arrol’s Legacy in Stone, Steel & Culture‘ exhibition at Rozelle House Museum & Galleries on Monday 27 March 2023. Friends of Seafield House (FoSH) Chair, Patrick Lorimer, FRIAS, provided a personal tour of the exhibition co-curated by Kirsty Menzies, for FoSH, and South Ayrshire Museums.

Here they are pictured beside a photographic portrait of Sir William Arrol, on loan from the ICE Scotland Museum, and enjoying the scale model of the Finnieston giant cantilever crane, built by Dr Andrew Knox, of the Meccano Society of Scotland.

FoSH Chair, Patrick Lorimer and Sheriff Iona Sara McDonald, the Lord-Lieutenant of Ayrshire & Arran standing next to a framed portrait of Sir William Arrol
FoSH Chair, Patrick Lorimer and Sheriff Iona Sara McDonald, the Lord-Lieutenant of Ayrshire & Arran looking at a Meccano model of a cantilever crane

Patrick Lorimer and Sheriff Iona Sara McDonald at the ‘Spanning the Centuries’ exhibition. Photographer: Nigel Hackett


Special Arrol-inspired events for children and families at Rozelle

Rozelle House Museum are hosting some free book events this week to celebrate the current ‘Spanning The Centuries’ exhibition. No need to book, just drop in and enjoy the fun.

Bookbug soft toy wearing a high viz waistcoat and hard hat, sitting next to two books, DIY projects and The Tower Bridge Cat

Tuesday 28th March at 10:30am

Bookbug session suitable for under 5s. It will be full of transport, technology and construction rhymes.

See more details here.

Image of a hand holding up a copy of the book Rivet Boy in front of the Forth Rail Bridge

Saturday 1 April at 11am and 12 noon

Riveting Victorians Family Fun sessions with author Barbara Henderson as she talks about her latest book ‘Rivet Boy’. It tells the story of one boy’s role working for William Arrol & Co. in the building of the iconic Forth Bridge.

There will be family-friendly storytelling, drama and games suitable for ages 8-12 years (but all ages welcome).

There’s a chance to win a copy of ‘Rivet Boy’ at each session. So don’t miss it.

See more details here.

‘Spanning the Centuries’ exhibition extended to 7 May

Friends of Seafield House are delighted that the free exhibition about Sir William Arrol and Seafield House at Rozelle House Museum has been extended to 7 May. There is still plenty time to visit if you haven’t managed to make it along yet, but if you want to experience the immersive display of the main hall at Seafield House you’ll have to visit by 16 April. The exhibition is full of fascinating items giving an insight into Arrol’s life, his achievements and the impact he has had over the last 100 years and more.

green coloured image of 3D scan of Forth Bridge looking along the railway tracks between the network of cantilever arms and cross-bracing.
3D scan of the Forth Bridge © Historic Environment Scotland, Transport Scotland and Network Rail

Spanning the Centuries: Sir William Arrol’s legacy in Steel, Stone and Culture

4 February – 7 May 2023

Rozelle House Museum and Galleries, Rozelle Park, Monument Road, Ayr KA7 4NQ

See the Museums and galleries exhibitions and events page for further details of opening times.

There’s lots at the exhibition for young and old alike. Walking into the museum entrance hall, a Meccano model of the Forth Bridge sets the flavour of the fascinating exhibits to follow. A further three large scale models of Arrol cranes can be seen alongside items representing Arrol’s most famous structures of the Forth Bridge and Tower Bridge.

Seafield House is represented in a fabulous immersive room, which will transport you to the main hall of Sir William Arrol’s home, with a projection on the wall and strains of the music Arrol listened to on his gramophone to complete the scene. A set of artefacts representing Seafield Hospital and renovation of the house into apartments are also displayed.

  • Colour photograph of a grand hall projected onto a wall with victorian furniture, gramophone and plant arranged in front of it.
  • View of gallery with three large Meccano models of cranes and display cases filled with Arrol-related artefacts
  • Close up of two Meccano models of cranes and their shadow thrown onto the wall
  • Framed photographic portrait of Sir William Arrol
  • Display case filled with artefacts relating to the Forth Bridge including books, tourist gifts, memorabilia from the opening, rivets, stationery
  • Display case containing a dress with image of Tower Bridge on the front
  • Gallery space filled with a large plate glass camera with copies of black and white photographs of Seafield House on the walls
  • Display case containing stone and ironwork from Seafield House and glass slides and books
  • Table in a room filled with boxes of lego, colouring-in sheets, crayons and children's books

Seafield House photographs from Historic Environment Scotland’s Bedford Lemere Collection hang in a photography themed gallery, complete with a glass plate camera. This is similar to the type of camera the photographer would have used to capture scenes of Seafield, just after it was built.

A further gallery space is filled with photographs and artwork inspired by Arrol and the structures he built. Digital images of photographs capturing the construction of the Tay Bridge and Tower Bridge appear on screens next to George Wylie’s Crystal Boat sculpture and further artworks hang from the walls.

There’s also an activity room for young artists and engineers with a fun facts detective trail, colouring sheets and Lego and Meccano to have a go at bridge building. Before leaving, be sure and take the opportunity to dress up and have your photograph taken in the reconstruction of the famous photograph of the human cantilever demonstration.

Talk for Kyle and Carrick Civic Society on Seafield Craftsmanship: Then and Now

On the evening of Monday 6th February, Kyle and Carrick Civic Society (KCCS) departed from their usual venue to come to the Maclaurin Art Gallery for their monthly meeting. The Society had invited Friends of Seafield House (FoSH) committee member Kirsty Menzies, to give a talk on Seafield Craftsmanship: Then and Now, based on the talks she had delivered as part of their Doors Open Days programme in September 2022. The timing couldn’t have been more perfect, falling just after the opening of the Spanning the Centuries exhibition which South Ayrshire Museums and Galleries co-curated with FoSH. South Ayrshire Museums hosted the event at Rozelle, opening the exhibition for KCCS members and the Maclaurin very kindly offered their gallery space, which made an excellent venue for the talk.

Photograph taken inside the gallery showing a presentation on a large screen and the light reflected off paintings hanging on the gallery walls.
Presentation to KCCS in the Maclaurin Gallery. Photo courtesy South Ayrshire Council

There was a great turn-out with over 40 members of KCCS coming along to view the exhibition and hear Kirsty speak about the craftsmanship commissioned by Sir William Arrol in the construction of his new home, Seafield House, and of those commissioned by Econstruct Estates Seafield Ltd. in its restoration. Kirsty began the talk by explaining how Sir William Arrol first took tenancy of Seafield before purchasing the estate and building his new home in the grounds, and of his active involvement in the Ayr community. She then went on to talk about Robert A Bryden, the architect, and to describe the craftsmanship of the exterior stonework, ironwork and landscaping, before looking at Seafield’s interior features.

Although very little was known about who the original craftspeople were, Kirsty had pieced together clues from various sources. One of these was the set of Bedford Lemere photographs of Seafield House, held by Historic Environment Scotland, and displayed as part of the Spanning the Centuries exhibition. The house itself had given out clues, particularly the extensive use of structural steelwork showing Sir William Arrol’s strong influence on its design and construction. Other sources were the artefacts carefully rescued by Econstruct Estates Seafield Ltd during the renovation of Seafield House, auction catalogues from sales following Sir William Arrol’s death, and photographs taken by urban photographers prior to the devastating fire in 2008 which led to Seafield House becoming derelict.

Photograph showing speaker standing in front of screen showing slide with picture of Seafield House and titled Seafield Craftsmanship: then and now, and the backs of the head of two members of the audience.
Kirsty Menzies talk for KCCS. Photo courtesy of Nigel Hackett.

Much more was known about the craftspeople working on Seafield now and it was evident that their expertise, skill and often painstaking work had brought about a wonderful transformation, returning the house to its former glory through the renovation and conversion into ten apartments.

Following the talk, the question and answer session led to some interesting discussion, and after a vote of thanks was given, the group continued their discussions over tea and coffee before retiring for the evening.

FoSH talks for Doors Open Day fully booked

We are delighted to report that our outdoor talks on Seafield Craftsmanship: Then and Now for Doors Open Days have proved to be popular. All places on both talks are now fully booked and we have a growing waiting list. We are sorry to disappoint those who would have liked to join us but please keep an eye open for future talks that we will post on the website.

There are plenty of other events and places to visit for Ayrshire Doors Open Days on 10 and 11 September. Download the programme leaflet here. If you are passing Seafield House do stop and have a look at the fantastic restoration work that has been done on the building. You won’t be able to get access to the grounds but you will get a good view from the pedestrian entrance on Doonfoot Road.

FoSH outdoor talk for Doors Open Days 2022

This year Friends of Seafield House are offering an in-person event for the Ayrshire Doors Open Days 2022 programme.

Seafield Craftsmanship : Then and Now
Saturday 10th September 2022 at 11am or 2pm (FULLY BOOKED)

Join us for an outdoor talk on the different crafts and crafts people that Sir William Arrol employed in the late 19th century to create Seafield House and the crafts and crafts people that have been employed by Econstruct in the company’s careful restoration of the building and conversion
into apartments.

Doors Open Days 2022 programme entry for Seafield House with description of the walk and painting of Seafield House through the railings by Gerard Stamp

FoSH Committee Member, Kirsty Menzies will lead the 1-hour outdoor talk, which will be offered twice on the day: the first talk at 11am and the second talk at 2pm. Each talk, which is free of charge, will be given to a maximum of 10 people. Tickets will be allocated on a first come first serve basis.

On the day, the tour will commence at the pedestrian entrance to Seafield House in Doonfoot Road. An introduction to the building will follow on from an initial viewing of the restored railings and stonework at the entrance. Notable features of the building’s exterior will be highlighted through a history of the crafts and crafts people employed by Sir William and the careful conservation of these features by Econstruct Estates Seafield Ltd as visible in the work of the crafts people and skilled trades people the company sought out for the restoration.

One highlight is the restoration of the entrance porch and lamp stand with its unusual Hexapus design; another is the restoration of the house’s formal gardens. By way of photographic panels, the detail of the craftsmanship of the original interior features will be illustrated and examples of salvaged brass door furniture and wood carving will be shown. The talk will conclude with a walk around the exterior of the building to see the extensive replanting under Jane Dobson’s landscape scheme before ending with a return to the pedestrian entrance.

Please note that this is an outdoor talk only and there will no access to the interior of Seafield House apartments.

We have had a fantastic response to this event and both talks are now fully booked with a waiting list for places.

FoSH thanks Econstruct Estates Seafield Ltd for enabling these talks to be given as part of Doors
Open Days 2022

Seafield House returns to Ayrshire Doors Open Days this weekend

This weekend, 11-12 September, is Ayrshire Doors Open Days and we are delighted that Kyle and Carrick Civic Society have added Seafield House to the list of buildings on offer for the second year running.

Showing Seafield House entry on the Doors Open  Days 2021 website.  With painting of Seafield House behind railings.

The link to our digital exhibition, Arrol’s Seafield House Revealed, is now live from the Doors Open Days Seafield House page. Take a tour the house, as it was in Sir William Arrol’s time, through the photographs of Bedford Lemere & Co. held by Historic Environment Scotland (HES).  Clicking on an image will link you to the original digital photograph on HES’s Canmore website, where you can use their zoom tool to explore the rooms in minute detail. It’s an excellent tool for focusing in on the interesting detail, including the architectural features such as painted tiles, decorative plasterwork and carved wood.

Be sure to check it out and the other fabulous buildings on offer this year that you can visit in person. If you are in Ayrshire why not take advantage of the opportunity to get out and visit some of them and take a walk along Doonfoot Road past Seafield House and see how renovations to the building are progressing. We’ve been taking regular photographs of the works on site and posting them on our website. So even if you can’t make it to Ayrshire you can take a virtual tour of the Seafield site, as it looks now, on our Gallery page.

Seafield House in Ayrshire Doors Open Days 2020 this weekend

Like many other events this year, due to COVID-19 restrictions, Doors Open Days 2020 has gone digital. It is offering people the chance to explore Scotland’s buildings through virtual tours, webinars, exhibitions, audio trails and other online offerings .

This weekend, 12-13 September, is Ayrshire Doors Open Days and we are delighted that Kyle and Carrick Civic Society have added Seafield House to the list of buildings on offer.

The link to our digital exhibition, Arrol’s Seafield House Revealed, will go live from the Doors Open Days Seafield House page at the weekend. This will give people the opportunity to tour the house, as it was in Sir William Arrol’s time, through the photographs of Bedford Lemere & Co. held by Historic Environment Scotland.  The page also displays the beautiful watercolour painting of Seafield House by acclaimed artist Gerard Stamp which was part of SAVE Britain’s Heritage exhibition on endangered buildings in June last year.

There are lots of other buildings with digital offerings too, so settle down with a cuppa this weekend and explore what Ayrshire has to offer from the comfort of your armchair.

Arrol’s Seafield House revealed: our new virtual exhibition

Friends of Seafield House had planned to launch the exhibition “Arrol’s Seafield House revelealed” on 16th May 2020 at Rozelle House, Ayr, in association with South Ayrshire Council, as part of 2020 Year of Coastal Waters.  The exhibition was in celebration of the 130th anniversary of the completion of Seafield House and the opening of the Forth Bridge, Sir William Arrol’s greatest construction.  However, as one of Arrol’s favourite poets, Robert Burns wrote, “The best-laid schemes o’ mice an’ men gang aft agley”.  Due to the COVID-19 lock-down we postponed the launch and instead bring you this virtual exhibition as a taster of the full exhibition, now planned for May 2021.

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


The exhibition was created by FoSH Committee member, Kirsty Menzies, and offers a guided tour through Seafield House using the photographs of Bedford Lemere and Co., which are held by Historic Environment Scotland.  The photographs were taken by Harry Lemere on 12 May 1890, not long after the construction and interior decoration of Seafield House was completed. Our grateful thanks go to Historic Environment Scotland Archives for permission to use the images from their Bedford Lemere Seafield House collection.

Screenshot of tweet by Historic Environment Scotland on 15 June 2020 saying "William Arrol was the engineer whose company built the Forth Bridge - but have you ever wondered what his house was like?  No cantilivers in sight, but there is some rather interesting stuff from our #HESarchives in this from @ Friends Seafield!"

There may be no cantilevers in sight but we hope you will find the exhibition riveting nonetheless.



Celebrating 130 years of the Forth Bridge

On 4th March 1890 the Forth Bridge was officially opened by Edward, Prince of Wales.

The Forth Bridges are celebrating the bridge’s 130th anniversary at the Education Centre, South Queensferry, on the 4th March.  There will be a free exhibition from 12:30-17:00 and expert talks from 18:00-20:00 on construction and restoration of the bridge. Further details of the event on Facebook.

Invitation titled 'Happy Birthday Forth Bridge, 130 years' with details of times for the exhibition and talks.

The Forth Bridges Invitation to the day of celebration

The bridge was a feat of engineering, designed by Sir John Fowler and Sir Benjamin Baker, and built by William Arrol & Company.  It took 8 years to complete and over 4, 000 men were involved in its construction. It took 54,000 tons of steel to build, was 2,467 metres long, and when opened had the longest single cantilever bridge span in the world (521 metres).  The Prince of Wales drove the last rivet into the bridge,  assisted by William Arrol, and at the luncheon afterwards he announced that Queen Victoria had conferred a knighthood on William Arrol in recognition of his great achievement in the construction of the bridge.  Today the Bridge remains an icon of British engineering and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.


Front cover of the Illustrated London News from 8 March 1890

Sir William Arrol assists the Prince of Wales to place the last rivet in the Forth Rail Bridge.