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 (advanced booking required)

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.

For advance booking: please email info@friends-of-seafield-house.org.uk

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.

ForthBridgeSouthQueensferryShore_0706crop

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.

Trip to Tower Bridge and its bascule chamber AV installation

Ever since the first FoSH blog post about the Tower Bridge bascule chamber concert in 2015 I have wanted to experience this unique venue for myself. My wish was finally fulfilled last week when I was privileged to attend the preview of the latest audio visual experience in the bascule chamber. The event lived up to all my expectations and more.

 

The magic of the occasion began as soon as we stepped from entrance into the stairwell and began the descent down the 115 steps to the chamber deep below the tower. An eerie blue light, image projections on the walls and electronic music with voices set the atmosphere for what was to come. We entered the bascule chamber, a vast, damp, brick-lined space with a steeply stepped curved wall to the front and massive steel plates of the counterweight above. Our seating was at the very base, with space for only 50 people. Even without the cold of the chamber I was chilled at the thought that, should the bridge be opened, the 1200 tons above my head would come down and fill the space where I was sitting. But all that was forgotten as soon as the audio visual installation began. Tower Bridge: 125 years of London’s defining landmark was created by artists of the Guildhall School of Music and Drama to celebrate the people who built, maintained and operated the bridge since construction began in 1886. Archive images passed before our eyes across the stepped wall as we listened to a haunting electronic soundtrack and voices of actors portraying characters from the past.

Photograph of a sepia photograph of Tower Bridge projected onto a wall with blue lights below.

Image projected on the stepped wall of the bascule chamber

We were transported through the ages by photographs of the workers and the bridge at various stages of construction and operation, passing through times of war and changing cultural fashions through the decades, culminating with the bridge’s display for the 2012 Olympic games.

The following day I took the opportunity to revisit the Tower Bridge Exhibition. The last time I had visited was over 4 years before and at that time could find no reference to Sir William Arrol or the workers who had constructed the bridge. Since then the content of the exhibition has been greatly developed and the focus is very much on the working people who contributed to the life of the bridge.

Climbing the stairs of the north tower the story of construction of the bridge and the people involved unfolds amidst the riveted girders of the staircase. Profiles of people like Andrew Stephenson Biggart, Arrol’s general manager for the steelwork, and images of the steelworkers are portrayed alongside text and images of other construction workers, including divers and stonemasons. At the top of the stairs we are greeted by the portrait of Sir William Arrol in pride of place beside Horace Jones, John Wolfe Barry and Sir William Armstrong. Continuing on through the exhibition we find stories and images with audio recordings of some of the people who worked on and operated the bridge. Many of these ordinary workers have been immortalised in brass plaques in Tower Bridge’s ‘Walk of fame’, a blue line which leads visitors from the south tower to the engine rooms and shop.

photograph of a brass plaque in a blue painted line leading across the walkway on Tower Bridge

Edward Roughley’s plaque in the ‘Walk of fame’

I was very pleased to walk along this and see plaques dedicated to some of steelworkers that I had researched and written about in my blog post, Tower Bridge and the work of its men of steel, men like John Heaney, riveter; Andrew Dick, blacksmith; Edward Heaney, crane driver and, a personal favourite, John Chalk, 15 year old rivet boy.

 

Kirsty Menzies, FoSH Committee

Many thanks to Tower Bridge for the invitation to the preview of  the bascule chamber event and Tower Bridge Exhibition.

4th FoSH AGM : Monday 15 May 2017, 6.30pm : Ellisland House Hotel, Ayr

The 4th Annual General Meeting (AGM) of the Friends of Seafield House (FoSH) will be held on Monday 15 May 2017 at 6.30pm at the Ellisland House Hotel, 19 Racecourse Rd, Ayr KA7 2TD

Download a pdf of the Notice and Agenda here.

Following the business of the AGM, we will have a presentation on econstruct design and build’s plans for the restoration of Seafield House, which are now at pre-planning application stage.

We look forward to welcoming all those who can attend.

Meet the author of Arrol/Eiffel inspired novel in Ayr

poster with an image of the book and details of th event.If our blog post about the launch of Beatrice Colin’s latest book, “To Capture What You Cannot Keep”, has whetted your appetite, then come along to join us for a drink and hear more about it at Waterstones Ayr on the 2 March at 7pm.

Beatrice will be there to discuss and read excerpts from her novel, and if the Glasgow launch is anything to go by, it will be a very enjoyable evening. Afterwards Beatrice will be happy to sign copies of her book.

The novel is beautifully written and and builds a very evocative atmosphere of Paris in the late 1880s. It is based around the construction of the Eiffel Tower, and as it grows, so does the romance between Caitriona Wallace and Emile Nougier. Cait and the Arrol niece and nephew are fictional creations, but many of the characters are based on historical figures and have been well researched, including William Arrol. Although he isn’t one of the central characters, he has a strong presence throughout the novel and has been sympathetically portrayed. In the story, during an encounter with William Arrol, a reference is made to the house he was building in Ayr “with a vast conservatory and a view of the Firth of Clyde”, what was to become Seafield House.

Friends of Seafield House (FoSH) have organised the evening in association with Waterstones Ayr who are putting on the event to celebrate World Book Day and the launch of the novel, with its Ayr connections. Drinks will be served in store from 6.30pm and members of the FoSH committee will be there to answer any questions about Seafield House and Sir William Arrol.

Tickets are free and available now from Waterstones in Ayr or by phoning 01292 262600.  Further details are on the Waterstones Ayr website and Facebook page.

Arrol and Eiffel inspiration captured in fiction

Last night saw the launch, in Glasgow, of Beatrice Colin’s latest novel To Capture What We Cannot Keep.  It is a story of love in the 1880s set around the construction of the Eiffel Tower and may be the first work of fiction to feature Sir William Arrol.

Cover artwork with image of the Eiffel Tower

It follows the romance between Émile Nouguier, one of the engineers who designed the Eiffel Tower and Cait Wallace, a young widow and chaperone to Alice and James, a niece and nephew of Sir William Arrol. Whilst Cait and the Arrol siblings are purely fictional characters, Beatrice has cleverly woven them into a story based around historical fact.  She was inspired to write the story following a visit to Paris which sparked her interest in the Eiffel Tower and she chose Émile Nouguier as a central character for the story.  Beatrice also wanted to introduce a Scottish dimension to the story and it was only when she discovered that Gustave Eiffel had attended the opening of the Forth Bridge that the Arrol connection was made.  As Beatrice has pointed out, both Nouguier and Arrol are responsible for building famous iconic structures, like the Eiffel Tower and the Forth Bridge, and yet, despite their achievements, the two engineers are relatively unknown.

Beatrice Colin lives in Glasgow and is a novelist and lecturer in creative writing, and this is her 7th published book.  It was during her research on Sir William Arrol that first introduced Beatrice to Friends of Seafield House, when she came along to the launch of the campaign, back in 2012.  Since then we have been intrigued to hear how her story developed and eagerly anticipated its completion.

To celebrate its publication, Friends of Seafield House have arranged with Waterstones bookshop in Ayr to host an evening event with Beatrice Colin on 2 March.  Keep an eye on this page for further details if you would like to come along and hear Beatrice read some excerpts and talk about her novel.

Bascule Chamber Concerts Return

Following the success of the Bascule Chambers performances last year, Iain Chambers is returning to the Totally Thames Festival this September with a new programme to be performed  inside the Tower Bridge bascule chambers.

Bascule Chamber by Martin Deutsch - on Flickr https://flic.kr/p/qJJrVB under Creative Commons
Bascule Chamber by Martin Deutsch – on Flickr https://flic.kr/p/qJJrVB under Creative Commons

All the steelwork for Tower Bridge was manufactured by William Arrol & Co. Ltd. in Glasgow and shipped down to London for construction. Bascules are the steel sections of the bridge which lift to allow passage of tall ships underneath. The bascule chambers are massive, brick-lined spaces which house the counterweights that enable the bascules to be raised.

Performances of “Bascule Chambers” are being held on the weekend of the 24th and 25th September. A unique opportunity to admire Arrol’s engineering prowess whilst listening to classic and contemporary music in the atmospheric subterranean chamber.

Further information on the performances can be found on the Totally Thames website.

Further information on bridge tours can be found on the Tower Bridge Exhibition website.