In 1806, John Dunlop acquired four acres of land, commonly called Gottrays Fauld. Over the next few years, he acquired further land and built a large house which, in 1817, he sold to Robert Glasgow of Montgreenan. A later owner, John Orr McTaggart, enlarged the property by acquiring part of the lands of Cunning Park and a property known as “The Old Viewhouse”, thus transforming what was essentially a summer house into an enviable small estate, which was now known as Seafield.
After McTaggart’s death, the estate was bought by Ayr Town Council with the intention of dividing it into plots for house-building. However, in 1887, while completing the Tay Bridge (1883-1887), building the Forth Rail Bridge (1883-1890), and preparing to build London Tower Bridge (1886-1894), renowned Scottish engineer William Arrol took the tenancy of Seafield and, “having found the situation fit for his purpose”, acquired the entire estate looking “to prepare himself a place where in the intervals of work he might enjoy retired leisure.”
The original house had no architectural or historical claims, so Arrol proceeded to pull it down and build in its place a large and handsome mansion. The architects were Clarke & Bell, of Glasgow, but “in its general features the new building was designed by Sir William himself”. Work began in 1888; the build cost was over £8000.
In this setting of fifty acres of land stretching down to the shorefront, William Arrol designed the mansion with a magnificent four-storey Italianate tower, expansive conservatory and a heated supply of sea water for the saline baths that he took as a curative measure. Internally, Seafield was extremely well appointed with a magnificent library, valuable art collection of some three hundred paintings and a large and beautiful hall with excellent acoustics for musical performances.
After Sir William’s death in 1913, Seafield House was briefly let out before being used for a time during WW1 by the Red Cross as an auxiliary hospital for wounded soldiers. In 1920, the Maternity and Child Welfare Joint Committee acquired Seafield House for £16,500. On 12th October 1921, Seafield opened as a maternity hospital of fourteen beds and a children’s hospital of thirty four beds.
The hospital adapted and changed over the years, becoming the Seafield Sick Children’s Hospital in 1944 on the removal of maternity beds to Irvine. In 1952, the original Victorian conservatory was removed and a “state of the art” extension built in its place providing a casualty centre, an x-ray department, two operating theatres, an out-patient department and new cubicles, all at the cost of £25,000.
The Hospital was threatened with closure in the 1970’s but the Ayrshire people rallied to save it and following the original “Save Our Seafield” campaign presented a petition of 32,000 signatures to the Health Board. The hospital was given a reprieve but finally, after seventy years of service, at the end of October 1991, all patients were transferred to the new South Ayrshire Hospital and the doors of Seafield Sick Children’s Hospital closed for the last time.
The building was used briefly as the Health Board’s headquarters but then Seafield House lay empty and boarded up for many years. In 2008 the house was gutted by fire where the roof was lost and beautiful interiors destroyed and left open to the elements.
Several attempts were made to sell the house, but without success. In 2009 Ayrshire & Arran NHS Trust applied for permission to demolish Seafield House and were refused. A second application to demolish was withdrawn in 2012, following strong local and national opposition. With the building under serious risk, Friends of Seafield House was set up in October 2012 and, with the support of SAVE Britain’s Heritage and others, began its campaign to save the house. In September 2013, NHS Ayrshire & Arran commissioned Ryden, the commercial property agent, to launch a new enabling development opportunity marketing campaign for Seafield House. Subsequently the house was sold to Econstruct Design and Build in October 2014. With his fellow Director, Derek Shennan, Robin Ghosh set up Econstruct Estates Seafield Ltd to restore and convert Seafield House into apartments and partnered with Westpoint Homes to develop the grounds. Robin Ghosh was committed to the purchase of Seafield House from the outset. His late father, Dr Brian Ghosh, had been a consultant surgeon at Seafield Hospital.
Seafield House is being restored and converted into 10 apartments and Westpoint Homes is building 27 new houses in the grounds. As at December 2021, all but one of the newbuilds is sold and the first owners have moved into their new homes, including in the aptly named Arrol Road. Marketing for the 10 apartments in Seafield House will commence in the new year.