Seafield House Update: Work progressing after lockdown period

Photograph of the entrance to Seafield House with scaffolding erected to second floor

When we posted our last update in February little did we imagine that a worldwide pandemic would take hold, bringing massive challenges and changes to our lives. From March works were halted and businesses closed due to strict Coronavirus lockdown measures, including those at Seafield House. As lockdown restrictions eased work resumed on site and now much progress can be seen.

Work on Seafield House is underway and it is surrounded by scaffolding with a soft strip of the interior being carried out. Work on the new build homes on its grounds has also progressed, with the site marked out and foundations being laid.

The sales centre is open and banners have been put up showing the vision of how the finished Seafield Gardens development will look.

Friends of Seafield House will be following the build and sharing photographs on the website as it develops. Check out the timeline on our Gallery page to see how it changes over time.

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.

 

 

FoSH 2020 Annual General Meeting: Postponed

Given the current coronavirus lockdown and the prospect of extension, the FoSH 2020 AGM, is postponed. As set out in our Founding Deed, our AGM is to be held in May. This we have done over the past six years, but there is no prospect of being able to do so in the exceptional circumstances of this year.

The last FoSH Committee Meeting before lockdown was held on 20 February. At the meeting, the FoSH Committee agreed to hold this our seventh AGM on 18 May 2020. The meeting will instead be held at a date to be confirmed later in the year.

The FoSH Committee will give the required two-week’s notice of the new meeting date.

 

FoSH Secretary
2 May 2020

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.

Seafield House Update : Work Commences on Site

SH site photos 7

Following South Ayrshire Council Regulatory Panel (Planning)’s unanimous approval of the Seafield House planning application for the restoration & conversion of Seafield House into apartments by Econstruct Estates Seafield and the construction, with its partner Westpoint Homes, of 27 new-build homes in the grounds, FoSH was pleased to hear from the developer on 17 February that work was to commence on site that day.

FoSH Committee Members have viewed the site and can already see progress in site preparation for the new build homes. We look forward to hearing when work commences on the first phase of the work to restore and convert into apartments Seafield House.

SH site photo 6

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.

FoSH Welcomes Planning Approval with Conditions for the Restoration & Conversion of Seafield House into Apartments and Enabling Development of New Homes in the Grounds

19_00269_LBC-3D_Visual__Seafield_House__as_Proposed-714855Friends of Seafield House welcomes the approval with conditions by South Ayrshire Council Regulatory Panel (Planning) this morning – 14 November 2019 – of the planning application by Econstruct Estates Seafield Ltd & Westpoint Homes Ltd for the restoration, conversion & extension of Seafield House to form 10 residential units and building of 27 new homes in the grounds. Listed Building Consent (LBC) for the restoration and conversion of Seafield House was granted with conditions under delegated powers on 29 October 2019.

This link is to the decision notice and documents relating to the granting of Listed Building Consent.

This link is to the Panel Report and planning application documents.

FoSH Chair, Patrick Lorimer, spoke in support of the application. In giving approval, Panel Members spoke of approval being a “hard” decision, but that they saw the application as a “last chance” to save Seafield House, saying it is a building “we can’t afford to lose“.

FoSH welcomes the additional condition put to the meeting by officers and agreed by the Panel for a landscape aftercare and maintenance plan.

Robin Ghosh, Director of Econstruct Estates Seafield Ltd, confirmed to the Panel on behalf of the developers that fulfilment of planning condition 2 (*) means not only completion of the exterior of Seafield House but 60-65% completion of the internal fit-out.  FoSH welcomes this assurance in achieving completion of the 10 Seafield House apartments concurrent with completion of the new builds.

Next year – 2020 – marks the 130th anniversary of Sir William Arrol completing his home at Seafield and one of his major construction achievements, the Forth Bridge. FoSH looks forward to 2020 also marking significant positive change in Seafield House becoming once again a home.

(*) “That notwithstanding the plans hereby approved, no more than 16 of the 27 new build dwellings hereby approved shall be occupied for residential use before Seafield House is rendered wind and watertight by works, including the completion of the “Proposed Roof Plan Seafield House” Edesign Drawing No. 18-0284-PL-SH-15.”

Seafield House Planning Application Recommended for Approval + Conditions: Listed Building Consent granted under Delegated Powers

Friends of Seafield House welcome the recommendation by South Ayrshire Council Planning Officers to South Ayrshire Council Regulatory Panel – Planning for Approval with conditions of the Planning Application by Econstruct Estates Seafield Ltd & Westpoint Homes Ltd for the restoration, conversion & extension of Seafield House to form 10 residential units and building of 27 new homes in the grounds. The recommendation was published on 30 October 2019. Listed Building Consent (LBC) with conditions was granted under delegated powers on 29 October 2019.

This link is to the decision notice and documents relating to the application for Listed Building Consent.

This link is to the Planning Application Report and documents relating to the application.

The Planning Application Report will be considered by SAC Regulatory Panel – Planning on 14 November 2019. FoSH Chair, Patrick Lorimer, has requested to speak. FoSH’s responses in support of the applications and the conditions for that support can be found via this link.

FoSH welcomes support for the application and the positive neutral responses made by SAVE Britain’s Heritage and Bill Grant MP. FoSH notes that the Planning Application Report sets out under 2. Consultations “No response received.” from Fort Seafield & Wallacetown Community Council.

FoSH will publish shortly our considered response to the content of the planning application report. FoSH’s initial response is to welcome the statement in the report summary:

“The approval of the 27 dwellinghouses is only acceptable in planning terms on the basis that it can be demonstrated that it secures the restoration and re-use of Seafield House,
otherwise it would be contrary to planning policy due to the extensive removal of trees subject to a Tree Preservation Order, impact on the setting of a listed building, insufficient amenity space and affordable housing provision. It is considered that the proposal is capable of positive consideration against the terms of the Local Development Plan and associated guidance. It is recommended that the application be approved
subject to conditions.”

and in the development proposal:

“The proposed development can be considered as two distinct parts, namely the restoration and conversion of Seafield House and the erection of new build dwellinghouses within the grounds of Seafield House. However, these two elements are intrinsically linked.”

FoSH will also publish the decision of SAC Regulatory Panel – Planning following conclusion of its deliberations of SAC Planning Officers recommendation for Approval with conditions.

Celebrating 125 years of Tower Bridge and the work of its ‘men of steel’

Yesterday we celebrated with Tower Bridge the 125th anniversary of its opening on 30 June 1894.  On anniversaries like these we always remember the bridge designers and main contractors, but we should also remember the individual construction workers whose toil and skill helped build this iconic structure. Little is written about these men and boys but research carried out by FoSH committee member, Kirsty Menzies, for Tower Bridge helped to reveal stories of some of the steelworkers.

Colour photograph of Tower Bridge showing the central towers, bascules and side spans.

Tower Bridge, London

Today we take a look back at these ‘men of steel’ in a blog post based on this research and published on our Sir William Arrol website.  The stories of the workers demonstrate the high level of skill that Sir William Arrol & Company Limited required of them.  It also tells of the experienced men who were deployed to Tower Bridge to ensure the successful completion of its steel structure.

Read more about the Tower Bridge ‘men of steel’.