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.
Patrick Lorimer and Sheriff Iona Sara McDonald at the ‘Spanning the Centuries’ exhibition. Photographer: Nigel Hackett
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
The new membership year started with our AGM on 15 May 2017 and it is time for membership renewals or for those who would like to become FoSH members to become a Friend of Seafield House. Corporate memberships are also welcome. Details are to be found in the Membership section of our website.
FoSH continue to monitor the building and will continue to update the local Seafield community by leaflet and personal contact and maintain our website, Facebook page and Twitter feed over the time that it takes for planning permission and consents for the restoration of Seafield House as residential apartments and the building of the small number of houses in the grounds as the enabling development.
We would welcome your support in this hopeful year for Seafield House. Please become a Friend or renew your membership by completing the form in the Membership section of our website.
The exhibition Sir William Arrol: A Renfrewshire Connection, is due to finish in the next couple of days. If you haven’t already been along to the Paisley Heritage Centre to see it you have until this Saturday.
The exhibition has been mounted by Friends of Seafield House to coincide with the 2015 meeting of the World Heritage Committee in Germany. The exhibition gives the background to UNESCO World Heritage nominations and why, in particular the Forth Bridge was a worthy submission. When it was announced on the 5th July that the Forth Bridge was to become a World Heritage Site we had to make a quick addition to the display. Being optimistic that it would be a positive result, we were well prepared and had stickers already made up with the winning announcement.
The exhibition is also a celebration of Sir William’s strong connections with Renfrewshire. He was born in the village of Houston and grew up in Paisley, and the exhibition tells of his early career as a blacksmith and engineer there. It also looks at the manufacturer of Arrol-Johnston cars in Paisley and Sir William Arrol’s connections to the earliest motor cars built in the UK. Sir William Arrol never forgot his roots and when he died his body was carried from his home at Seafield House in Ayr to Woodside Cemetery in Paisley, where he was buried.
As well as the FoSH display boards, the Heritage Centre have provided a display of resources from their archives and have set up iPads with links to relevant websites, so visitors to the exhibition will be able to find out more about Sir William Arrol and the Forth Bridge.
David Miller, BBC Scotland’s environment and transport correspondent, returned to his roots on Friday to cover a story on the future of Seafield House. Having had his tonsils removed at Seafield Children’s Hospital, David had a personal interest in the story of the building.
Committee members of Friends of Seafield House (FoSH) together with Robin Ghosh of econstruct,who recently bought the house, gathered in the grounds of Seafield to be interviewed for radio and TV.
David Miller, BBC correspondent, interviewing outside Seafield House
FoSH committee members were asked about the importance of the house and what had inspired em to campaign to save it, whilst Robin Ghosh, was asked about his plans for future development of Seafield House and it’s grounds.
The recent introduction of the Clydesdale Bank £5 note, bearing the portrait of Sir William Arrol, has helped raise his profile in the public domain. It is exciting to see that now the house he built will also have it’s profile raised through these radio and TV features.
We don’t yet know when the items will broadcast but we will be sure to post it on the website, facebook and twitter feeds once we do know.
All Friends of Seafield House members and Friends are warmly invited to attend our Second Annual General Meeting (AGM).
It will be held on Tuesday 19 May 2015 at 6pm at the Ellisland House Hotel, 19 Racecourse Rd, Ayr KA7 2TD.
Tea, coffee & shortbread will be served (£2 – donation appreciated). It would be helpful in gauging numbers for refreshments, if you would kindly advise the FoSH Secretary by Monday 11 May 2015 that you plan to attend.
This week marked a special anniversary in the life of Sir William Arrol. It was 125 years ago on 4 March 1890 that the Forth Bridge was officially opened and that Sir William Arrol received his knighthood.
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 it’s construction. It took 54,000 tons of steel to build and at 2, 467 metres was the longest bridge in the world when it was completed.
William Arrol assists the Prince of Wales to place the last rivet in the Forth Rail Bridge.
The bridge was opened by the Prince of Wales who drove the last rivet into the bridge with the assistance of William Arrol. At the luncheon following the opening the Prince of Wales made a speech in which he announced that Queen Victoria had conferred a knighthood on William Arrol in recognition of his great achievement in the construction of the bridge.
A wonder of it’s age, the Bridge remains today a landmark structure and icon of British engineering. A nomination for it to be given World Heritage Status has been submitted to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) and the decision is expected in June this year.
Further information on Sir William Arrol, his life and work, can be found on a new website SirWilliamArrol.scot which is currently under construction by one of the Friends of Seafield House committee.
Members of the Friends of Seafield House Committee are also looking forward to attending a lecture to mark the 125th Anniversary at the ICE Scotland Museum in the William Arrol Building at Heriot-Watt University on 27 March. The lecture will focus on the Bridge’s lasting legacy and an original hydraulic riveting machine, used to bolt in many of the 7M rivets will also be unveiled at the event.
On hearing the news that Seafield House was saved, last week Chic Brodie MSP lodged a motion in the Scottish Parliament to congratulate Friends of Seafield House. The motion was published today in the Motions and Amendments on The Scottish Parliament website.
*S4M-11191 Chic Brodie: Seafield House in Ayr—That the Parliament congratulates the Friends of Seafield House in Ayr on what it understands has been their long battle to save Seafield House, which once owned by Sir William Arrol, considered one of Scotland’s greatest design and civil engineers, and believes that securing the future of the house, which it sees as an outstanding architectural and historical development, is a tribute to all of those involved in this hard fought campaign to save it for Ayr and Scotland.
As of the 28 October, the Motion is now supported by: Angus MacDonald, Kenneth Gibson, Graeme Pearson, Stuart McMillan, Graeme Dey, Rob Gibson, Bill Kidd, Joan McAlpine, Richard Lyle, Mike MacKenzie, Dennis Robertson, Adam Ingram, Anne McTaggart, David Torrance, Kevin Stewart, Gordon MacDonald, Annabelle Ewing, Christian Allard, Gil Paterson, John Scott
Our thanks go to Chic Brodie for this acknowledgement on the success of the campaign.