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.
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.
FoSH are delighted to see that the restoration of Seafield House has reached another landmark stage with the apartments now being marketed.
There are 10 apartments each with their own distinctive character which have been named in commemoration of the life and works of Sir William Arrol. The first to be completed will be Apartment 6, “The Forth”, which is the only new build apartment in the development. It is built on the footprint of the former conservatory and has its own external entrance through the original doorway with 1888 (the year Seafield House construction began) carved above. The other apartments will be accessed via the original entrance porch and vestibule which open into the grand main hall. These are currently at different stages of construction but it is hoped that all will be completed before the end of the year. The FoSH Committee are very pleased with the progress that has been made, especially recognising the impact of the Covid pandemic and Brexit.
Robin Ghosh and Derek Shennan of Econstruct Estates Seafield Ltd have put a lot of thought and care into the restoration. The plans have given the apartments a contemporary style while retaining some of the original character features of the rooms. For example, in what was the billiard room (now Apartment 4, “The Dalmarnock”) original timbers were used as a template to recreate the curved ceiling and a large glazed roof lantern installed in the centre. This and other features can be seen in the marketing brochure which shows the floor plans for each apartment and images of how these will look once completed.
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.
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.
There may be no cantilevers in sight but we hope you will find the exhibition riveting nonetheless.
The Mail Online recently published an article showing photographs of the decaying interiors of Seafield House. The images show the very sad state of the building with rotten ceilings and floors, with mould and damp and exposed brickwork.
Unfortunately the article contains several inaccuracies and fails to mention Friends of Seafield House (FoSH), and the campaigning FoSH has done with SAVE Britiain’s Heritage to ensure that the house is not destroyed. FoSH continue to push for progress on development of Seafield House and hope that action will be taken soon before what remains of the architectural detail decays beyond restoration.
FoSH would urge people not to attempt to enter the building. Not only is the structure very unsafe, but the creation of entry points into the buildings will encourage others to go inside who could cause further damage, either accidentally or on purpose.
If you would like to do something to help Seafield House then support the work of FoSH and follow our news and events online.
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.
As a lover of music, I am sure Sir William Arrol would have been fascinated to learn that Scottish Opera are going to be performing at the Titan Crane in Clydebank on 30th June and 1st July. In rare moments of leisure time at Seafield House he loved to listen to music on his gramophone or sometimes host live performances in the drawing room. When Sir William Arrol & Company finished building the Titan Crane in 1907 the site was very much an industrial working shipyard and the last place you would expect to find the opera. John Brown’s shipyard has long since closed down and instead of lifting heavy equipment the giant cantilever crane, now one of only 4 remaining on the Clyde, functions as a tourist attraction.
Titan Crane, Clydebank
It is not so surprising then that Scottish Opera have chosen this as one of the sites on their Pop-up Opera tour of Scotland. Each show provides a 25 snippet of an opera, performed in a specially adapted trailer.
There are 3 operas to choose from:
A Little Bit of Northern Light
A Little Bit of Mikado
A Little Bit of Figaro
There still seem to be a few tickets available but they may be snapped up soon. Ticket price is just £5 and includes a trip up the crane, where you can appreciate the mastery of Arrol’s work.
As part of the Totally Thames Festival in September there will be a novel opportunity to see some of Sir William Arrol’s engineering, inside the Tower Bridge bascule chambers, whilst listening to a performance of Iain Chamber’s composition “Bascule Chambers”.
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. Iain Chamber’s composition is based around the sounds made as the bascules are raised, so essentially the bridge becomes the musical instrument and is supported by 4 brass players. The premiere of the composition will be the first ever public performance inside the chamber.
Sir William Arrol was very fond of music and often held live performances in the large wooden panelled hall at Seafield House. I don’t suppose that, as he supervised work on Tower Bridge, he ever imagined that the chambers would be used as a venue for a musical performance although he may have commented on the acoustics of the cave-like space.
The Seafield House story featured on Reporting Scotland on 6th May has certainly sparked a lot of interest in this beautiful building. One unexpected area of interest, is that from the aerial photography sector. Photographers have been using drones to capture images of the building from the air and sharing them on You Tube.
These incredible videos give us a bird’s eye view of the state of dereliction of the building. The roof is mostly gone and there is a lot of vegetation that has taken over. However, they also give us a greater insight into the solid construction of the building, with the structural walls relatively intact and the steelwork supports, as influenced by Arrol himself, are clearly evident. It also gives the opportunity to get a closer view of the quality of the architectural features at the upper levels. As the camera angles sweep across the tower towards the Ayrshire coast and the sea we get a real insight into how Sir William Arrol would have enjoyed these views from his home over 100 years ago.
Image captured from That Image Rokz’s aerial video, Exploring Seafield House in Ayr
We are very grateful to the film makers for permission to use the films on our website and have added them to our Gallery page.
Sadly Robin Ghosh, of econstruct design & build website, was unable to attend the FoSH AGM on 19 May, due to family illness. Instead he gave an update to Lianne Hackett, FoSH Secretary, to be read out at the AGM.
We are making progress on Seafield House, but the pace is a little slower than planned.
We are working up our planning application. The phase 1 habitat survey is now complete.
This has shown that there are no protected species other than bats. We will commission a
specialist bat survey in due course.
The tree survey is underway. The full survey will be complete in the next two weeks.
This work is in preparation for the constraints plan for the site. Again, this is underway.
We have completed minor remedial works on site. Lower level gutters are now clean. We
have given the green light to a specialist company that will clear the upper gutters.
We have installed new security lighting and have two further light standards to go in. This will
be done shortly.
We appreciate that more substantial work is needed. This is a big commitment for us, as a
small company. We are looking into a joint-funding approach to reinstate the roof. We want
to do this soonest as reinstating the roof is key to getting the building wind and watertight.
This work is at an early stage.
We hope to hold a community BBQ over the coming months to meet local residents and
communicate more of our plans.
Robin Ghosh, as dictated to Lianne Hackett, FoSH Secretary on 19 May 2015
We look forward to hearing further news of Robin’s progress.