Our aspiration to save Mavisbank House once and for all edges forward

Arguably the most important building at risk case in the UK

 

The Landmark Trust and Historic Environment Scotland (HES) are one crucial step closer to saving the outstanding but derelict Mavisbank House near Edinburgh and transforming the surrounding landscape for the local community.

The project, led by HES and supported by Landmark, entitled Save Mavisbank, is one of twelve pioneering projects now in the running for a Heritage Horizon grant from the National Lottery Heritage Fund (NLHF). This week we have been invited to compete for a share of £50m which the NHLF is set to award as part of its Heritage Horizons scheme and we will submit a detailed application this November.

Save Mavisbank is the last credible opportunity to rescue the house, and unlock the potential of this remarkable site, after years of neglect, and in doing so be the catalyst for wider environmental, health, economic and cultural benefit. The project would also pioneer how the heritage sector approaches such seemingly intractable sites in the future and has been judged to have shown the ‘vision, ambition and the potential to be truly transformational’ by the NLHF committee.

Midlothian Council are supportive of the project, and have agreed to use its statutory power of compulsory purchase to acquire legal title to the house (whose owner has been untraceable for decades) if funding can be secured.

Built in the 1720s by Sir John Clerk of Penicuik and architect William Adam, Mavisbank brought architecture into harmony with landscape in the Esk Valley. It was a prototype for the Roman ideal of cultured retreat and Classical design that set the pattern for British architecture for the next century. After several unsuccessful attempts at rescue and after decades of abandonment, we are in danger of losing the house and pavilions to collapse. Our hope is to restore the central pavilion as Landmark, enabling thousands of people to stay for holidays in the future or visit on regular free public open days. In the other pavilions, Save Mavisbank looks to create centres for the community, learning and craft skills.

John Clerk of Penicuik ©National Galleries Scotland

The surrounding landscape is on the Inventory of Gardens and Designed Landscapes and contains areas of Ancient Woodland and High Biodiversity, with huge potential to benefit the community and environment. Following the demise of the coal mining industry, thousands of jobs have been lost to the surrounding communities, leading to pockets of deprivation coupled with chronic ill health. The rejuvenation of the landscape is massive untapped opportunity to support these communities.

Dr Anna Keay OBE, Landmark’s director, said: ‘We are thrilled to be invited to apply with Historic Environment Scotland for a Heritage Horizon award before time runs out for this exceptional site.  Our joint plan to save Mavisbank House directly addresses the aspirations of the Heritage Horizon scheme by preventing the precariously derelict building from crumbling forever. But our shared vision with Historic Environment Scotland will achieve so much more by encompassing training, economic development, wellbeing and nature conservation. Crucially, it will revive Mavisbank and give it back to the local communities who created it.’

Mavisbank Presentation ©Historic Environment Scotland from The Landmark Trust on Vimeo.

Barbara Cummins, Director of Heritage at Historic Environment Scotland, said: 'I am delighted that we, alongside The Landmark Trust, have been invited to submit an application for funding to the Heritage Horizon Awards. We have an opportunity to unlock the full potential of the Mavisbank landscape so that not only would a significant heritage site be restored and managed for the future, but an activity programme would be developed to deliver social benefits to the local community and visitors.'

Save Mavisbank and the other eleven projects now have until November 2020 to apply for development funding, with decisions made in early 2021. Some people will remember seeing Mavisbank on television in 2003 when it was a runner-up on the Restoration TV series presented by Landmark ambassador Griff Rhys Jones. Almost 20 years on, Mavisbank’s structure is even more perilous. We are determined to do all we can as one of Britain’s leading building conservation charities to ensure its survival for future generations.

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