• bird's eye view of a derelict building surrounded by trees

Mavisbank will be saved

Thanks to a major grant of £5.3m from the National Heritage Memorial Fund we are now able to begin rescuing Mavisbank: one of the most important buildings at risk in Britain.

A major grant received to rescue Mavisbank

Campaigners have laboured for decades to save the 300-year-old architectural gem in Midlothian, Scotland, from collapse following a catastrophic fire 50 years ago. Its terrible condition and uncertain ownership have left this ‘Category A’ masterpiece in a derelict and highly perilous state.

The Landmark Trust has been working with Midlothian Council, Historic Environment Scotland, the Mavisbank Trust and others to identify a viable solution to Mavisbank’s woes for many years, and made the application to the National Heritage Memorial Fund in January 2024 believing the house met the criteria of being of ‘outstanding importance to the national heritage’. The grant will enable Landmark to pursue phase one of a fresh plan to give Mavisbank House a vibrant and sustainable future.

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A bright future for Mavisbank

The vital first phase will see the crumbling building and pavilions stabilised before any more historic fabric falls away, enable up-to-date condition surveys and resolve the long-standing ownership and access issues.

A second phase is planned to involve the restoration of the house with extensive opportunities for people to learn traditional skills and follow the work in progress. The end use is expected to be a mixture of accommodation for short residential stays and public access, including regular free open days.

The grant is the major enabler in a funding package which also includes £1.338m raised to date from various other sources, including the Landmark Trust’s own funds. In order to complete the project we must raise a further £1.162m – and for this we need your help.

Help us to complete this ambitious project

A derelict building surrounded by grass and trees

Community engagement aspirations

Landmark aspires to deliver high quality training opportunities for people from all backgrounds. We hope to run traditional craft skills taster days for local secondary schools, work experience and apprentice placements with our main contractors, and CPD webinars sharing the expertise being developed on our project with the wider industry.

For our local communities, we will offer family friendly volunteering opportunities, public hard hat tours, behind the scenes scaffold tours, and talks about the history and stories of the building and the people who have lived and worked there.

All activities will be listed here on our website, communicated via our mailing list and engagement social media channels.

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A group of people standing outside a derelict building

The history of Mavisbank House

Mavisbank was built from 1723-7. It was designed architect William Adam, and his client, Sir John Clerk of nearby Penicuik. Clerk absorbed European culture during his Grand Tour in the 1690s, and at Mavisbank he created his vision of a classical villa for civilised retreat to the countryside, situated within a beautiful valley that he gently landscaped. Clerk became a major figure in the Scottish Enlightenment after the Union with England in 1707.

The Clerks of Penicuik sold Mavisbank on in 1811. In 1876 the house was bought by a group of pioneering Edinburgh doctors as a private asylum. Dr John Batty Tuke, the asylum’s director, modernised mental health practices by treating it as a medical (rather than a criminal) condition. Mavisbank patients participated in gardening therapies under its remarkable Head Gardener Mary E. Burton, self-educated and the first female professional gardener in Scotland.

The asylum closed in the 1950s and was sold again to a private owner, who used the site as a car breakers yard. A disastrous fire in 1973 was followed by abandonment. The building was left a roofless shell, saved from demolition in 1987 only thanks to public outcry.

Read more about Mavisbank's history  

A black and white image taken i
  • A stone door frame covered in foliage

    Neglected for 50 years

    The ornate architecture of the building is still visible as it crumbles into further disrepair.

  • Mavisbank derelict interior 600x400

    Derelict inside and out

    Remnants of the original interior can be seen, surrounded by overgrown foliage and crumbling walls.

  • Mavisbank Doors Open Day tour 600x400

    Doors Open Day tour 2023

    A group from the local community on a guided tour of the site

  • Mavisbank drone 600x400

    A bird's eye view

    Pictured from above, the main mansion is adjoined to two smaller buildings.

  • Mavisbank late 19th century 600x400

    Across the centuries

    The front exterior of Mavisbank pictured in the late 19th century.

Sky News Breakfast with Kay Burley

Our Director, Anna Keay, on how Mavisbank can be saved

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Get in touch

Contact [email protected] with any questions