Cottage industry at Botanics set to be rewarded

Sutherland Forsyth, community engagement co-ordinator and Capital Projects Manager, Gerry Gallagher. Picture: Neil Hanna

Sutherland Forsyth, community engagement co-ordinator and Capital Projects Manager, Gerry Gallagher. Picture: Neil Hanna

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IT’S the painstaking project aimed at uprooting and rebuilding a historic structure brick by brick – exactly 250 years after it was first constructed.

Now the Botanic Cottage is in the running for a top architectural award before it has even opened its door to the public.

First built more than two centuries ago, the cottage once served as a gateway to the Royal Botanic Garden when it was based off Leith Walk. But when the Botanics moved to its current Inverleith site, the stone structure was left redundant and eventually faced demolition.

In 2008, it was painstakingly dismantled to make way for a new hotel, with each stone carefully numbered, transported and stored.

The long process of rebuilding the cottage in the Garden’s current home was then started – and, seven years later, is nearing completion.

And now the ambitious project to conserve this almost forgotten piece of Edinburgh heritage has been nominated for Best Georgian Garden/Landscape at the Georgian Society’s prestigious annual Architectural Awards.

Sutherland Forsyth, community engagement co-ordinator for the Botanic Cottage project, insisted the sought-after gong was a “fantastic pat on the back” for everyone who had worked on the building.

And he hoped the project had secured the cottage’s future for at least another 250 years – with its restoration marking the beginning of its new life.

“Irrespective of whether the cottage wins, it is a marvellous testament to the unique nature of this project, that we’ve been nominated for a UK-wide award as we put the finishing touches to the building,” he said.

“It’s a great boost for the many craftsmen who have worked to bring the cottage back to life. When you stand in it now, it seems quite amazing that firstly it’s now happening, and secondly that we are just a couple of weeks from being handed the keys.

“It’s not been an easy project, obviously, because it’s moving a building stone-by-stone, and there’s no manual for something like that.”

Mr Forsyth said furniture would be moved into the completed cottage over the next few weeks, before the building is “informally” opened in December to play host to a small number of events. The official opening will then take place next Spring.

The Georgian Society’s annual Architectural Awards are now in their 13th year and are set to be held at the Royal Institute of British Architects in London next month.

The prizes recognise “exemplary conservation and restoration projects” – with previous winners including Kensington Palace. The completed cottage will become a centre for community and education work, and for community visits.