Historic Midlothian mansion denied lottery funding for second time

A bid to save a crumbling historic 18th-century mansion in Midlothian has been turned down for National Lottery funding for a second time.

Tuesday, 13th July 2021, 4:45 pm

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Mavisbank House, a stately home at Loanhead designed by the renowned architect William Adam, is one of the country’s earliest neo-classical houses as well as the first Palladian villa to be built in Scotland

It dates back to 1723 but was gutted by fire in 1973, although the exterior of the building – commissioned by leading Enlightenment figure Sir John Clerk of Penicuik – survived the blaze.

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Mavisbank House dates back to 1723 but was devastated by fire in 1973
Mavisbank House dates back to 1723 but was devastated by fire in 1973

The Mavisbank Trust has campaigned since 2002 to save the building, which has been designated by Europa Nostra as one of the most endangered historical sites. And the trust says it is now at risk of collapse.

A previous application for National Lottery funding was rejected eight years ago and the latest bid has fared no better.

Former Midlothian Labour MSP Rhona Brankin, chair of the Mavisbank Trust, said: “We are absolutely devastated by this news. Mavisbank was runner up in the BBC’s Restoration programme in 2003, but failed to secure any funding.

"We put in a Lottery bid in 2013 which was turned down and we were asked to put in another bid. To fail to secure funding again for this wonderful building and its designed landscape is frankly shocking.”

The Mavisbank Trust says the mansion is now at risk of collapse

She said the latest project bid, by Historic Environment Scotland and the Landmark Trust, a charity which rescues important historical buildings, would have saved Scotland’s most important small country house and its grounds for the future, as well as securing much-needed investment and jobs for Midlothian.

In 2019, Midlothian Council agreed to use its statutory power of compulsory purchase to acquire legal title to Mavisbank House, but only once a viable funding package was in place to restore the building. The cost of a full restoration was estimated at the time at around £20 million.

Ms Brankin said: “This latest pioneering bid would have created a sustainable future for Mavisbank house by creating self-catering accommodation enabling thousands of people to stay for holidays or visit.

“One of the pavilions would have been developed as a skill centre and the other as a community wing. A community greenspace would have been created in the 70-acre grounds and the designed landscape restored with its wonderful biodiversity respected.

"The public would have had access to what has been a hidden landscape on the the edge of Edinburgh.”

William Adam (1689-1748), the man who designed the neo-classical Mavisbank House, was the father of three prominent architects: John, Robert and James. The latter two sons would later be recognised as the developers of the “Adam style”.

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