Peek inside restored Botanics cottage

In its heyday it was a centre of learning standing proudly at the gateway to the old Botanic Garden.

Tuesday, 28th July 2015, 10:25 am
The cottage takes shape in the Botanics. Picture: Neil Hanna

But when the gardens were moved, the landmark cottage fell into disrepair and was only saved from demolition following public outcry.

Now its fortunes have been revived – and today the Evening News can reveal the first pictures taken inside the building since it was transported brick by brick from its original home on Leith Walk to the current Botanics in Inverleith.

The restored building will be given a new lease of life as an education centre opening in October, exactly 250 years after it was built.

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The rebuilding of the Botanic Cottage.

The painstaking feat of transporting the building 1.7 miles has cost a total of £1.65 million and has been fraught with difficulties.

But Sutherland Forsyth, community engagement co-ordinator, said it was all worth it to see the building back in its “spiritual home”.

He added: “We are incredibly excited because we are now just a couple of months away from completing the rebuilding of this amazing Edinburgh landmark, where all medical students used to be taught botany during the height of the Scottish Enlightenment. We are going to be transforming it into a new community and education centre so that people can discover the world of plants in one of the world’s most amazing gardens.

“It’s incredible to see it rebuilt because, when it was first created, it was built as a place of welcome, a place of community and as a place of learning and that’s exactly what it’s going to become again. It is quite remarkable to move a building across a city and I can think of few organisations who have managed to do something quite so unusual as this.”

Outside the cottage. Picture: Neil Hanna

Between 1763 and 1823, the Botanic Garden was based on the five-acre site on Leith Walk and at its entrance stood the Botanic Cottage.

It served as a gateway, a home for the principal gardener, and a classroom for students during the Scottish Enlightenment.

The cottage became a private house after the garden moved and was threatened with demolition in the mid-2000s, but it is now being restored using many of the original pieces of stonework and timber.

Each section that could be saved was numbered, allowing it to be reassembled like a giant jigsaw puzzle. And when these pieces were beyond repair, traditional building methods and materials were used to make it as authentic as possible.

The restoration takes shape. Picture: Neil Hanna
The former site on Leith Walk.