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Blackburn House, West Lothian

Blackburn House, West Lothian

The restoration of an 18th Century, A listed villa in West Lothian

Overview

Blackburn House is an 18th Century, A listed villa located in West Lothian. Built in 1772 by George Moncrieff, it is a fine example of the Palladian style and includes some unique features such as internal timber panelling and high quality Rococo plasterwork in the main rooms.

Blackburn House had been unoccupied since the 1970s during which time the condition of the property deteriorated, with potential collapse or demolition feared in the future. As such, the Scottish Historic Buildings Trust (SHBT) took ownership of the building in 2005 and arranged a three year restoration, bringing the property back into use as office accommodation and studios for the creative industries.

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Interior of Blackburn House © Angus Bremner

Approach

Before the SHBT took ownership of the property, a comprehensive feasibility study for the restoration and re-use of the property was undertaken.

Work began on-site in December 2005, and completed in May 2008. Initial work included protecting the building from collapse with a multitude of supporting props to prevent further distortion of the fabric and cracking. The roofs and guttering were repaired first, as water ingress was the main cause of decay within the property. A long period of drying out was required before any internal work could take place.

The refurbishment work ensured the retention of much of the building’s original fabric, whilst ensuring that modern facilities were available for future building tenants. This included the restoration of a stone ‘pencheck’ stair which had slumped due to its timber supports rotting – the stair was jacked up and the supports rebuilt. In addition, the lavish internal decoration in the main reception rooms, baroque joinery and Rococo plasterwork, was carefully restored by skilled modern craftsmen.

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Main stair and entrance hall, before and after restoration

('After' image © Angus Bremner)

The proposed end use, as a centre for creative industries, required heavy electrical cabling and services to be installed in rooms. This had to be carefully located to ensure the historic fabric was not compromised too greatly. The principal rooms were intended to be available for hire as period film sets and as such all modern interventions are hidden or removable.

To improve access, a lift was inserted into the building to provide access for all.

Externally, orange, ochre-coloured lime harling was found to be the original wall covering, and this was re-applied during the restoration.

Performance

The entire project was costed at over £3.5million, which was met through a fundraising campaign. Funding was awarded by the Heritage Lottery Fund, West Lothian Council and Historic Scotland.

The property was the UK winner of the Country House Restoration section of the Georgian Group Architectural Awards 2008.

Lessons

Blackburn House has been expertly and sensitively restored and now offers an extensive range of modern facilities for the creative industries available to rent including office and workshop space.

 

"The restoration of Blackburn House is a great success and a modern representation of the triumph of perseverance over all manner of difficulty." John Campbell QC

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Case Study

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