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Strathleven House, Dumbarton

Strathleven House, Dumbarton

An A listed, 18th Century Palladian mansion has been restored from a state of disrepair, to provide modern office accommodation

Overview

Strathleven House, on the outskirts of Dumbarton, is an A listed, 18th Century Palladian mansion. It has been restored from a state of disrepair, to provide modern office accommodation.

It was built in 1700 for William Cochrane, and is thought to be the earliest surviving example of the classic Palladian country house in Scotland. Architect James Smith is credited with introducing Palladianism to Scotland, and he is attributed to Strathleven House which at the time was called Kirkmichael and later Levenside. James Ewing, a Glasgow merchant bought the house in 1830 and it was he who named it Strathleven.

Strathleven House is symmetrical, and consists of a main two storey and basement block, with lower two storey wings on either side. Unusually, the exterior remains relatively unaltered from its early 18th century appearance.

The restoration by Scottish Historic Buildings Trust (SHBT) was to ensure the retention, preservation or enhancement of those elements which contribute to the architectural, historical, aesthetic, social and cultural significance of the house and its immediate surroundings. The aim was to restore the internal fabric to its 17th century appearance whilst creating a long-term use for the building.

Approach

A family home for more than 250 years, the property and estate were compulsory purchased for new industry development after the Second World War. An industrial estate took over the grounds, and the house was largely ignored, falling increasingly into disrepair. The building suffered from vandalism and water damage and following an outbreak of dry rot in 1979, the Scottish Development Agency removed the majority of the significant interior finishes and placed them in storage.

Strathleven House was acquired by Scottish Historic Building Trust in 1986, by which time it was almost derelict with large parts of the roof and walls missing. However, large sections of interior decoration remained, including carved oak panelling, hand crafted balustrades and painted dados.

Fundraising for the project took several years, with restoration work beginning in 1993. The total project included three phases and took seven years to complete.

The restoration work gave preference to repair using original techniques used in the construction of the house. All significant surviving elements were retained and restored for use in their original location.

Phase one of the restoration comprised of structural repairs motivated by concerns that without intervention the entire building would be lost. External repairs were completed between 1993 and 1996. Phases two and three included the restoring of external features and interior decoration.

Performance

“This exemplary restoration is a fitting outcome for an extremely important house in Scottish architectural history” Robert Hislop, Historic Scotland

The cost of the restoration project was £2.4 million.

 

Strathleven Interior

Interior of Strathleven House © Paul Zanre

Lessons

The results of the restoration project are high quality office accommodation and conference spaces for hire. The finished building combines period features with modern office requirements.

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