An exciting project to restore the stunning Penicuik House in Midlothian has entered its fifth year.
Built in 1761, the Category A listed building has survived as a ruin since it was destroyed by a major fire in 1888. Under the £3.3 million project, the building will be restored to its former glory and made available for the public to enjoy.
The project is being carried out by the Penicuik House Preservation Trust, in partnership with the Scottish Lime Centre Trust. Funding has been provided by a wide range of sources, including: the Heritage Lottery Fund, Historic Scotland, The Architectural Heritage Fund, Scottish Natural Heritage and LEADER European funding.
Main contractor for the project is Graeme Brown Stonemasonry Ltd and the architect is Simpson and Brown Architects.
Consolidation work includes masonry repairs, stone replacement, lime pointing work and wall head capping with a mixture of turf and lead toppings. Interestingly some remains of the interior finishes survived the ruin, including small patches of traditional lath and plaster and some sash and case window frames. Where possible, these will be conserved.
Additional works include improvements to the path network of the Penicuik Estate and the creation of a new car park for visitors that features direct access for disabled badge holders. In addition, a new training centre was created within the ruin for the delivery of traditional skills training and the educational programme.
Work has been carried out in phases and began with the creation of the training centre. As most of the work involves stone consolidation using traditional lime, the site is closed during the winter months because lime mortars cannot be used below certain temperatures.
One of the most important aspects of the project is the training element, which has been designed to encourage traditional building skills. The project has encouraged stonemasonry apprenticeships and adult trainee opportunities, both of which have served to increase the pool of available skills and create opportunities for employment.
The Scottish Lime Centre Trust has provided the training and education element of the project and their expertise in traditional building repair, particularly with regards to stone and traditional mortars, has proved invaluable to the project.
The training and education programme has enabled prearranged visits to the ruin for a wide range of stakeholders – including primary schools and community groups – and over 600 people each year will have the opportunity to take part in the training activities on site.
Penicuik House sits within an important and early example of a designed landscape and features a range of follies, bridges and other historically important structures. It is therefore hoped that the project may continue with a second stage that will undertake repair work for these structures.
Although the Clerk family (who built Penicuik House) gave the ruin over to the ownership of the Penicuik House Preservation Trust, the family continue to live on the estate and have been extremely supportive throughout the project. Indeed, the family committed an endowment of £2.5 million to the project, the interest of which will be used to fund the consolidation works. Once this is completed, it will be used for future repair and maintenance works as required.
The Penicuik House project is scheduled for completion in 2013.