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Lime focus – Alexander Scott’s Hospital

Alexander Scott’s Hospital was originally constructed in 1855, by money bequeathed by Doctor Alexander Scott, to provide accommodation and care for the elderly people of Huntly. The building, designed by the Scottish Architect William Smith, is a category “A” listed building noted for its striking red sandstone masonry and silvery grey granite.


Located in a peaceful area of the town the residents have access to spacious gardens which also provide fresh produce for the kitchens. In 1900 due to expanding demand for spaces in the care home major alterations were undertaken to the building by two local benefactors, Morrison and Simpson, who each funded the construction of the  east and west wings, to provide additional accommodation, the commanding central tower was added to complete the façade.

Under the care of the current Matron – Elizabeth Alexander, who has held the position since 1993, Alexander Scott’s hospital provides round the clock care for up to 40 residents in individual rooms.

The Matron is proud of the building and care offered to the residents, “Scott’s has been a major part of my life since the 70’s and still find it a delight to drive into the grounds.”

The internal structure has been updated and improved several times in recent history, to upkeep with current legislation for modern care homes. Unfortunately, with the exception of the roof which had extensive work carried out to repair the perished original Scottish slates in 1991, led at the time by LDN Architects, the external fabric has had little works carried out to it in recent times, and in places the delicate masonry was becoming an issue. It was LDN architects again which were commissioned to carry out a survey of the masonry on the East wing and who appointed Masonry and Lime Ltd as main contractors to carry out the repairs.

The local red sandstone that the building was constructed in is fairly soft, with a relatively high clay content, making it prone to weathering, this erosion was compounded by the addition of cement pointing carried out sometime likely in the 60’s. As a result many of the more delicate sandstone features such as the window mullions were in a poor structural state.

Given the façade of the hospital is noted in the listing, and to retain the character and history of the building, sympathetic repairs were planned for the masonry. Many of the stones were beyond conservation or repair and it was decided that full stone replacements were required to retain the structural integrity of the masonry. The new stones were carved locally and installed by the masonry team. Careful consideration was taken in choosing a suitable replacement stone type. After samples of the original stone were sent off for analysis, Corsehill sandstone, supplied by Dunhouse Natural Stone, was chosen for its similar porosity and compressive strength.

Where it was possible to save sections of original masonry smaller masonry indents were used to retain original projections and profiles. Clay pockets within the existing stone were filled with pigmented lime mortar to help shed water from the surfaces. In addition to the masonry repairs all the cement pointing was carefully removed and replaced with a feebly hydraulic lime mortar to better protect the masonry from future damage. The numerous sash and case windows which dated from the 1900 build, were also surveyed and repaired by the team from RCJ Joiners.

Some of the most visual transformations of the works were: the reinstatement of the lime harling on the old sections of the building, which both lightened and added a distinct identity to the main entrance at the front of the building. The harling also lifted the appearance of the rear elevations as viewed from the gardens. Not all locals originally agreed that the building would suit a lime harl after seeing the exposed rubble masonry for so many years, but within weeks of the scaffold being removed most had a change of heart.

Along with the replacement of much of the masonry around the windows, the chimneys needed a considerable amount of repairs. Masonry and Lime’s head mason Adam Gordon carefully took templates of the original stone so they could carve matching new ones, this included the carving of several of the unique sandstone copes. One of the smaller chimneys was in such poor condition that it required almost all its stones to be replaced.

Managing director of Masonry and Lime, Andrew Newcombe who managed the project said: “It was fantastic to work on an outstanding building like Scott’s and see the transformation once the works were complete.”


Practical training in stonemasonry: The Orton Trust

The Trust was formed in 1968 and exists to maintain and encourage the traditional stonemasonry skills used in the restoration and conservation of historic buildings.

The redundant Church of All Saints’ at Orton, near Kettering in Northamptonshire has been converted into a Workshop and Lecture Room added by the purchase and restoration of the old Church Hall nearby. The Trust is a Registered Charity and its work is supported financially by many public and private institutions, allowing fifteen weekend courses to run each year.

Subjects covered include:

  • Setting out
  • Basic, intermediate and advanced masonry skills
  • Stone dressing and laying
  • Restoration carving
  • Relief carving in slate
  • Lettering
  • Lime mortars etc
  • Drawing in preparation for carving in stone
  • Tool sharpening
  • Masonry conservation


The course fee of £170 includes tuition, lunches, tea & coffee, but not accommodation which is available locally at reasonable cost. The Trust also provides, free of charge, the necessary materials and tools for students to use. All levels of ability and experience can be accommodated on all of our courses.

The Trust’s Tutors are all experts in their respective fields. Shaun Bradley travels from Lancashire to lead Relief Carving and Lettering, Tim Crawley from Cambridge offers Restoration Carving, Brendan Teasdale comes from Northumberland to impart Masonry Skills and Setting Out, whilst Cotswold based John Byrne is the ideal leader for Lime Mortars and Conservation. All courses are CITB approved and limited to a maximum of 10 to ensure that all students receive individual attention.

The Courses Manager, Peter May, is always pleased to supply more information on the courses and facilities at Orton. Contact Peter at 116 High Street, Broughton, Kettering, Northants, NN14 1NQ or telephone: 07704 336 733.



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