What is special about this building?
Mavisbank is Scotland’s most important small country house: the primary example of the ‘villa’ built within commuting distance of a town or city. Although Mavisbank is now in a derelict condition and its once beautiful designed landscape is neglected and overgrown, the beauty, history and European significance of this important site make it worth fighting for.
Please consider making a donation to help save Mavisbank – architecturally renowned as one of Scotland’s earliest and finest examples of an 18th century Palladian style villa in its designed landscape. Your contribution, whatever the size, will make a difference to this beautiful place and to future generations who may enjoy it.
Who is saving this building?
In 2002, a Feasibility Study and Economic Market Analysis were commissioned by the Edinburgh Green Belt Trust and funded by the Architectural Heritage Fund and Midlothian Council. A subsequent application to the Heritage Lottery Fund for a Project Planning Grant in 2005 enabled a Conservation Plan and associated consultants’ and specialist reports to be prepared. At the same time, a local community consultation was carried out, through workshops, leaflet drops to local households and drop-in events. The consultation demonstrated widespread support for the Trust’s proposals at that stage.
The Mavisbank Trust is a single building preservation trust formed in 2002 as a wholly owned subsidiary of the Edinburgh & Lothians Greenspace Trust (formerly the Edinburgh Green Belt Trust).
The Mavisbank Trust was established to preserve, for the benefit of the people of Scotland, the property known as Mavisbank House at Loanhead, Midlothian together with the designed landscape and policies. It is a company limited by guarantee with charitable status.
The ownership of the House has long been the subject of debate and has been the stumbling block to all previous attempts to undertake a project at Mavisbank. There is now a clear indication that the House does not have a legal owner.
What is the history of this building?
The building was designed by William Adam, the foremost architect in Scotland of his time, and Sir John Clerk of Penicuik, a leading intellectual figure of the Scottish Enlightenment and owner of the house, and was completed in 1726. Mavisbank is essentially a Palladian villa adapted to northern European conditions, with a centre block and two pavilions creating an extraordinarily picturesque composition. Despite its historical and architectural significance, the house is in an advanced state of disrepair.
Mavisbank is in an area that has suffered from post-industrial blight, with the local coal mines having long closed down. The house was affected by coal mining subsidence in the mid-20th century, although this is repairable. By the 1960s, the grounds were being used as a scrap yard and a major fire in 1973 left the house as just a shell without a roof. The local authority sought to demolish it as a dangerous building, but following an all-night hearing in Court, a judge quashed the demolition order. Scaffolding to support the structure was inserted in 1987 and the building was fenced off for safety reasons.
Mavisbank has endured the most extraordinary tale of ownership over the last 40 years, worthy of the finest detective novel. Before his death, the last owner bequeathed the house to three individuals in the United States, who are now known to be fictitious. This lack of ownership has been a significant impediment to attempts to restore the house.
Minor works to stabilise and protect the exposed wall-heads were undertaken by the Mavisbank Trust in 2013-14. However, the condition of parts of the building is now extremely serious, and finding a sustainable reuse and restoration project is an urgent priority for the house.
The house is situated close to Scotland’s capital – approximately 30 minutes from the city centre – and is in a location that would benefit from any regeneration projects which could support local employment and engage residents with their surroundings. There have been a number of ideas mooted for a sustainable reuse for the house, including restoring it for use as a community facility, holiday home, or even private residence. It is hoped that the nomination for ‘The 7 Most Endangered’ programme 2016, submitted by the Mavisbank Trust, will raise awareness of the building’s plight to an unprecedented level, helping to draw further support for its restoration within Scotland and potentially from much further afield.
Where is this building?
Sitting in a secluded location close to Edinburgh, above the river North Esk, Mavisbank is one of the most significant works of architecture of early 18th century Scotland.
What can I do to help?
The Mavisbank Trust is looking for funding to ensure that this exciting project can be delivered at Mavisbank. All donations are welcome.
Make an online donation via our secure page.
Or send us a cheque made out to The Mavisbank Trust and send to:
The Mavisbank Trust
109/11 Swanston Road
Thank you very much for supporting Mavisbank House. Your gift will help us to secure the future of this important House and Landscape.
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