Friday, January 19, 2007

Rubble makers: Scotland`s Lost Houses

Hamilton Palace in Scotland from Morris's Country Seats (1880).
Hamilton Palace was the largest non-Royal residence in the Western World in its heyday, located north-east of Hamilton, South Lanarkshire, Scotland.
A former seat of the Dukes of Hamilton, it was built in 1695, subsequently much enlarged, and demolished in 1921 due to ground subsidence. It is widely acknowledged as having been one of the grandest houses in Scotland.

Times Literary Supplement
January 17, 2007

In Rubble makers by Gavin Stamp, Stamp reviews Ian Gow`s SCOTLAND’S LOST HOUSES [192pp. Aurum Press Ltd. £40.
1 845 13051 0].

He writes:

"The question must arise as to whether the Scots take a peculiar delight in blowing up buildings, in addition to simply demolishing them. That, at least, was the conclusion reached by Marcus Binney, John Harris and Emma Winnington when they compiled the report on the Lost Houses of Scotland produced by SAVE Britain’s Heritage in 1980. “Scotland seems to have specialised in dynamiting its houses. Scottish sappers and lairds delighted in making a thunderous bang.” This publication was a sequel to the momentous Destruction of the Country House exhibition mounted at the Victoria and Albert Museum in 1974 by Roy Strong, Binney and Harris, for it had revealed how very many houses had been destroyed in Scotland – a much higher proportion in relation to their number than in England. Over 400 substantial country houses had disappeared since 1900; a few had perished through accidental fire, but most had been deliberately destroyed.

This was a colossal waste: “Out of fashion they may have been, but there is no reason why they should have remained out of use. Houses that seem dauntingly or impossibly large for family use can by the sheer extent of the accommodation they offer be ideal for alternative use”. Ian Gow’s sumptuous book, Scotland’s Lost Houses, confirms the national predilection for explosives by revealing – and illustrating – how Rosneath, Dunglass, Murthley, Panmure and Fintry, among other distinguished houses, have been eliminated since the Second World War, with the aid of dynamite or gelignite. Nevertheless the book is not as depressing as its subject, for it is a product of a cheering popular nostalgia for lost buildings and extinguished architecture."

The number of great Scottish buildings destroyed is truly noteworthy. The reasons why this destruction took place remain totally unclear.

Full review here