Newhailes

Client: The National Trust for Scotland

Newhailes is an A Listed country villa near Edinburgh. It was built in the late 17th century, and enlarged in the early 18th to become one of the most important houses of the Scottish Enlightenment. Owned from the early 18th century by the Dalrymple family, it has remained largely unaltered, both inside and out, since the late-19th century. The property was taken into the ownership of The National Trust for Scotland in 1996 and LDN Architects, who had looked after the property on a very limited budget since the 1970s, were commissioned to develop proposals for its conservation. The main conservation work to the house was carried out in the early 2000s, but conservation work around the estate continues today and the same team is currently responsible for a range of garden development projects including extending the estate utility services infrastructure; restoring ornamental garden buildings and garden compartment walls; and restoration of the Ha-Ha around the formal garden.

In the house, all building services systems were renewed and a full fire detection and suppression system was installed. No internal panelling or wall finishes to principal areas were disturbed during the works and historical service routes were identified through survey work and re-used. Only floorboards that had been lifted previously were lifted again. They were then identified, set aside, and after completion of the work, replaced. The work required a very high degree of coordination and planning between the mechanical and electrical consulting engineer, the architect and the structural engineer.   All service routes were detailed in advance.   Very little was left to the discretion of the contractor.   To achieve this level of coordination, detailed surveys of the existing building were carried out, including structure and voids in the fabric which provide the opportunities for running services.   Large scale room elevations were drawn and the placement of all services elements was agreed.   The M&E engineering design drawings were then coordinated with these detailed room layouts.

In order to provide some level of disabled access within the house a platform lift was installed from Basement to Principle floor level. This intervention was treated as a modern installation, constructed of steel and glass in contrast to the original exposed timber floor construction which the platform passes through. Great care was taken to minimise damage to the fabric and the position and possible detrimental impact of the lift was agonised over for many months. In the event, only sections of three floor joists had to be removed.

The external fabric of the house was meticulously conserved to retain as much historic fabric as possible. The external plasterwork of the house was surveyed in detail and delaminating patches pressed back into place using matching new lime mortar.

The conservation work has been praised as “exemplary” and for “reducing the gap between theory and practice to an almost imperceptible chink”. The project won a number of awards including a Europa Nostra Award and RIBA / Crown Estate Conservation Project of the Year Award.



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