United Free Church of Scotland: Design for Manses in the Highland Districts
|The author’s former home in Symington in 1987. Why a standard Highlands design was used in the Southern Uplands is a mystery.||Plans by JW and J Laird, Glasgow, dated 1907.|
My journey started with the words of Colin McWilliam, writing in the newly published Lothian volume of The Buildings of Scotland: ‘This flair for enlisting architectural originality was inherited by the United Free Church.’
We had recently purchased a manse with an arts-and-crafts feel at Biggar Road, Symington, now South Lanarkshire, in which we lived from 1986 to 2001. All my pre-web researches into the history of the house proved fruitless, except for the lease plan by a surveyor dated 1908 with the valuation roll confirming occupation in 1910. Key source documents such as the church minute books were missing. From 1990 family matters took priority.
A decade later, we were thinking of moving but a series of chance encounters in 2000 provided some of the answers. While researching for a short break in the Highlands, I came across ‘our house’ as a B&B in Kiltarlity, near Beauly. The owner confirmed that other houses of this standard design existed throughout the Highlands at Aultbea, Kildary and Drumnadrochit. His house had been slightly customised with a bay window replacing a tripartite window and an extra window in the gable. The architect and any plans were unknown.
On passing the manse in Drumnadrochit, I noticed the addition of Tudor gablets. A month later I was introduced to my new head of planning who had moved south from the Highlands. His house at Bower in Caithness was for sale and, yes, it was a former United Free Church manse, albeit heavily altered. He gave me a set of photocopied plans. The originals were held by a local architect who had recovered them from a skip. He mentioned other manses at Shebster, Lybster, Dunbeath, Alness and Lochcarron. Most have been customised to meet the aspirations and purse of the local congregation. At Lochcarron, coursed stone was used instead of the coat of harl over random rubble and brick. The drawings titled ‘UF Church of Scotland: Design for Manses in the Highland Districts’ were by JW and J Laird Architects, 163 Hope Street, Glasgow, dated 1907. On hearing this, an architect friend in my local village remarked that this was the first tenement refurbishment he carried out in the 1980s. Now, of course, we have the web, and the architect’s history including my information can be found on the new dictionary www.scottisharchitects.org.uk.
In 2001 we sold up. However, on a recent holiday to Lewis and Harris, I sped past a few more of these manses, albeit more radically altered, with smaller dormers and the use of bipartite windows to meet the exigencies of the extreme weather. I still occasionally wonder why my former home in the Southern Uplands used the Highlands design.
Related articles on Designing Buildings Wiki
- Caithness Broch Project.
- Conservation in the Highlands and Islands.
- Development of sustainable rural housing in the Scottish Highlands and Islands.
- Engaging communities in our Highlands and Islands.
- IHBC articles.
- Lord Leverhulme on Lewis and Harris.
- New architecture of Scotland's west coast.
- Orkney gables.
- Re-thatching a Hebridean blackhouse.
- The challenges and opportunities of conservation in the Highlands and Islands.
- The Institute of Historic Building Conservation.
The Building Research Establishment (BRE) has announced a new project with the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) to improve and modernise the home energy rating scheme used to measure the energy and environmental performance of UK homes.
Sector lead the Construction Skills Certification Scheme (CSCS) has recognised the IHBC’s professional accreditation and support (CPD etc.) in awarding its PQP (Professionally Qualified Person) cards.
The IHBC’s 2022 Aberdeen School Heritage MarketPlace (4.30-7.30PM, 15 June) is designed to extend the scope of a traditional IHBC School exhibition floor.
Work to repair a fire-hit medieval hotel in Gloucester is underway as crews have started work to strip back some of the modern trappings and reveal the historic framework.
Options for in-person and virtual delegates to explore ‘heritage on the edge’ across up to 4 days of IHBC engagement & learning.
The Secretariat to the European Heritage Heads Forum has has coordinated its declaration of solidarity and support for Ukraine’s cultural heritage institutions.
2022 will see the IHBC mark a quarter of a century since our incorporation as a professional body supporting and accrediting built and historic environment conservation specialists. We’re kick-starting it by inviting your ideas on how to mark this special year!
The IHBC’s latest Guidance Note adds to the institute’s open-access, online practitioner’s Toolbox.
Twenty-five areas in England from Bournemouth to Carlisle have been awarded a share of £3 million to help them set their own standards for design locally. "move from a vicious circle of generic development to a virtuous circle of regenerative development".
The IHBC seeks to raise awareness and understanding of how building conservation philosophy and practice contributes towards meeting the challenge of climate change.