Marchmont House has been awarded the 2018 Historic Houses Restoration Award, sponsored by Sotheby’s. The house, a Grade A-listed Palladian mansion in the Scottish borders, has been lovingly restored by the owners, Marchmont Farms Ltd, in an ambitious ten-year project.
The award recognises and celebrates the dedication of owners of Historic Houses’ member properties, throughout the United Kingdom, to the care and sympathetic restoration of the incredible homes and gardens that they look after, live in, and share with the public.
Marchmont was built in 1750 by Hugh Hume-Campbell, 3rd Earl of Marchmont, whose family owned the property until the early 20th century when it was purchased by Robert Finnie McEwen, an Edinburgh lawyer who remodelled and extended the house. The house was sold by McEwen’s grandson to the Sue Ryder Foundation in 1988, before being left vacant 17 years later in 2005.
The 3,000-acre estate was acquired separately in 1988 by Oliver Burge, father of Hugo Burge and fellow Director, on behalf of Marchmont Farms Ltd. When the house became available for purchase again in 2005, Marchmont Farms Ltd exercised their right of pre-emption to reunite house and estate.
Guidance from James Graham-Stewart Ltd for period furniture and rugs, Beaumont Nathan for pictures and modern sculpture, and Langton Interiors for curtains and floor coverings have helped re-establish an impeccable home. Complementing the Georgian rooms, a collection of fine period furniture, much with Scottish provenance, is juxtaposed with an important assemblage of arts and crafts pieces and modern sculptures by Moore, Hepworth, Turnbull, Chadwick, Gormley and others.
In addition to the rooms of the piano nobile, the 55,000 sq.ft. house now contains Burge’s private apartment, house steward’s accommodation, a studio flat for visiting students, and a ten-bedroom attic with an arts and crafts theme which is available, like the rest of the house, for short-term rentals as part of the Burge’s business plan. While work on the house is complete, the old coach house over the garden wall is being renovated to house the apprentices of Laurence Neal, a third-generation rush-seated chair maker, in the Gimson tradition, currently based in Warwickshire.
Hugo Burge, who fell in love with arts and crafts at school at Bedales, and who later went on to study geography at the University of Cambridge before making a career in the travel industry, wants to make Marchmont a centre for creativity. Over 85% of the local firms and individual craftsmen who worked on the restoration came from south-east Scotland. Burge said, “My dream is to bring the house alive as a home for makers and creators. Not only being able to have an arts and crafts heritage tradition here, but a living arts and crafts heritage going on at Marchmont is very exciting.”
James Birch, President of Historic Houses, said: “The 2018 award presented us with tough choices. Faced with such different places, each special in their own way - and projects that are by their nature unique - comparisons will always have an element of subjectivity. Our membership of more 1,650 historic places across the UK already spends around £85 million a year on vital work, yet the value of outstanding repairs is still around £1.38 billion. Historic Houses places attract 26 million visits a year, generating £1 billion of spending and supporting nearly 34,000 full-time-equivalent jobs. But despite those successes we need to continue our work of helping our members to generate much-needed revenue.”
Harry Dalmeny, Chairman, Sotheby’s UK and Ireland said: “Sotheby’s is again delighted to sponsor the Historic Houses Restoration Award. Marchmont’s renaissance is a tribute to the commitment shared by so many of the organisation’s members to the buildings in their care, and Hugo Burge’s ambitions for the house to be a driver of the local economy and a catalyst. The passing on of traditional skills is a perfect symbol of the wider social and aesthetic importance of independent heritage. Projects like this mean that people will be able to enjoy and use these houses for many more generations.”
The judges commended two runner-up entries alongside the winner.
Deene Park in Northamptonshire, is a 16th-century house incorporating a medieval manor and erstwhile seat of the Earls of Cardigan. The judges were impressed by the almost complete renewal of the roof, stone repairs to a number of chimneys, essential works to the masonry, and refurbishment of the south elevation and courtyard. Deene Park, its gardens and tearoom are open to the public on selected days from May to September.
Haile Hall in Cumbria was recently bought by Tristan Ponsonby and Stefano Todde from Lady Ponsonby, the former owner, keeping it in the family that has lived on the site for almost a thousand years. The house was in a seriously run-down state, despite some vital reroofing and structural work having been undertaken by Lady Ponsonby some years ago. The judges commended the new owners for their restoration of the exterior, complete re-wiring and total interior refurbishment. The house remains a private family home.