Mark Richards, Director of Private Clients, Heritage Property and Fine Art, talks with client Hugo Burge, Director of Marchmont Farms Limited about the inspirational project transforming Marchmont House, an 18th Century house in the Borders, into an award-winning celebration of architecture, art and design.
The House was purchased in 2007 by Marchmont Farms Limited, which had owned the surrounding estate since 1988.
My Father and I, both Directors and initially reticent, decided to take on the challenge. It felt like an integral part of the Estate and had been added to the at Risk Register, so a cause worth championing. It was not a decision that we took lightly, recognising the epic journey ahead, but Marchmont is a beautiful house with wonderful layers of history and seduced us into becoming custodians, restoring it and bringing it back to life. In particular, I was attracted to the arts and crafts heritage of the house, which was introduced by the McEwen family in the early 20th Century using the leading Scottish Architect Sir Robert Lorimer. Therefore this felt like an opportunity to develop a distinctive story around a subject that was close to my heart.
You won this year’s Historic Houses Restoration award. That’s a huge achievement, what are your proudest moments and biggest challenges in the project?
We are delighted to have won this award on behalf of everyone who was involved in our 7 year project. One of the proudest elements of the works was a reliance on local craftspeople and builders to accomplish over 85% of the project. This was not only rewarding in that it supported and involved the local community, but was also an eye opener for just how much local expertise and talent was based in the Scottish Borders. This inspiring realisation has led to an ongoing focus to shine a light on local artists, artisans and makers. One of the greatest challenges was to give the house an identity, be sensitive to its layers of history and after massive restoration, make it feel homely. We are delighted with how the different eras gave the House a depth and variety that feels natural and appropriate.
Our approach has been highly personal, choosing each and every piece with the support of advisors. The different eras in the house guided us, focussing on appropriate eighteenth century items for the core Palladian rooms, whilst following Arts and Crafts Movement themes in the newer Lorimer additions to the House. Amongst this, we have added a layer of post war and contemporary art that injects some modern, irreverent and innovative touches into the mix in a way that builds on a theme of creativity.
Marchmont has a creative DNA that we are keen to embrace, celebrate and build on as a source of differentiation. As a home for makers and creators, we want to host events that inspire innovation and entrepreneurialism in the arts, crafts and purpose driven business.
We are starting to create discussions about what kind of future we want to be part of and help create by planning events on Gordon Russell, Ernest Gimson and Phoebe Anna Traquair in 2019.
We aim to bring the house and historic traditions alive with projects celebrating those who practice these traditions along with the the historic inspiration that they represent. For example, we have started a Marchmont Mural Cycle, a work by Julia Mee, in the spirit of Phoebe Anna Traquair. We recently had Owl Towers made by Gabriel Langlands, using techniques and designs championing the Arts and Crafts style.
One of our landmark projects is to support the ongoing legacy of rush seat chair making in direct lineage to Ernest Gimson. We have apprentices learning to make rush seat chairs with Lawrence Neal in Warwickshire, and hope to move the whole operation into new workshops at the Marchmont Old Stables forming a small makers’ community celebrating Art and Crafts. We are excited about how this ties into our broader project. We are at the start of our journey to make Marchmont House a home for makers and creators, so our plans are nascent and evolving all the time.
For more information please visit www.marchmonthouse.com