Edinburgh World Heritage - News Article

 

New era beckons for EWH and Acheson House

EWH plans to move home to Acheson House, in the heart of Edinburgh's Old Town.


May 31, 2011

The plan would see EWH move from Charlotte Square to the seventeenth century Acheson House in the Canongate, later this year. Built in 1633 for Sir Archibald Acheson, Secretary of State for King Charles I, the building has lain empty since 1991 when it was last used by the Scottish Crafts Centre and is currently on the Buildings at Risk register.

The Council's long term vision for Acheson House is to see it integrated with Huntly House, which lies adjacent and currently houses the Museum of Edinburgh.

In the meantime, the upper floors of Acheson House are unoccupied and require significant investment to bring them into useable condition, with Historic Scotland granting the Council £120,000 towards this restoration and refurbishment through EWH.

Adam Wilkinson, Director of Edinburgh World Heritage, said: "We are excited about the prospect of a move up to the Acheson House. It is a great opportunity to help bring life back to this fascinating and beautiful building, reminding us of the historically diverse social mix of the Old Town. The New Town has been a generous host to EWH for the last 12 years and it has been a privilege to work in Charlotte Square, to which we will bid a very fond farewell."

Councillor Deidre Brock, Culture and Leisure Convener, said: "Acheson House is one of the Old Town's most historic buildings and our longterm vision is to bring it back to life as part of a Museums Hub devoted to charting the fascinating development of Scotland's Capital city. Allowing EWH to occupy Acheson House on a temporary basis will greatly assist us in the sympathetic conservation of this A-listed 17th century building, helping guarantee it a suitably prominent role in Edinburgh's 21st century cultural infrastructure."

Martin Fairley, Historic Scotland Head of Investments, said: “We wish EWH all the best with the proposed relocation and are happy to be able to support the repairs to its new home. It has achieved a great deal and supported many excellent projects from its base in the New Town and I hope that this move will bring its work to the attention of even more people.”

For the past 12 years EWH has been based at No.5 Charlotte Square, which has a connection with Acheson House through the 4th Marquess of Bute. He was a conservation enthusiast who bought both properties in the early 20th century to restore them to their original condition.

Although the exterior of the building is in good condition the interiors require some repairs, as well as fitting out with necessary services. This will include new floors, plasterwork to walls and ceilings, refurbishment of windows and updating the electrical installations.

below: Acheson House 1856, taken by Thomas Keith, from www.capitalcollections.org.uk

Acheson House

Timeline

1633 - Acheson House built for Sir Archibald Acheson, a Secretary of State for King Charles I. Acheson probably never gets to live in his new house as he dies the following year.

1636 - Property sold to Patrick Wood, a wealthy Edinburgh merchant. Through the rest of the seventeenth and early eighteenth century Acheson House is sold many times, often in settlement of debts.

1784 – Property bought by the Incorporation of Bakers in the Canongate.

1830 – The property is taken by John Slater, and then stays in the family for almost hundred years. The 1851 census shows a total of 323 people living in the buildings around Bakehouse Close, indicating a real decline in living standards.

1924 – Acheson House taken over by the council as part of a slum clearance scheme in the Canongate.

1935 – Following a series of letters to The Scotsman drawing attention to its plight, the property is bought by the Marquess of Bute, who commissions the architect Robert Hurd to lead the restoration project.

1938 - Suggested as the official residence of the Secretary of State for Scotland.

1939 – Become the ‘parish house’ for the nearby Canongate Kirk, and is used as a base by the Iona Community.

1950s – Acheson House becomes the Scottish Craft Centre.

1991 – The house returns to the ownership of the City of Edinburgh Council.



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