Edinburgh World Heritage - News Article


Learmonth Terrace nears completion

Work to conserve one of the finest Victorian townhouses in Edinburgh is nearing completion.

Jun 12, 2014

The EWH-funded project to restore 25 Learmonth Terrace started in November 2013, with the aim of restoring the category A listed building to its former glory.

The building was designed in 1891 for Arthur Sanderson, a wine merchant and whisky distiller, not onlyas a townhouse but also to house large collection of old-master paintings, antiques, porcelain and sculpture. Built to his personal specifications, it was later described as a “…palatial residence splendidly appointed and elegantly furnished…”

The interiors were finely decorated by designer William Scott Morton, with each room individually designed according to the art displayed. From the Grecian themed entrance hall, to the Renaissance Dining Room, the Drawing Room inspired by Robert Adam, and guest bedroom in the style of Louis XIII, the interiors represented one of the best examples of their work. It is said that a master-joiner started and finished his apprenticeship working on the chimney-pieces in the Billard Room alone.

However the exteriors are equally well detailed, and this has proved something of a challenge for the masons involved in the conservation work.

Architect for the Learmonth Terrace project George Morrison said: “The contractor states that in the last 25 years of business they have not had a project requiring stone carving work in such detail. The stone masons are truly enjoying and benefiting from the opportunity to use and develop their skills.”

The masons were challenged not only with repairing individual details, but in many cases reconstructing entire sections of the decorative facade. Projects such as this are vital in ensuring traditional skills such as stone masonry survive, which are needed to maintain the city’s large stock of historic buildings.

In 1908 Sanderson’s business ran into difficulties and in 1915 his house and all its treasures were sold to cover his debts. In 1925 the building was bought for the newly formed 603 Squadron of the Royal Auxiliary Air Force. Today it is still used by the Reserve and Cadet Forces. The building is not normally open to the public, but is available as a venue to hire.

Denise Regan of the Lowland Reserve Forces’ and Cadets’ Association said: “Finely decorated by William Scott Morton, this category A listed building is undergoing a full external renovation, part funded by EWH. The project will restore the building’s original splendour and help to conserve the exterior.”   

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