Prop­erty that has to be pre­served

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THE Fu­ture of Geil­ston House and Gar­den con­tin­ues to be of great con­cern. Al­though the Na­tional Trust for Scot­land (NTS) has agreed that, un­less any­thing changes, the gar­den will re-open in March 2018, its fu­ture is still un­clear.

Miss El­iz­a­beth Henry gifted the prop­erty, plus a con­sid­er­able fi­nan­cial legacy, to the NTS, on the con­di­tion that her com­pan­ion Miss Madge Bell could re­main in the house un­til her death. The NTS re­spected this wish and waited till Miss Bell’s death in 1997 be­fore com­mis­sion­ing a his­toric build­ing and land­scape sur­vey and open­ing the gar­den the fol­low­ing year.

In its con­ser­va­tion and man­age­ment plan for the prop­erty, the NTS in­di­cated that, while there were no for­mal or le­gal con­di­tions re­lat­ing to her will, these were known to the NTS: to pre­serve the prop­erty and its con­tents, main­tain the gar­den to its pre­vi­ous high stan­dards and open the gar­den and, prefer­ably, the house to the pub­lic. The plan was framed to meet these ob­jec­tives which, in re­spect of the gar­den and grounds, were largely achieved.

How­ever, the NTS failed to main­tain the house, re­sult­ing in wa­ter pen­e­tra­tion, dry rot and a long run­ning dis­pute with His­toric Scot­land, to the ex­tent that the build­ing is said to be dan­ger­ous. The house con­tents and fur­ni­ture, val­ued at £490,000 in 1998 and in stor­age, were con­sid­ered by the NTS to be of lit­tle value and dis­posed of. It also claims the gar­den is fi­nan­cially un­vi­able.

To rid it­self of a prob­lem of its mak­ing and to meets its obli­ga­tions as an owner of a grade B listed build­ing, the NTS is con­sid­er­ing op­tions for its con­ver­sion and sale, as well as look­ing into de­vel­op­ment on part of the gar­den. The EC Hendry Fund, des­ig­nated for Geil­ston and val­ued at nearly £2.6 mil­lion in 2016, has been closed by the NTS and the money trans­ferred to the gen­eral in­come fund, where it can be used for other NTS work . If all of this comes to pass the NTS will have re­neged on the un­der­stand­ing it had with Miss Hendry and, in­stead of con­serv­ing a prop­erty in its care, will have become an as­set strip­per;this be­fore the start of a con­sul­ta­tion process the NTS claimed would be “open, hon­est and up front”.

While the Friends of Geil­ston agree that the prob­lems of the house have to be re­solved, they are clear that the gar­den and grounds must be pre­served and that the EC Hendry Fund should be used to that end. The NTS must en­gage with the staff, vol­un­teers and other sup­port­ers to en­sure that Miss Hendry’s gift is used to achieve the ob­jec­tives for which it was given to, and ac­cepted by, the NTS.

Allison Hil­lis, 11 Row­more Quay, Rhu, He­lens­burgh.

Iain Ste­wart trav­elled on the PS Waver­ley on a trip to Camp­bel­town. As he ex­plored the town he took this im­age of the boat tied up at the pier from the view of the es­planade. The two fun­nels stand out amongst the jumble

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