Property that has to be preserved
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