Mavisbank House saved by £5m funding award

Mavisbank will be saved!

The AHSS is thrilled to learn that the National Heritage Memorial Fund has announced a funding award of £5.3m to the Landmark Trust for initial work to stabilise Mavisbank House and prevent further decay.

Campaigners have laboured for decades to save the 300-year-old architectural gem in Midlothian, Scotland, from collapse following a catastrophic fire 50 years ago. Its terrible condition and uncertain ownership have left this ‘Category A’ masterpiece in a derelict and highly perilous state.

The Landmark Trust has been working with Midlothian Council, Historic Environment Scotland, the Mavisbank Trust and others to identify a viable solution to Mavisbank’s woes for many years, and made the application to the National Heritage Memorial Fund in January 2024 believing the house met the criteria of being of ‘outstanding importance to the national heritage’. The grant will enable Landmark to pursue phase one of a fresh plan to give Mavisbank House a vibrant and sustainable future.

Further information is available on the Landmark Trust’s website.

Read the letter from our President Mary Miers in support of the application.

Think our work is important? You can support the Society’s campaigning work today by becoming a member or donating.


Image © Tom Parnell






Mavisbank update from the Landmark Trust

Following William Kay’s outstanding lecture ‘Phoenix Rising? A Reconstruction of Mavisbank with a View to Restoration’ on 12 February, the Landmark Trust has given us an interim update:

The Trust’s application to the National Heritage Memorial Fund was submitted at the end of December, after a great deal of work by the design team, and with the advice and assistance of numerous others.  A site visit has now been scheduled, after which the NHMF Trustees will formally consider the application ahead of their meeting at the end of March. We hope for a positive update from the Trust, probably towards the end of April/early May.


Think our work is important? You can support the Society’s campaigning work today by becoming a member or donating.






AHSS Advocates Transparency and Preservation in Ayr Station Hotel Demolition Crisis

In the face of growing concerns surrounding the extensive demolition at Ayr Station Hotel, we have joined hands with local and national heritage organisations to call upon South Ayrshire Council for transparency and preservation of the remaining North Wing and clock tower of this historically significant landmark.

In an open letter addressed to South Ayrshire Council CEO, Mike Newall and Council Leader, Martin Dowey, SAVE Britain’s Heritage, the Architectural Heritage Fund for Scotland, Glasgow Building Preservation Trust, Ayr Station Hotel Community Action Group, Ayr Development Trust, Glasgow City Heritage Trust, and Ayrshire Architectural Heritage Trust, alongside AHSS, have expressed their deep concern over the lack of transparency in the decision-making process concerning the demolition of the South Wing of the hotel.

The letter, prompted by the ongoing demolition of the South Wing due to public safety concerns, emphasises the need for South Ayrshire Council to make public their plans for the remaining elements of the hotel. This request is grounded in the obligation imposed by Scottish law, which requires the council to consider alternative options for ensuring the safety of the listed building before resorting to demolition.

Highlighting an alternative proposal by conservation accredited structural engineer Ed Morton, which could have addressed safety concerns without extensive demolition, the letter raises questions about whether the council explored or considered this option.

Ayr Station Hotel, a listed building, holds significant historical value, and we have underscored the importance of preserving the adjacent tower and North Wing, which were fortunately spared from the recent fire. The lack of protective scaffolding on these sections prior to the fire indicates that, according to council officers, they do not pose a safety risk to the public.

We believe that a positive future for a fully restored tower and North Wing is possible, creating an iconic and vibrant entrance to the town. Collaborating with relevant stakeholders, including SAVE and other signatories of the letter, we advocate for a comprehensive plan that includes modern facilities and a potential integrated transport exchange at Burns Statue Square.

With news of South Ayrshire Council set to benefit from £20 million of Levelling Up grant money for the regeneration of Ayr town centre, including Burns Statue Square, we urge the council to demonstrate a positive vision for the future use of the North Wing and tower. This financial boost presents a unique opportunity for the council to safeguard Ayr’s historic buildings and contribute to the town’s long-term preservation.

Jocelyn Cunliffe, acting chair of the Architectural Heritage Society of Scotland, said: “The AHSS urges South Ayrshire Council to cease demolition and make a formal listed building consent application which sets out the rationale for the extensive work carried out and demonstrates an overall vision for the regeneration of the whole site. Local authorities are empowered to act timeously to save listed buildings. This case raises issues around enforcement procedures which require public examination to protect and save important listed buildings at risk. Demolition should be a last resort.”

The AHSS has also submitted an FOI request to South Ayrshire Council as follows:

“The Architectural Heritage Society of Scotland (AHSS) seeks the following information under the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002 or, as appropriate, the Environmental Information (Scotland) Regulations 2004:

 All communications within the Council (including communications with elected members and communications with external advisers), and with Network Rail and Historic Environment Scotland, informing or relating to the decision to carry out demolition works at the former Station Hotel, Smith Street, Ayr, following the fires on 25 September and 2 October 2023, including any relating to

o   the extent of the works required or to be carried out

o   the appropriate timing for such works, and

o   any factors taken, or to be taken, into account in formulating the advice and/or making the relevant decisions.”


Read our letter on the SAVE website.

Think our work is important? You can support the Society’s campaigning work today by becoming a member or donating.

Image © Historic Environment Scotland





AHSS Objects to Demolition Proposal in Edinburgh Conservation Area

The Architectural Heritage Society of Scotland’s Forth & Borders Cases Panel has lodged objections against the demolition proposal for the building at 50 Gillespie Crescent within the Marchmont, Meadows, and Bruntsfield Conservation Area. This structure, constructed in the 1930s for the Royal Blind Asylum and School, stands as a meticulously designed stone building with a slate roof, contributing significantly to the area’s character.

The proposed replacement—a five-story building with 145 student flats—does not align with the area’s special character. Our objections emphasise the disproportionate scale, unsuitable design, and encroachment upon open spaces, undermining the conservation area’s character and diminishing the neighbouring tenements’ amenity. We firmly advocate for exploring alternative uses for the existing building, preserving its historical significance, and ensuring any development respects the area’s unique heritage.

The AHSS stands firm against the demolition of this distinctive building, stressing the need to uphold the architectural and historical integrity of Edinburgh’s Conservation Areas. Our objections aim to encourage thoughtful consideration and alternatives that respect the heritage and character of this historic area.

Read our objection letter.

Think our work is important? You can support the Society’s campaigning work today by becoming a member or donating.


Image © Copyright kim traynor and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.





Forth & Borders group: Cases panel Secretary & Convenor wanted!

F&B Cases panel role

Cases panel Secretary and Convenor wanted!

Are you thinking about a future role in the heritage sector?

The Forth & Borders Group of the AHSS is seeking a new convener and secretary for its cases panel.  This is an important, dynamic role in the work of the Society.  Past conveners and secretaries have frequently used their experience to great effect in the heritage sector including planning officer / heritage management posts with local authorities and HES.

The panel meets on Wednesday evenings, on-line using Zoom and sometimes in person in Edinburgh.  IT literacy is essential, including a familiarity with Zoom, Excel, Dropbox, Microsoft Office and email.  Training will be provided.  We are looking for an enthusiastic, capable, well-organised person with good communication skills.  Although the role is largely voluntary, a modest monthly payment is available.

If you would like to know more, please email the by 18 December 2023 and we can arrange a Zoom call to provide more information.


AHSS Objects to Pitlochry Station Footbridge Replacement Plan

The Tayside & East Fife Cases Panel is concerned by plans to replace Pitlochry Station’s footbridge. After careful consideration, we’ve issued a strong objection to removing the existing footbridge.

Pitlochry Station holds a Category A-listed status, meaning it’s of special architectural or historic interest, “an outstanding example of a traditional railway station, demonstrating specific characteristics of the Highland Railway Company station building of the 19th century.”

The proposal aims to swap out the old cast iron footbridge for a modern accessible one, complete with lifts for easy platform access. While making things more accessible is fantastic, the suggested plan is not sympathetic to the station’s significance.

Several options for ‘accessibility solutions’ were explored, but the only practical one considered was replacing the historic footbridge. The proposed design doesn’t align with the Local Development Plan, which emphasises that any alterations shouldn’t harm the building’s architectural or historic interest. We fear the change might irrevocably damage the station’s integrity.

It would seem that a range of alternatives are possible. We have suggested that keeping the existing footbridge and discreetly adding a new, less obtrusive bridge elsewhere might be an option, i.e.  a modern structure behind the old bridge, blending in and ensuring accessibility without significant impact on the station’s heritage.

An argument is also made for removing the bridge due to potential future train line changes. Instead, why not consider raising the bridge itself? It’s a feasible solution used elsewhere that wouldn’t harm the station’s historic significance.

In essence, we firmly believe that removing the footbridge isn’t necessary. There are alternative routes to creating accessibility without compromising the station’s significance. We are not alone in taking this view – the strength of local feeling about this issue is evident in the 25 objections received from the community. 

Read our objection letter.

Think our work is important? You can support the Society’s campaigning work today by becoming a member or donating.



Energy Improvement Retrofit discussions

Calum Maclean, an architect based in the Highlands, who is an AHSS member and cases panel member, as well as holding RIAS Conservation Accreditation at Advanced Level and being a PAS 2035 Retrofit Co-ordinator, recently prepared this guidance note in relation to an enquiry to the AHSS.

Retrofit is inherently risky, especially so when dealing with any building of traditional construction, regardless of whether or not it is listed. Getting it wrong can result in problems that put occupants’ health at risk and are very expensive to resolve.

In terms of how to approach retrofit, PAS 2035 offers a robust methodology that has been specifically developed to address the inherent problems and risks associated with retrofit, which gave rise to well documented problems with energy improvement schemes in the past. Please refer to the UK government’s 2016 report – Each Home Counts.

One of the first issues that needs to be addressed in any retrofit programme is the issue of maintenance and the condition of the building fabric.

Many buildings of traditional construction suffer from a lack of maintenance, resulting in water ingress and saturated masonry. This is a particular problem with houses that are linked either as terraces or as apartments.

In addition to a general lack of maintenance, many of these properties have flashings and rainwater goods that were not designed for the current levels of rainfall that are a result of climate change.

Another problems is that many will have been altered since they were first built, often with the introduction of modern non-breathable materials, such as the installation of bitumen roofing felts below slates, without any consideration for ventilation of the structure.

A great many walls have also been repointed with cement or harled with a cement render that prevents the walls from breathing.

These initial repairs can be a significant cost that is over and above the cost of the energy improvement measures.

This will also introduce a time challenge.

Saturated stonemasonry can take many months – if not years – to dry out. It must be allowed to dry out before installing insulation. Placing insulation onto damp walls will certainly result in failure.

Every building will present a unique set of issues and it is really important that the condition and fabric buildup of each property is assessed on an individual basis by somebody who has a lot of knowledge and experience in dealing with traditionally built structures. A regular building surveyor or architect is not going to have the level of experience necessary and I would recommend that this is carried out by conservation accredited professionals – as required by PAS 2035.

A fabric first approach is to be commended – and will align with the new EPC methodology being developed by the Scottish Government.

Using breathing construction materials is critical, but in itself does not guarantee that condensation will not occur and a very careful analysis of the fabric build up will be required.

There is a risk in trying to push the performance of masonry, and current guidance is that a U-Value of 0.6 is the limit. I would refer you to the UK government’s current guidance on internal wall insulation (“Retrofit Internal Wall Insulation – Guide to Best Practice” – see pages 30 and 31 in particular).  See also the Bristolian Guide to wall insulation referred to in the government guidance.

Different stone types, details and wall thicknesses will perform differently, both in terms of thermal performance and risk of water ingress. Granite will perform very differently to sandstone. A historic building built from granite with a crow-stepped gable will represent an extremely high risk of moisture penetration.

A one size fits all approach is therefore out of the question.

Given the risks involved, I would thoroughly recommend the established conservation approach, whereby whatever improvements are carried out, if there are any problems in the future, they can be removed and the building returned to its original state. This may limit the use of some building materials, such as spray foam insulations which physically penetrate and adhere to original fabric and cannot be removed. I would also point out that the use of these materials in a retrofit situation does not comply with their BBA certification.

In addition to building control and planning, there are various other legal requirements that need to be complied with.

Under CDM regulations, a risk assessment will need to be carried out – which will require, at the very least, an asbestos survey before any work is carried out.

There is environmental legislation that will require bat and other ecological surveys to be carried out – this will impact on most rural houses of traditional construction. It is a criminal offence to carry out work that would disturb protected species – such as installing roof insulation. Note – bat surveys can only be carried out between May and August and most ecologists in rural Scotland are already working at full capacity.

Retrofit requires a whole house approach, and to reduce risks, it is important that there are no gaps around the thermal envelope. This means getting into awkward corners. Physically gaining access to some spaces within an existing building can be challenging, particularly the coombs, where upper rooms are built within the roof structure. This may require extensive and costly opening up works followed by re-instatement on completion. If you are dealing with a listed building, or one with ornate decorative plaster cornices, this will require additional care and cost. There is often a legacy of redundant wiring and pipework that has been left behind from work carried out many decades ago, this often gets in the way and needs to be removed. Sub floor spaces often have insufficient ventilation or depth and are again filled with decades of redundant wiring and pipework.

Addressing these issues will require a whole new approach to construction from tradesmen. Very few of our current joiners, electricians and plumbers are familiar with the need to get challenging details right on site. Even when there is a clear strategy and a good set of drawings, the physical challenges of delivering these on-site must not be underestimated.

Supply chain issues to be considered are:

Availability of architects/surveyors with conservation expertise.

Availability of ecologists

Availability of suitably skilled and motivated tradesmen.


These are first thoughts and no doubt many more points will arise.


PAS 2035 : 2023 Retrofitting dwellings for improved energy efficiency – Specification and guidance

EPC – Energy Performance Certificate

BBA – British Board of Agrément Construction Product Certification



Forth & Borders group: Cases panel Secretary & Convenor wanted!

F&B Cases panel role

Cases panel Secretary and Convenor wanted!

Forth & Borders is seeking a new convener and secretary for its cases panel.  This is an important, dynamic role in the work of the Society.  Past conveners and secretaries have frequently used their experience to great effect in their future careers in the conservation world.

Please send expressions of interest to the by 10 November.


Call for survey responses: Buildings at Risk Register

Harlow Consulting

Participate in an online survey!

The Buildings at Risk Register was established in 1990 in response to growing concern over vacant listed buildings and those in Conservation Areas that had fallen into disrepair. Since its inception, the BARR has provided information on buildings of architectural or historic merit in Scotland that are considered ‘at risk’. Identifying these buildings has helped find new owners who have saved many from continued decay and loss.

The historic environment faces many pressures. We continue to witness historic buildings falling into disrepair, becoming vacant with no identified new use; being damaged by fire; or threatened with demolition. These factors have prompted HES to act.

HES have commissioned Harlow Consulting, a leading research agency in the heritage sector, to undertake an extensive survey to help HES to understand who uses the Buildings at Risk Register, and the impact it is having. The survey seeks to engage individuals, organisations, communities, and professionals, who have an interest in the reuse of historic buildings at risk.

Your input matters! HES values your views and insights, which will help inform decisions about the Register. Together, we hope to determine the best approaches to addressing the numbers of buildings at risk in Scotland, so that we are reusing and saving as many as possible.

The survey can be found here: It will be open for completion until the end of this month.


Call for volunteers: Edinburgh historic property owners


Participate in a Research Study!

Do you own and live in a listed property in Edinburgh?

Has your home been retrofitted to improve its energy efficiency?

Or are you planning on having some retrofit work done?

If yes, then researchers from the Edinburgh School of Architecture and Landscape Architecture want to hear from you, as part of a research project being run in conjunction with Edinburgh World Heritage.

If eligible, you will be invited to an interview to share your experience of retrofitting (or your plan to retrofit) your historic property. The interview will last about 1 hour and will be conducted virtually (via Zoom or MS Teams) by the University of Edinburgh School of Architecture and Landscape Architecture (ESALA).

Learn more about the project, check if you are eligible to participate, and express your interest by filling out this short form:


Holyrood Magazine discussion: Should historic buildings be left to ‘die gracefully’?

The AHSS remains extremely concerned by the continuing uncertainty over the future of a large number of properties in the care of Historic Environment Scotland.

Should we allow historic buildings to fall into disrepair? As numerous HES-managed sites have failed to reopen after the Covid-19 Pandemic, and maintenance costs continue to rise, deputy editor of Holyrood Magazine, Chris Marshall, discusses whether or not we should allow some historic buildings to ‘die gracefully’.


You can read the full article, with input from acting AHSS chair Jocelyn Cunliffe, in Holyrood Magazine here.


Image Melrose Abbey, via Wikipedia commons


Further letter about Ayr Station Hotel, following the fire

Read the main text of the letter below

Download the letter in PDF format here


Cllr Martin Dowey
South Ayrshire Council
Country Buildings
Wellington Square
Ayr KA7 1DR

30 May 2023

Dear Councillor Dowey,

Ayr Station Hotel

It was with considerable concern that the AHSS noted the fire in Ayr Station Hotel on Sunday 28 May. My colleague, Martin Robertson, wrote to Eileen Howat about the parlous state of this iconic building on 5 April 2021 and reflected the views of many of our members. A copy is enclosed.

We recognised the difficulties the Council has found itself in and the need for a long-term, financially sustainable solution. We suggested that making the building safe, wind and waterproof, as has been applied in similar circumstances elsewhere, will remove the need for the scaffolding and shrouding, as well as the substantial financial burden. Considerable internal work may be needed, as timber will have deteriorated over the period of its shrouding.

However, accessibility to the building would allow the opportunity for investors to assess potential uses and to make the necessary contributions to further renovation costs. This approach was also set out in the SAVE report given to you last year and widely circulated to interested bodies in Scotland.

With good will and co-operation between all relevant parties, a solution encompassing a new compliant railway station and permitting the retention of the former hotel building to be renovated and reused is feasible. This would retain the important backdrop to Burns Statue Square. Demolition of the building would leave a gaping hole in a key urban setting, resulting in a poor long-lasting legacy. The embodied carbon in this building, well-constructed using Ballochmyle red sandstone, is considerable. Consequently, any demolition and the carbon load of a new construction is contrary to current thinking and Policy 7(b) of National Planning Framework 4 (NPF4).

A full independent survey to ascertain the condition of the building is an essential first step and we understand that this is due to be carried out very soon. Hopefully, the damage caused by the recent fire is minimal but, nevertheless, it is a wakeup call to the dangers that exist with an abandoned building.

While we appreciate that the current Council administration has inherited the present difficulties, it is inevitable that decisions made now will define the legacy. We and others, with the requisite background and knowledge, remain prepared to assist.

Yours sincerely,

Text, letter

Description automatically generated

Jocelyn Cunliffe RIBA FRIAS FRSA

Chair of AHSS National Conservation Committee

Cc:       Eileen Howat, Chief Executive, South Ayrshire Council

            Henrietta Billings, Director, Save Britain’s Heritage

            Mary Miers, President of the AHSS



Lowood House near Melrose set for demolition

The Forth and Borders cases panel of the AHSS is concerned by plans to demolish Lowood House, near Melrose.

In the context of the planned expansion of Tweedbank village, Scottish Borders Council is considering a number of options for the Lowood House estate, which it is understood was acquired by it for £9.6 million in 2018.

Complete demolition is understood to be the preferred option.  Read local press coverage here and here.

Read our letter to Scottish Borders Council, in which we argue for a sustainable tourism use to be found for the building, here



Image Lowood House, © Walter Baxter (cc-by-sa/2.0)


Results of FOI request about HES ‘Properties in Care’

The AHSS remains extremely concerned by the continuing uncertainty over the future of a large number of properties in the care of Historic Environment Scotland.

In December, the AHSS submitted a Freedom of Information request in the hope of understanding the background to the management decisions taken by HES since the beginning of the pandemic.

Read our letter to HES here

We have now received a large volume of documentation in return which we will publish below.

Response to:

question 1, “please provide a breakdown of expenditure on a property-by-property basis on the repair of historic sites in state care, i.e. excluding any access, interpretation, and visitor facilities, for the period 2015 – 2022.  If information is not available on a site-by-site basis then a breakdown by PIC region will be acceptable.”

   response here

question 2, “Please provide a breakdown of expenditure spent on any access, interpretation, and visitor facilities, i.e. excluding repairs to historic fabric, for the period 2015 – 2022. ”

  response here

question 3, “Please provide details of recorded masonry falls at Properties in Care sites from 2015 to 2022.”

response here

question 4, “Please provide technical reports in respect of the condition of monuments in state care for the period 2019-2022, including any advice in respect of potentially unsafe masonry work.”

    response received, pending upload to website

question 5, “Please provide details of any expenditure incurred in respect of temporary making-safe, including the temporary exclusion of the public from “at risk” areas, arising from items 3 and 4 above.”

response received, “our financial system does not allow us to track expenditure in this wau directly against items 3 and 4.”

question 6, “Please provide details of any expenditure incurred in respect of permanent repairs arising from items 3 and 4 above.”

    response received, “our financial system does not allow us to track expenditure in this wau directly against items 3 and 4.”

question 7, “The AHSS understands that Historic Environment Scotland (HES) is required under Clause 3.16 of the Scheme of Delegation to have a “peer review” process in place to ensure that its conservation principles, policies and standards are being assessed by a group of independent professionals in similar fields. Two reports were published covering 2017-18 and 2018-19. In the Properties in the Care of Scottish Ministers Annual Report of 2019-20 there is limited information on page 21 at 6.3 Peer Review. The Properties in the Care of Scottish Ministers Annual Reports of 2020-21 and 2021-22 do not include a section comparable to section 6.3 in Properties in the Care of Scottish Ministers Annual Report of 2019-20. 

Please provide details of the peer review process for the period 2019-22 including terms of reference, agendas and supporting papers, and minutes.”

    response received: “The Covid pandemic impacted our Peer Review programme.  This meant that instead, we asked our Peer Review Panel to look at our approach to the High Level Masonry work – this was augmented by other specialists in the heritage conservation sector who could add value.  We have however provided: Terms of Reference, Minutes and supporting papers.  Agendas are not provided as this information is transferred to the Minutes when issued.”

documents received, pending upload to website.


Image Melrose Abbey, via Wikipedia commons


Call for volunteers: Church recording project

Scotland’s Churches Trust

Scotland’s historic church buildings are currently experiencing a period of upheaval of a scale last seen in the 19th century. Hundreds of sites, many of which have been places of sacred ceremony, community fellowship and spiritual refuge for centuries, are set to close their doors to the public.

In most cases, the exterior solid fabric of these well-known local landmarks will be saved, as the buildings are reused for other purposes, but the artefacts inside will mostly be removed elsewhere and scattered to the four winds.

Scotland’s Churches Trust is working with Historic Environment Scotland on a pilot project to try to enlist and empower local volunteers across the country to make a record of as much of this unique, multi-generational, cultural heritage as possible, before it is lost forever.  We reproduce the call for volunteers made by its director, DJ Johnston-Smith, below:

“By its very nature this is effectively an emergency recording exercise. Depending on the church size and the number of available volunteers, we would hope to complete the survey of each church in as little as a single morning or afternoon. You can read one volunteer’s thoughts on a recent church recording session here and watch a short video about that day here.

As well as offering training and advice, we have also created an online church recording form into which volunteers can add a description of each item and up to five photographs straight from their smartphone or tablet. The results of these recording sessions will eventually be made publicly available on the CANMORE website.

The Church of Scotland Presbytery Planning process officially closes on 31 December, when all local plans for the future of their buildings have to be submitted to their internal governance committees. Consequently, the full extent of the next wave of closures will become much clearer in early 2023.

Early in the New Year we will host a group discussion on Zoom to lay out our plans before offering some online training for those that can’t make it along in person to the next churches our existing small band of volunteers identify for recording.

We hope to grow a national database of potential volunteers that we might be able to call upon to visit their local closing churches. So if you would like to get involved and help make a permanent record of your local church before its closes, please get in touch with our director DJ Johnston-Smith at and we will add you to our potential church recorders mailing list.”


Concerns regarding development at Dean Bank House

Following reports from local members, the AHSS wrote to Hal Osler, Convener of the Development Management Sub- committee to raise concerns regarding an ongoing development at Dean Bank House, a late 18th century Classical
villa in the Inverleith Conservation Area (20/01244/FUL & 20/01245/LBC)

Dean Bank House was built as a three bay, two storey villa with a hipped slated roof and gable chimneys circa 1790-96. Single storey lean-to wings, held behind screen walls and rising to two storeys in small flanking pavilions at the rear, appear to have been added soon after construction: they are indicated on Ainslie’s map of 1804.

During 2020–21, planning and listed building consent applications were submitted and subsequently granted for alteration and extension of the house, including a side-extension to the right (north-east) of the principal façade, and the infilling of the rear (north-west) service yard. The AHSS was contacted by several local members expressing concern that the work being undertaken was not in line with the granted scheme, including the footprint and height of the additions.

Despite an email in March to the Chief Planning Officer and the Ward Councillors, we received no reply. As work progressed, it was clear that the roof to the rear extension was of a different form to the granted scheme and impacts much more on the Gothic window. We wrote again, this time to Hal Osler as Convener of the Development Management Sub-committee and Inverleith Ward Councillor, who has confirmed that an enforcement case is in progress. An update will be provided in due course.

Read our letter here


Memorial service for Patrick Simpson 1922 – 2022

Memorial service

Patrick Simpson, a life member of the Society, died in June.

A memorial service will be held at Stockbridge Parish Church, Saxe Coburg Street, Edinburgh on Friday 30 September at 12 noon.  Patrick’s widow, Henrietta, welcomes all who knew and remember Patrick to attend.

Why Buildings Collapse

‘Why Buildings Collapse’ was broadcast on BBC2 HD – Tuesday 5th July 2022 and is available on iPlayer

Reflecting on the first anniversary of the tragic events at Champlain Towers South, where a Miami condominium complex rapidly collapsed, resulting in the death of 98 people, a documentary aired on BBC 2 put UK building maintenance issues into that wider context.

Prof Douglas Robertson, and BEFS Director Ailsa Macfarlane, offered comment on the challenges, and future prospects, for the management and maintenance of multiple ownership buildings in Scotland.

Douglas Robertson, Honorary Professor in the Faculty of Social Sciences at the University of Stirling and author of the report Why Flats Fall Down, said: “71% of traditionally built homes – those constructed pre-1919 – have disrepair to critical elements. The complexity of traditional tenement stock in terms of structure and multi-ownership arrangements, along with inadequacies of management, maintenance, and repair, is driving a worrying growth in disrepair.

“If left unchecked, on-going deterioration within the overall fabric of many flatted properties will result in more collapses and abandonments.”

Collaborative work in Scotland around tenement maintenance produced recommendations (2019) for: mandatory Owners’ Associations, Building Reserve Funds, and Five Yearly Building Surveys. The Scottish Government workplan in relation to these accepted recommendations is on-going, including work by the Scottish Law Commission to examine the prospective legislative change necessary for Owners’ Associations.

Ailsa Macfarlane, Director of Built Environment Forum Scotland (BEFS), said: “There is a pressing need for better availability of building condition data, along with a recognition of the vital role our existing buildings have in helping to meet net-zero targets.

“As we look to the maintenance, repair, and increasingly the retrofit of Scotland’s traditional buildings, we know that securing the technical skills to work with the historic built environment will be one of the keys to success.

“In Scotland, around 20% of our housing stock is pre-1919, and over 50% is pre-1964. This goes to show the scale of potential for environmental, economic, and social good that could be achieved by action to support and ensure well-maintained and appropriately retrofitted homes.”

It is appreciated that these matters have been, and continue to be, worked on collaboratively. Furthering progress on these important issues will mean highlighting the importance of our existing housing infrastructure as homes, but also the huge potential these buildings have in helping to support economic recovery and a just transition, helping to meet Scotland’s net-zero goals.

Watch it on iPlayer here


Image via Wikipedia commons


Why it’s the right time to invest in Scotland’s heritage – The Scotsman

Head of News at the Scotsman, Dale Miller, has expressed concern that Scotland’s Heritage is being taken for granted. HES recently temporarily closed several of its properties to carry out a series of assessments for high-level masonry problems.

“With the body’s budget having been slashed from £61 million this financial year to £48m in 2026/27, the heritage organisation will face increasingly tough decisions on what projects to prioritise and which to postpone.

We may be living through the war in Ukraine, a cost-of-living crisis and incredible pressures on the NHS system, but Scotland’s heritage remains vitally important.”

The article can be read here:

The AHSS recently wrote to Minister for Culture, Europe and International Development, Neil Gray MSP, reaffirming its concerns regarding the budget allocation for conservation and the change in policy, suggesting a review of HES’s budget and the ring-fencing of funds for conservation. Read the post here


Image “Interior at Linlithgow Palace” by Beth is marked with CC BY-ND 2.0


20 May 2022: The Trinity Network Apse Open Day

Date: Friday 20th May, 2022
Venue: Trinity Apse, Jeffrey Street, Chambers Close Stairs, Edinburgh, EH1 1SS
Time: Various throughout the day
Cost: Free

Morning session
Open doors – 10.15am
10.30am – 12.00 noon – Informal Q and A with members of the Trinity Network
11.00 am – Architectural Tour of Apse with Dr Lizzie Swarbrick

Afternoon Session
Open Doors – 12.30pm
12.45pm – Architectural tour of the apse with Dr Lizzie Swarbrick
1.15pm – 2.45pm – A series of short talks on aspects of the Trinity Collegiate Chapel, including Trinity Altarpiece, music, queenship, Trinity hospital, material culture

For further details contact

Note: There is no wheelchair access (because of the steps) to the apse and you enter this historic building at your own risk


Image via Wikipedia commons


Controversial development of vacant Aberdeen offices given ‘green light’ despite objections

The AHSS has objected to the development of B-listed Denburn House, Aberdeen, which proposes 72 flatted dwellings within the city centre offices (211326/LBC & 211331/DPP)

The development at 20-25 Union Terrace encompasses three buildings, formerly the Aberdeen County Offices, designed by A. Marshall Mackenzie circa 1896-97 (numbers 20 & 22), and A.G. Sydney Mitchell & Wilson, 1902 (number 25).

In September 2021, two applications were submitted by Wardman Brown Architects, Darlington, on behalf of the client, Mandale Homes. The Listed Building Consent, which sought permission for new and replacement windows, along with internal alterations associated with the development, attracted three letters of objection, including representation from the AHSS and the Aberdeen Civic Society.

The letter of objection, sent on behalf of the AHSS North East, stated “The buildings into which these would be put deserve much attention, and imaginative re-use. In terms of sizes, planning, and their spatial aspects [eg why should they all have the same minimum ceiling heights?] the host structures could accommodate a much wider range of ambition. Parts might be used as a whole range of domestic uses from hostel to fancy hotel, in sizes from single to family use, also providing live-work accommodation.”

Whilst the re-use of a vacant building was welcomed, the primary concerns as detailed in the Report of Handling was ‘the standard of amenity that would be created for occupants would be insufficient, with a large number of small, low-ceilinged flats, some with windowless bedrooms, arranged along long corridors’.

The scheme was amended to reduce the number of dwellings from 86 to 72; the development will now comprise of 14 studio apartments, 45 one-bed, nine two-bed and four three-bed flats.

The LBC was approved at the beginning of April, 2022. The planning application, including the change of use, is undecided.

Read our letter here


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AHSS raises concerns regarding a prominent glass roof pod at Abercromby Place

Following reports from local members, the AHSS wrote to Edinburgh Council’s Chief Planning Officer to raise concerns regarding an ongoing development to an A-listed property at Abercromby Place, which includes a new glazed roof extension and terrace (16/02439/FUL & 16/02440/LBC)

15-16 Abercromby Place were originally built as townhouses within a palace-fronted terrace, designed by Robert Reid and William Sibbald, circa 1806-19. In 1966, it was reconstructed as one office building in a modern style behind a retained façade. The proposals by Warwick Stewart Architects, County Antrim, submitted in May 2016 sought a change of use and associated internal and external alterations to create 11 flats, including a rear façade replacement and glazed roof pod.

Both the Planning and the Design and Access Statements confirm the ‘discreet location’ of roof level alterations: that the “lightweight (glass) pod would add to the layers of character and interest within the block… the position of the glass pod and terrace on the rear part of the roof… ensures the front, listed, elevation remains intact and unspoilt”, and “It is set back on the roof and is not visible from street level”, and the balustrade for the roof terrace, “…is to be frameless glazing and set back from the edges of the building in a position which cannot be viewed from street level…”.

Previously reported possible breaches of planning control for alleged non-compliance regarding the dimensions of the glass roof pod, both dating from August 2021, were investigated by the Council who visited the site and found that “the measurements taken show that the depth (6.4m) and height (2.73m) of the pod and its positioning on the roof are in accordance with the approved drawings (6.75m in from front of building, 3.0m from rear). However, the width of the pod is 4.6m wide as opposed to being 6.65m wide on the approved drawing. This means that the pod is positioned further away from the parapet wall between 14 and 15 Abercromby Place”.

A letter sent to David Givan by the AHSS, challenged the ‘limited impact’ of the roof extension, as it is now clear that the roof structure is visible and damaging to the roofscape and streetscape of Abercromby Place, notably when viewed from the corner junction with Dundas Street, and asked “what action the Planning Department took in relation to the roof terrace and pod ‘to ensure any impacts are indeed kept to a minimum’?”

A reply, sent on behalf of David Givan stated, “I would accept that it would appear that the case officer may not have understood the full impact that this addition may have when viewed from different vantage points. In addition, HES raised no objection to the proposals, making specific reference to the proposed glazed access pod and stating that given the extent of past interventions to this building, HES considered it unlikely that this proposal would have a significant visual impact on Abercromby Place. This response, coupled with the lack of objections to the proposals, will have been material considerations in the determination of the application.”

“The Planning Authority is acutely aware of the need to protect Edinburgh’s unique heritage assets and staff are trained in such matters as part of our continual professional development and we will be using this example to re-iterate the sensitivities of the New Town roofscape and the need for full visual impact assessments in determining these cases.”

Read our letter here


Questions about HES ‘Properties in Care’

The AHSS is concerned by a recent announcement from Historic Environment Scotland, which has stated that it will be stepping back from maintaining some properties which have been entrusted to its care

This announcement has given rise to some discussion in the press:

Castles in disrepair? Experts warn hard choices risk future of Scotland’s past – The Sunday Post

Crumbling old ruins could be left to ‘die gracefully‘ – The Times

The AHSS has written to Minister for Culture, Europe and International Development, Neil Gray MSP, reaffirming its concerns regarding the budget allocation for conservation and the change in policy, suggesting a review of HES’s budget and the ring-fencing of funds for conservation. We will provide an update in due course.

Read our letter here


Update- Following our letter earlier in the year, Minister for Culture, Europe and International Development, Neil Gray MSP has responded, confirming that the Scottish Government has not given direction to HES to spend less on physical conservation of assets, and agreeing that it is vital that Scotland’s historic properties in care are kept in a safe condition.

The full response can be read here


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7 & 8 May 2022: Scottish Mills Weekend with SPAB Scotland & PKHT

A celebration of all things Milling in Scotland with Perth and Kinross Heritage Trust

Milling Matters – Scottish Mills Weekend

Date: Saturday 7th & Sunday 8th May 2022
Location: Mercure Hotel, West Mill Street, PH1 5QP, PERTH
Time: 9am onwards
Cost: EARLY BIRD OFFER – £95 for Saturday & Sunday
Available until 18.00 on 15 March 2022

Full ticket – £110 (Saturday & Sunday)
Saturday only – £75
Booking Closes at 18.00 on Friday 21 April 2022

SPAB Scotland and Perth and Kinross Heritage Trust are thrilled to invite you to the first ever celebration of mills and milling in Scotland, to be held in Lower City Mills, Perth and with visits to mills in Perthshire.

The event will be held on National Mills Weekend and will be packed with interest, covering many aspects of mills from industrial heritage to bread making and hydro-power.

Saturday starts with a selection of short talks in the Mercure Hotel Perth, formerly Upper City Mill, and which has some remaining elements rare to molinologists..  Topics covered will include looking after mills as a community trust, heritage grains & breadmaking, micro hydro-power, the Scottish textile industry, looking after mill machinery, and a short history of Perth Lower City Mills given by PKHT director David Strachan.  We will visit Lower City Mills in the afternoon, and hope to engage delegates in a lively discussion about the future of mill conservation and heritage milling and it’s associated skills in Scotland.

Sunday continues with a coach trip in the scenic Stanley, Blairgowrie and Rattray area to watermill sites not normally open to the public, and where we will take a scenic walk along the River Ericht. Further details will be advertised when confirmed.

Click here for more details of the event and to book your place


Four Fabulous Lectures

Date: 08/03/2022 – 03/05/2022
Location: Online
Time: 12 noon – 1.30pm
Cost: £18 for Members or £21 for Non-members

If you missed the first lecture, don’t worry! An email link to the recording will be provided if you buy the joint ticket to watch the others live / at a later date. 

SPAB Scotland are pleased to present this series of 4 lectures in the run up to our Milling Matters – Scottish Mills Weekend on 7-8 May 2022.  Tickets for the following lectures can be bought indiviually by following the links, or as a block booking via the link below.

Click here for the programme of events in the lecture series and to book your place


AHSS objects to planning applications for demolition of Granton Harbour WWII pillboxes

AHSS Forth & Borders cases panel objected to planning application ref 21/06635/LBC for the demolition of two ‘dilapidated concrete shelters’ on the Eastern breakwater.

Permission has now been granted by Edinburgh City Council for the demolition of the two B-listed concrete structures on the western side of the Eastern breakwater at Granton Harbour, as EdinburghLive reported on Tuesday 8 February (see report here).

The AHSS objected to the demolition, as the WWII pillboxes form a significant stage in the history of the harbour, and the loss of the structures has a detrimental impact on the historic interest of the breakwater.

The planning officer’s handling report states that the “demolitions relate to non-original elements which are not mentioned in the listed building description nor in the Statement of Essential Character”.

But on the contrary, brief details of the former use of the building as WWII defences are given in the first paragraph of the HES Listed Building Description (  The AHSS therefore stands by its objection, which can be read here.

It seems that the structures may have had a later use as changing rooms for sea-swimmers.  Further reading on the history of the harbour can be found on the excellent Granton History website.

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Transcript of AHSS COP26 event

Transcript of AHSS post-COP26 event

We are pleased to make available the transcript of the Question Time debate held on Monday 22 November 2021, in the aftermath of the Glasgow COP 26.  The transcript has been slightly abbreviated and has a couple of inaudible passages, for which we offer our apologies.

Some links to further reading, referred to during the debate, have been added.

The expert panel for an AHSS Question Time discussion, ‘Desperate times call for desperate measures – Scotland’s historic buildings and the climate emergency‘ at SpACE at the ECA Fire Station, 76-78 Lauriston Place, Edinburgh EH3 9DE on Monday 22 November 2021 comprised:

Sarah Boyack MSP

Christina Gaiger, President of the Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland (RIAS)

Dr Moses Jenkins, Senior Technical Officer, Historic Environment Scotland (HES)

Euan Leitch, Chief Executive, Scotland’s Regeneration Forum (SURF)

Christina Sinclair, Director, Edinburgh World Heritage (EWH)

The evening was chaired by Peter Drummond, conservation architect, expert witness and former chair of the AHSS.



Margaret Gilfillan

The Society is sorry to learn of the death of Margaret Gilfillan MBE.

Margaret, who was born on 15 August 1930 in West Bromwich and died on 14 November 1921 in Edinburgh, was elected to the committee of the Scottish Georgian Society (SGS) in 1968. She and Alistair Rowan began a renewed focus on activities for members. In 1969 she became the first cases panel secretary and the following year she became SGS secretary.

She retired as secretary of the AHSS in 1991 but retained her keen interest in the work of the Society. We shall miss her and send condolences to her family.

Please email sheila.gilfillan @ gmail dot com if you would like to attend her funeral on 1 December.


Historic Environment Policy for Scotland Two Years On – Have Your Say

Invitation to participate in Historic Environment Scotland’s online survey on your experience and use of HEPS

Two years on from the introduction of the Historic Environment Policy for Scotland (HEPS), Historic Environment Scotland is looking for your comments on how the policy is performing.

This survey is for everyone. Whether you have never heard of HEPS before, use it everyday, or are somewhere in between, your feedback is really valuable.

The survey will take around 10 minutes to complete and will be open until 30 August.

Follow this link to take part in the survey


The AHSS Objects to the Planning Applications for the out-of-scale Proposed Tower at 520 Sauchiehall Street, Glasgow

AHSS Strathclyde Cases Panel has submitted our objection to the planning applications REF: 21/020068/LBA & 21/02069/FUL
for the erection of a new residential development within Glasgow’s Conservation Area.

Plans submitted to Glasgow City Council on behalf of Consensus Capital Group Ltd propose the creation of a new development of 87 units with a ground floor commercial unit between 520 Sauchiehall Street and 341 Renfrew Street, within the Glasgow Central Conservation Area.

The AHSS strongly objects to the applications for the proposed erection of a 14-storey high tower (including the ground floor and mezzanine) which will dominate the adjoining Listed Buildings and the skyline of the Conservation Area. Read our letter of objection here

To view the full applications, please visit the Glasgow City Council planning portal:




The deadline for comments is Tuesday 10 August 2021.

Image: 21_02069_FUL-PROPOSED_STREET_ELEVATIONS-4964598 uploaded on Glasgow City Planning Portal


POSTPONED – The Hill House and Hermitage Park, Helensburgh RESCHEDULED TO SEPT 2022

Join Scotland’s Garden and Landscape Heritage (SGLH) for a visit to The Hill House!

When: rescheduled to Sept 2022 – details will be posted here
Where: The Hill House and Hermitage Park
Cost: £18.00 – SGLH Members / £25.00 – Non-members

An opportunity to visit The Hill House in the morning and walk the Hill House Box gantries, with lunch provided at The Hill House on the roof-top cafe comprising soup, sandwich, tea, coffee and a sweet treat. After lunch, there is a guided tour of the town’s recently restored Hermitage Park led by project landscape architect Jon Simmons, CMLI between 1.30-2.30pm. Mackintosh’s Hill House is a half-mile walk uphill from the mainline Helensburgh train station. A taxi rank is located at the railway station. Hermitage Park is a half-mile walk down the hill. Meet at the park Pavilion from 1pm onwards. The guided walk, or walks depending on numbers, will begin at 1.30pm.

Entry to The Hill House is free for National Trust for Scotland and National Trust members.  Non National Trust for Scotland and National Trust members will need to pay to enter the site.




Former Royal High School site now being marketed by the City of Edinburgh Council


In January 2021, the Finance and Resources Committee of Edinburgh City Council agreed that the Calton Hill building would be remarketed, ushering in ‘a new chapter for the property at the heart of Edinburgh’s original World Heritage Site’.

The City of Edinburgh Council has now put the former Royal High School on the open market, inviting interested parties to submit development plans in exchange for a long lease.

Any proposals must guarantee the Royal High School’s long-term viability, be of the highest architectural quality, and take into consideration the conclusions reached by the Scottish Ministers following the public inquiry.

Read the tender document here


Letter to the Chief Executive Officer of TSB about the closure of the Ruthwell Savings Banks Museum

Read the main text of the letter below

Download the letter in PDF format here


Debbie Crosbie
Chief Executive Officer
TSB Scotland plc
Henry Duncan House
118-124 George Street

By email:


28 May 2021


Dear Debbie Crosbie

Ruthwell Savings Bank Museum

The proposal by the Trustee Savings Bank to close the museum dedicated to the foundation of the Savings Bank movement is an extremely distressing one for Dumfries and Galloway, and the Architectural Heritage Society of Scotland wishes to support David Mundell MP and Colin Smyth MSP in their plea to the TSB not to go ahead with this. This museum could not be more important to the history of the savings movement worldwide, but its significance also lies both in its very obvious humble beginnings and, particularly for the AHSS, in the authentic character and history of the building that houses it. This is a Category A Listed Building for its very real association with the foundation of Savings Banks and with their originator, the Reverend Henry Duncan, Minister of Ruthwell. As a part of his wider aims to educate his parishioners and assist them in improving their lives, Duncan transformed two semi-derelict eighteenth century cottages, one into a hall for the kind of local meetings and lectures he wished to encourage, and it was in this hall that he introduced his parishioners to the idea of the Savings Bank, while the adjoining cottage was transformed into the bank itself.

You at the TSB of course know this already, but the AHSS feels that perhaps you do not fully understand the duty the bank owes to this relic of your humble beginnings. The only realistic alternative use for this building would be as a house and its character is far less likely to be maintained in a way that fully reflects its true architectural nature and history if this should happen. It is even debatable as to whether it would truly remain of sufficient heritage importance to merit its Category A listing if its direct relation to its banking origins are diminished by your removing the associated artefacts and ending the bank’s direct ownership of it. It records the origins of a worldwide movement in a small community in a rural backwater. It bears a remarkable testimony to Henry Duncan and his world, but it can only survive properly if it remains in TSB’s ownership and control.

What amounts to asset stripping of the local heritage has happened before in Dumfries and Galloway. In 2013 the National Museum of Scotland closed the National Costume Museum in Shambellie House and removed the collection to Edinburgh, giving the same reasons for doing so that you now use. In the following year the Galloway Hoard of Viking silver was discovered by a metal dectectorist, and in 2017 it also became the property of the National Museum and, despite a loud campaign to keep the hoard local, is also to remain in Edinburgh. It is of course true that more people will see these collections in the capital, but it is Edinburgh and Edinburgh tourism that will benefit and not the region from which the collections came.

The fate of Shambellie House is one that should give the TSB cause for reflection. It was gifted in 1983 to the state in perpetuity to house and display Charles Stewart’s extensive costume collection. The gift was accepted on those terms and was an important tourist destination in Galloway until 2012, but, for the last eight years, it has stood empty awaiting a new use, which is only now beginning to appear. Meanwhile, only a small proportion of the costumes themselves are on display in Chambers Street. This must not happen to the Savings Bank Museum and its collection of archives and artefacts. Instead it is perhaps time for a new approach.

Can the TSB not set up a properly endowed trust to run the building and museum? Although visitor numbers may be modest there is scope for increasing them. It is a key member of the group of heritage assets in the area; Carlyle’s Birthplace at Ecclefechan, Devil’s Porridge Museum at Eastriggs, and of course the world famous Ruthwell Cross in the parish church, another memorial to the work of Henry Duncan. To take away any one of these is to diminish the other three. The Ruthwell Cross is a case in point. It is not in Edinburgh, the National Museum has a plaster cast on display, the real thing remains where it was found. What the TSB is now proposing amounts to making a cheap replica of part of the museum on an alien site and abandoning the real thing altogether. This is the opposite of cultural ‘levelling up’.

The AHSS asks that this decision by the TSB should be urgently reconsidered. There is great scope for local support for the museum’s retention while the universities at the Crichton Campus and perhaps the Crichton Trust itself may be in a position to provide advice and assistance. Houses associated with famous people and great ideas, especially when it is as close and real an association as this, always remain of interest, and the AHSS’s concern is that they should stay largely as the famous people in question knew them. The two Robert Burn’s houses, Ellisland Farm and Bank Street, Dumfries have been kept like this and the poet’s presence is still very strong in both of them. Dumfries Town Council recognised their duty to the poet’s memory, and also the advantage to themselves, when they accepted responsibility for Bank Street in 1935. This responsibility is carried on today by Dumfries and Galloway Council.

The AHSS is very concerned that this important Category A Listed Building is likely to suffer inappropriate change to its character, appearance and heritage significance as a result of the TSB’s decision to close the Savings Bank Museum. The Society requests strongly that you reconsider this decision and seek another solution for the building’s future. By all means advertise the banks’s humble beginnings in your head office in the capital, but not at the expense of its true humble beginnings in the Dumfriesshire countryside.


Yours sincerely,

Martin Robertson
Chairman, Architectural Heritage Society of Scotland



David Mundell MP
Colin Smyth MSP
Elaine Murray, Leader, Dumfries and Galloway Council
Marie Marshall, Built Heritage Policy Officer
Gwilym Gibbons, CEO, The Crichton Trust
Dumfries Courier
Dumfries and Galloway Standard
Jeremy Watson, The Times
BBC, South Scotland



Save Egyptian Halls: New charitable body established to lead calls to restore Alexander ‘Greek’ Thomson’s A-listed warehouse in Glasgow

Led by the Scottish Civic Trust

Glasgow’s A-listed Egyptian Halls are a work of artistic genius by Alexander ‘Greek’ Thomson, one of Scotland’s greatest architects. However, the future of the building is uncertain – Egyptian Halls has been lying empty for decades and was recently shortlisted as one of Europe’s ‘fourteen most endangered buildings’ by Europa Nostra, a pan-European heritage organisation.

Scottish Civic Trust are setting up a new charitable body composed of developers, architects and conservation experts to investigate buying and refurbishing the building.

Read the press release here

Sign up on the new website SAVE EGYPTIAN HALLS to receive updates on the progress.



AHSS responds to the Scottish Government’s Heat in Buildings Strategy and Skills consultations

Closed 30/04/2021


The AHSS has recently submitted responses to the Scottish Government’s Consultations on:

  • Draft Heat in buildings strategy – achieving net zero emissions consultation.

Read our response here

View the consultation paper here 


  • Draft Scottish skills requirements for energy efficiency, zero emissions and low carbon heating systems, microgeneration and heat networks for homes.

Read our response here

View the consultation paper here





REPORT: Martin Robertson on ‘Preserving the Cultural Heritage, Supporting the Green Transition’ G20 Culture and Climate Change webinar

Climate Heritage Network Webinar 12 April 2021
‘Preserving the Cultural Heritage, Supporting the Green Transition’ 
Part of the G20 meeting in Italy.

by Martin Robertson, Chair of the Architectural Heritage Society of Scotland

On behalf of the AHSS I attended this webinar to see how far it would concentrate on the built heritage and the possible mitigations which might enable historic buildings to adjust successfully to the future levels of energy efficiency that governments might demand of them. I quickly discovered that the programme was aimed not at the already converted but was an attempt to convince the G20 countries that heritage could be made a part of the solution. The Italian Government, the current President of the G20 countries, had decided that culture was to be the main theme of their Presidency, and this webinar was a small part of their exploration of this.

It was quickly evident that Italy’s main concern will be seismic events, extreme weather, rising sea levels, flooding and tourism overload, so much of the webinar was looking at reacting to these events rather than making sites and buildings more sustainable in themselves. They saw regular monitoring through IT, satellites and drones as the way to prevent the worst effects of these events before they happen.

Tourism is the fastest growing source of global carbon emissions, already at an estimated 8% of the total. One third of all tourism is to the Mediterranean countries, so the Italians have put themselves forward as natural leaders for a new approach to this. The Italians clearly think that the cultural heritage = what tourists want to come and see i.e. it is cultural heritage because tourists want to come and see it rather than for the sense of place and educational and emotional value that we might like to think that we place upon it in Britain and Scotland. This attitude does often appear here as well since it provides an easy way of giving a calculable value to sites, but does, of course, tend to exaggerate the honey pot nature of tourism as more and more people visit the must-see sites while neglecting the other sites which give a completely necessary setting without which the honey pots become little more than theme parks.

Key messages which did come out of the webinar –

  • Successful mitigation of the effects of climate change will require a complete change in the lifestyles of the developed world.
  • Close monitoring of sites using IT, satellites and drones will give warnings and help with future planning.
  • Heritage must become more climate literate and much better at climate risk assessments.
  • Indigenous knowledge can contribute enormously to cultural management strategies.
  • A level of loss must be accepted i.e. We can expect that each site can only be preserved for so long. We are not going to be able to save everything so how far do you go to protect any one thing.
  • It is almost always possible to retrofit historic buildings to an acceptable standard of energy efficiency without lasting damage to their character.
  • Culture and heritage can be key drivers towards net zero and will be a key piece in the puzzle as we “build the better normal together”.

All in all, it was a programme of bite-sized chunks intended to persuade the G20 that this approach was both possible and vitally important. All very well-intentioned, but will they sign up to it?

Here is the link to the day’s programme.



Letter to the Chief Executive of South Ayrshire Council about the future of Ayr Station Hotel

Read the main text of the letter below

Download the letter in PDF format here


Eileen Howat
Chief Executive
South Ayrshire Council
County Buildings
Wellington Square
Ayr, KA7 1DR

By post and email:
Copy to Donald Gillies, Director – Place, email:


5 April 2021


Dear Ms Howat

Ayr Station Hotel

A representative of the Architectural Heritage Society of Scotland (AHSS) attended the meeting held on 29 August 2018 in Ayr Town Hall, to discuss the future of Ayr Station Hotel.  Following that meeting I wrote to Councillor Brian McGinley to offer the Society’s assistance in saving this important building, a landmark building in the town centre, one of the fine group of hotels built by the Glasgow and South Western Railway.

We recognise that the identification of a long-term, financially sustainable solution whilst balancing the special architectural interest is a challenge. We would like to suggest that rather than concentrating on assessing options which show a financial shortfall which might meet the statutory test for demolition you consider an alternative approach, similar to one adopted a number of years ago in the Scottish Borders. There Scottish Enterprise Borders (and their predecessor bodies) made Ettrick Mill, Selkirk, wind and watertight and structurally secure and, after a time interval, and when economic circumstances changed, carried out phased work to bring the building back into use.  Scottish Borders Council took a similar approach at Tower Mill in Hawick, securing the shell ahead of agreeing the brief and appointing a design team for the internal work.  A similar approach should be considered at Ayr Station Hotel.  Once the shell is secure work should be carried out to bring the railway station back into use and then the phases of re-occupation can be considered.

As part of the Climate Emergency existing buildings should be retained and re-purposed and we are confident that a mixed use solution, including the railway station with small retail units, business incubation/office use, possibly a reduced hotel with café and function suite, perhaps some apartments, could be the way forward. The first step is a professional appraisal with costings to make the shell wind and watertight and structurally secure.  Ayr has lost too many distinctive building and has become a place of ‘holes’. We urge the Council to view the situation holistically and recognise that Ayr Station Hotel could and should be an asset to the town.

This building is one of the largest and most stylish listed buildings in the key town of Ayr and the AHSS is anxious to help it achieve a worthwhile future. If we can help at all in this process then please do let us know.


Yours sincerely

Martin Robertson



Campaigns to stop the demolition of Ayr’s Station Hotel:

SAVE Britain’s Heritage – read the press release here

Ayr Station Hotel Community Group



Campaign to stop Dundee City Council from indiscriminately selling one of the most important civic buildings of pre-industrial Dundee, Dudhope Castle.

Support Friends of Dudhope Castle to retain the Castle for the benefit of the community.

Dundee City Council Development Committee voted 15 to 11 to sell or lease the Castle in January 2021 as part of a cost-saving exercise.

The decision has been met with dismay by the local community, who fear that the Council has overlooked the architectural, archaeological and cultural importance as well as the social value of this important building.

The A-listed Dudhope Castle is one of Dundee’s oldest buildings. As architectural conservationist and AHSS Tayside and East Fife Chair, Adam Swan wrote in his letter to the council leader, John Alexander, Dudhope Castle is ‘probably the most significant civic structure of pre-industrial Dundee’.

Dundee’s original castle on the waterfront was demolished in the aftermath of 1314. Dudhope thereafter became the seat of the Scrymgeour Constables of Dundee. In 1668 the Castle and post of Constable passed to Charles Maitland, and then in 1684 to John Graham of Claverhouse or “Bonnie Dundee”, ill-fated victor of Killicrankie. After his death Dudhope was awarded to the Douglases. They leased out the castle for conversion to a woollen mill, which failed, then from 1795, as a Government barrack. The lease expired in the 1890s, and the property reverted to the Earl of Home.

The Earl planned to develop the surrounding park for housing and the Castle was threatened with demolition. The community objected and Dudhope was saved by purchase by the Corporation, aided considerably by nearby householders and other supporters. The park is still well used by the community and the castle, though increasingly derelict, was used by local groups until restored on a budget in the 1980s. It became Abertay University’s business school and, until last year’s lockdown, was most recently used as council offices.

The castle today is a distinctive L-plan range of 4-floors dating from the 1600s and the 1790s, with white lime harl, turreted corners and an impressive symmetrical entrance front. Inside is a substantial stone stair, vaulted cellars and larger spaces that could readily be adapted. It is surrounded by the public park, with mature trees, its own parterre garden and car parking alongside. Its former pleasance is the historic industrial area to the south, including the award-winning Verdant Works textiles museum, and the city centre is a quick hop over the adjacent main road.

Adam Swan has called for the castle to put be put to a use more fitting to its status, citing other ambitious recent initiatives intended to attract investment in Dundee businesses – V&A Dundee, Eden, the eSports arena and Museum of Transport. Separately, a petition objecting to the sale has attracted huge support both locally and internationally, and a newly formed Facebook ‘Friends of Dudhope Castle’ group is providing ideas and community involvement.

Sign the petition here


Dudhope Castle from the east by Ydam – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0


Former Royal High School Appeal Dismissed!

Scottish Ministers have dismissed the planning and listed building consent appeals and have refused planning permission and listed building consent for the proposed development of the former Royal High School, Edinburgh into a luxury hotel.

The AHSS welcomes the decision by Scottish Ministers to reject the appeals by Duddingston House Properties and the Urbanist Group against the refusals of planning and listed building consent by Edinburgh City Council.

The AHSS has been at the forefront of the campaign to save the former Royal High School from the hotel proposals which were simply too much development and in the wrong place. There would have been very real adverse impacts on not just the former Royal High School but also on Edinburgh’s iconic Calton Hill, the New Town, the Old Town and the World Heritage Site.

The AHSS would like to thank all who have campaigned with the Society and contributed to the costs of our representation at the public inquiry. We hope that with this decision by Ministers, the developers will draw back and allow the Royal High School Preservation Trust to move forward with the consented and funded proposal for the music school.


Follow this link to view copies of the decision letters and the reports to Scottish Ministers.



AHSS responds to consultation on Ayr Riverside

Ayr Riverside consultation

The AHSS has taken part in the third public consultation on the Ayr Riverside redevelopment, in relation to Austin-Smith:Lord Ltd’s proposals for the site.


Explore the Design Proposals here:






CANCELLED: 30 April 2020: ‘Conservation Areas – Now and Tomorrow’ at the Engine Shed

The AHSS is delighted to be partnering with Built Environment Forum Scotland (BEFS) and Historic Environment Scotland (HES) on this free event about conservation area policy and management.
*Please note that due to the coronavirus outbreak this event is now postponed until further notice.
Register your interest now to receive a notification about the revised date by emailing

Venue : The Engine Shed, Forthside Way, Stirling, FK8 1QZ
Time : 9:45 – 16:15
Cost : Free / Register your interest at

A free one-day seminar at the Engine Shed in Stirling to discuss conservation area policy and management. The event is primarily geared to heritage sector practitioners.

The seminar will be an opportunity for local authorities, advocacy groups, policy makers and decision makers to get together and talk about what is most important to them for good place making. We will be looking at what is working and not working, current best practice, what local resources are available, and the expectations of communities and stakeholders.
We will also be sharing initial plans for new conservation areas policy and guidance and seeking feedback and further participation.

The day will be divided into three sections:

  • Reality and Resources
  • Placemaking
  • Policy Roadmapping.

Confirmed speakers include:

  • Mark Douglas (Scottish Borders Council)
  • Christina Sinclair (Scottish Borders Council)
  • Rachel Haworth (Heritage Consultant)
  • Nick Haynes (Heritage Consultant)
  • Sonya Linskaill (Conservation Architect)
  • Martin Robertson (AHSS Chair)
  • Dawn McDowell (HES)
  • Simon Montgomery (HES)

This is a partnership event with The Architectural Heritage Society of Scotland (AHSS), Built Environment Forum Scotland (BEFS) and Historic Environment Scotland (HES).

For more information and to register your interest please contact



**This series has now been cancelled**
Programme of talks announced!

Venue: Room LT2, Dalhousie Building, Old Hawkhill, University of Dundee, DD1 4EN
Time: 6.00pm
Cost: Free

Download the programme here



Dundee University Postgraduate Programmes Urban Conservation

The Architectural Heritage Society of Scotland Tayside and East Fife

Dundee Historic Environment Trust


This series of lectures is sponsored by:

Dundee City Council




Dundee Historic Environment Trust

Angus Council


The AHSS Joins the Climate Heritage Network

The AHSS is pleased to have endorsed the Memorandum of Understanding
proposed by the Climate Heritage Network.

The AHSS believes that we must make maximum use of our entire existing building stock, maintaining, repairing, re-purposing and improving as necessary. All existing buildings contain embodied energy and the materials and construction skills of their builders.  It is important that existing buildings are maintained and kept wind and watertight even before further measures in relation to energy performance are considered. We support the objective that conservation will no longer be a niche activity but be mainstream, such that climate change will supersede heritage as the principal driver of environmental and building conservation. We support the principle that we must recycle all useful materials and ensure that as little as possible goes for landfill. The Society recognises that the historic environment is vulnerable and needs safeguarding with a careful balance between protection and managing change in a sustainable way. For example, many town centres are especially vulnerable to loss of quality buildings through neglect.  These can often be renovated to form new homes. The Society works in partnership with other organisations including Historic Environment Scotland, the Built Environment Forum Scotland (BEFS), Heritage Trust Network Scotland and local building preservation trusts. The AHSS was an early supporter of the building preservation trust movement in Scotland.  We regularly oppose the demolition of listed buildings in Scotland and work to seek new uses for buildings at risk.


‘The Climate Heritage Network is a voluntary, mutual support network of local and city, state/provincial and regional, indigenous peoples’, and national arts, culture and heritage governmental and quasi-governmental boards, offices, ministries and site management agencies as well as NGOs, universities, businesses and other organizations committed to aiding their communities in tackling climate change and achieving the ambitions of the Paris Agreement. The focus of the network is providing support to organizations from jurisdictions that have made concrete climate action pledges such as those in the Under 2 Coalition and the Global Covenant of Mayors for Climate & Energy.

The Network was conceived in 2018 at the Climate Heritage Mobilization at the 2018 Global Climate Action Summit and was launched in Edinburgh in October 2019 at the Climate Heritage Network Global Launch.

Interested agencies, organizations and businesses can join by signing or endorsing the Climate Heritage Network MOU (Memorandum of Understanding). The MOU will not introduce new legal constraints on participants but will demonstrate clear commitment to support mobilization of the cultural heritage sector for climate action.’







Launch of the Moffat Heritage Trust

Update from MHT and upcoming SPAB events in Moffat. 

‘The Moffat Heritage Group is in the process of being constituted with the Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator, and will shortly become the Moffat Heritage Trust.  The Group has been formed by people who care about the town’s history and culture and who are ever mindful of where we have come from, and where we need to go.  The aim is to ensure that Moffat’s built, natural, cultural and economic future is protected and furthered in order to help secure the physical and emotional wellbeing of all its residents.

More than 80 people attended the Group’s first public meeting in September of last year, in the Proudfoot Institute, introduced by Sir Neil McIntosh. Several speakers from around Scotland demonstrated how heritage projects had provided opportunities for people to learn about and enjoy their historic, natural and built environments. The key message was that of social togetherness and pride. Some explained how these potentially wide-ranging projects had enabled them to promote the arts, support hands-on training and create new workplace opportunities, enhance the care and repair of their town centres, and engage all parts of the community. This meeting provided the inspiration for the Group to go away and come up with some initial ideas for Moffat.

Since September, the Group has been busy consulting and collaborating with the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings (SPAB). As a result, the Group are delighted to announce that SPAB will showcase Moffat as part of their Annual General Meeting, which will be held in Moffat, on the 28th of March this year. During the AGM day, there will be two lectures 2-4pm, open to everyone and will be of great interest to Moffatonians: the first by the Dumfries Archival Mapping Group, showing and discussing historic maps and features of the region; and the second by Dr Peter Burman MBE FSA, architectural historian and archivist of Hopetoun House, who has been Director of Conservation at the National Trust for Scotland and has had a lifetime of commitment to heritage conservation in the UK and beyond. Peter Burman’s talk will be on “Moffat – a precious historic environment on the threshold of climate change”  Tickets cost £6, and can be booked or paid for at the door.

On April 3rd, twenty Moffat Academy pupils will have a training and information day at the Historic Environment Scotland (HES) Training Centre, in the Engine Shed, Stirling. The Group sees this as an excellent opportunity for some of our young people to gain new skills and understand how they too can help enhance their town.

The Group is currently in discussion with HES, asking them to sponsor and supply lime pointing tools and equipment for training events in the town in April. This equipment can then be retained as a community resource for further community building repair projects. Such projects will not only improve the appearance of the town, but have the potential to bring people of all ages together.

Last but not least, a Moffat Heritage Trust website is under construction and will be the reference point for all news, events, heritage stories and learned articles! The long-term aim is to seek as much community involvement as possible and to shape activities to encompass those that the people of Moffat would like to see.’

The first public meeting of the Moffat Heritage Trust was held on February 20th in the Moffat Town Hall. 


Follow the links below to find out more about the SPAB events in Moffat this Spring:


26 March | GCHT Conference on Conservation Accreditation for Building Professionals

Tickets now on sale!

When: Thursday 26 March 2020  9:30-16:00
Where: Glasgow School of Art’s Reid Building
Cost: Early bird individual ticket: £85 (until February 3rd); Standard price individual ticket: £95; Two tickets: £160
Bookings here

Glasgow City Heritage Trust will be hosting a one-day conference on the benefits and process of gaining conservation accreditation if you are a professional working within the built environment sector. The conference is aimed at anyone working within the sector who is interested in learning more about conservation accreditation, including getting practical guidance about the application process.

There will be speakers from the Glasgow School of Art, RIAS, IHBC and CARE, with more organisations and accreditation bodies to be announced shortly.

The conference will be split into two parts, with the first session focusing on individual and organisational experiences with the benefits of being conservation accredited, as well as advice for potential applicants and a Q & A session. The second session will be split into workshops for participants to get more information about the application process specific to their professional area.

If you have any questions, please email


RIAS/RIBA Awards for Scotland 2020

Submissions now open!

Submission deadline: Thursday 20th February 2020
(an early bird discount of 10% is available until Thursday 6th February 2020)

Entries are now invited for the RIAS/RIBA Awards for Scotland 2020 – celebrating the best in Scottish architecture!

 Now in their ninth year, the combined RIAS/RIBA Awards continue to demonstrate the quality and breadth of current architectural endeavour in Scotland.

Submissions should be made via the online entry form, click HERE for full award guidance/criteria and to access the form.


27 November | Aberdeen City Heritage Trust Annual Lecture

Join Jim Fiddes for a talk on his publication ‘The Granite Men’ and find out more about the granite industry and this local material which is so closely associated with Aberdeen world-wide.


The Chair and Directors of Aberdeen City Heritage Trust are pleased to invite you to its Annual Lecture in the Town and County Hall, Town House, Aberdeen on Wednesday 27 November 2019 from 7.00pm to 9.00pm.

Guest Lecturer: Jim Fiddes Author of “The Granite Men”

Following years of researching the Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire granite industry, Jim Fiddes published his book “The Granite Men” in early 2019. Come and find out more about the industry and this ubiquitous local material which is so closely associated with Aberdeen world-wide.

The event is free but please register on Eventbrite as spaces are limited.



Ayr Station Hotel Community Action Group: Public Meeting

The Ayr Station Hotel Community Action Group is organising a public meeting
on Monday 25 November at 7:30pm in Ayr Town Hall.


When: Monday 25 November 2019 at 7.30 pm (doors open at 7.00 pm)
Where: Ayr Town Hall

We have invited conservationists politicians and NetworkRail to speak. It is a political decision as to whether we save the hotel or build a new glass and steel station which would cost the government £20m (add demolition at £4m+) with more costs, disruption and loss to our urban environment. The prospects for the development of tourism are better with a grand Victorian station, particularly if we want to keep the occasional steam excursion coming. It is likely to be a cheaper option anyway.

Download the flyer here




16-17 November: A weekend celebrating the work of Sir Ninian Comper

Historic Churches Scotland invite you to celebrate the work of Ninian Comper with expert-guided tours of two spectacular Scottish churches in Braemar and Aberdeen!

Talks and Tours are Free to attend, please  register on Eventbrite.

St Margaret’s Church, Gallowgate
Saturday 16th Nov 12noon-1pm
Join the Very Reverend Dr Emsley Nimmo (FSA Scot), Rector of St Margaret’s Church, Gallowgate, on a tour of the church, where Comper added the chapel of St Nicholas, the rood and the Founder’s Aisle. Visitors will have a chance to see the decorative elements close-up and to learn about theological reasoning that lies behind so much of the iconography of Comper’s work.

St Margaret’s Church, Braemar
Sunday 17th Nov 2:30pm- 3:30pm
Join architect and heritage consultant Andrew Wright for a talk & tour of St Margaret’s Braemar, as he shares the findings of his recent research. Considered Comper’s finest church in Scotland, it features beautiful painted glass windows and an exquisite rood screen.


Organised by Historic Churches Scotland and supported by the St Margaret’s Trust
(Braemar), St Margaret’s Gallowgate and the Braemar Local History Group, with funding
from the Scottish Government and the European Community (Cairngorms Local Action
Group) LEADER 2014-2020 programme.


Download the flyer here



‘Ernest Gimson and the SPAB’

Upcoming SPAB Scotland lecture at The Engine Shed.

When: 14th November, 18.00-20.00
Where: The Engine Shed, Forthside Way, Stirling FK8 1QZ
Tickets: £6 (including a drinks reception) – follow the link to book.

2019 is the centenary of the death of Ernest Gimson – a central figure in the British Arts & Crafts Movement – and a new book on his life and work will be published in October. Particularly renowned for his furniture, Gimson worked as an architect, a plasterworker and chairmaker, and as a designer of metalwork, embroideries and bookbindings. For more than 30 years he involved himself with the SPAB, agitating against inappropriate church restorations, reporting to the committee and producing wood and metalwork suited to historic buildings. This talk will cover Gimson’s whole career, with a particular focus on his role as a conservationist and on his collaborations with several Scottish Arts & Crafts architects, including Robert Weir Schultz, Francis Troup and William Weir.

Annette Carruthers was a curator of applied arts in museums in Leicestershire and Cheltenham before joining the School of Art History at the University of St Andrews in 1991. She retired in 2014 and has been working with Mary Greensted and Barley Roscoe on Ernest Gimson: Arts & Crafts Designer and Architect, which includes much new archival research and images commissioned from a specialist architectural photographer, James Brittain.


‘For Baith Plenty and Pleisure: Putting together the Story of the Gardens at Gordon Castle’

National Records of Scotland – Upcoming Public Talk by Christopher Dingwall, Vice-Chair of Scotland’s Garden and Landscape Heritage

When: Tue, 5 November 2019 | 13:30 – 14:30
Where: New Register House, 3 West Register Street, Edinburgh, EH1 3YT
Cost: Free/RSVP on Eventbrite

Using Gordon Castle as a case study, this illustrated talk will demonstrate how estate archives can be used to help uncover the history of a garden. The story of gardening and planting at Gordon Castle, by Fochabers, goes back more than four centuries. Christopher will tell this story using a combination of estate plans, financial records, memoranda, and other documents held by the National Records of Scotland – a story which involved the relocation of the town of Fochabers. The talk will also explain how understanding the history of the eight acre walled garden at Gordon Castle has helped to inform its recent restoration from a state of neglect to become a productive garden once more.




‘Tenement: An Architectural History’ Exhibition at Glasgow City Heritage Trust

Exhibition Launch Thursday 24 October, 6-8pm: You Are Invited!

Architect John Joseph Burns invites you to the launch night of the ‘Tenement: An Architectural History’ Exhibition on Thursday the 24th October between 6-8pm at the Glasgow City Heritage Trust, 54 Bell Street Glasgow.

The exhibition will explore the history of the Glasgow Tenement through a series of engaging architectural drawings providing a new visual story to the history of the tenement. The exhibition is funded by Creative Scotland, Glasgow City Heritage Trust, Glasgow Institute of Architects & the Society of Architectural Historians of Great Britain.

The exhibition will run at the Glasgow City Heritage Trust between the 25th October and 6th December (10am to 5pm)



“All in a Blaze”: The Story of African-American Freedom-Fighters in Edinburgh

New Edinburgh World Heritage Lecture on 29 October | Tickets now on sale

Last year’s ‘Strike for Freedom’ exhibition at the National Library brought to the public’s attention for the first time the remarkable story of anti-slavery campaigner Frederick Douglass and his time in Edinburgh. We are delighted that the curator of the exhibition, Professor Celeste-Marie Bernier, will give our Black History Month lecture this year on the little-known story of 19th-century African American authors and activists who had links to the city.

Professor Bernier is Personal Chair in English Literature and Professor of United States and Atlantic Studies at the University of Edinburgh. She will be signing copies of her biography of Frederick Douglass and his family If I Survive after the lecture. The publication maps the activism and writing career of Frederick Douglass and his sons, and contains full colour facsimile reproductions of over 80 previously unpublished speeches, letters, autobiographies and photographs.

Date: Tuesday 29 October 2019
Start time: 6pm
Lecture venue: Auditorium, Carrubbers Centre, 65 High Street, Edinburgh.
Duration: The lecture will run for around an hour, followed by a 45-minute reception for members of Edinburgh World Heritage at Trinity Apse.
Tickets are available on Eventbrite:


Call for Volunteers

East Lothian is undergoing considerable change…Our Cases Panel needs your help!

‘ Dream of leaving the hustle and bustle of city life behind for the rolling COUNTRYSIDE and REFRESHING BREEZE OF THE COAST?
Look no further than developments throughout EAST LOTHIAN..’

Would you consider joining the East Lothian Cases Panel?

The East Lothian Panel meets twice a month to consider planning applications that apply to Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas, visiting sites as necessary.  We discuss applications to explore the impact on the historic built environment, and any letters of comment are written to the Council.

Since our establishment in 1956, we have administered our work to protect and enhance Scotland’s heritage, through our volunteer Cases Panels across the whole of the country. This is a wonderful network of enthusiastic and dedicated volunteers. Currently, in East Lothian, there are on average 4-5 volunteers but we need further members who can spare a couple of hours each week, or alternate weeks, any travel expenses are paid.

People of any age are very welcome and we are always open to new ideas. There are also opportunities to help with the administration side of things as opposed to planning, if that has greater appeal.

Our aim is always to be constructive, informative and objective. No expert knowledge is required, just an enthusiasm for old buildings and their surroundings! We email you a list of cases so that you can gather thoughts in advance. You can then join our panel discussion prepared to object, comment or support the proposal. Training is provided and you can come along and try it out without any commitment. You have the chance to further your knowledge of your local area and learn from other panel members’ expertise and knowledge. This is truly interesting and fulfilling work with other Society members who share enthusiasm for our corner of Scotland!

This is a chance to help keep the wonderful old buildings and beautiful places in the historic county of East Lothian. Being so close to Edinburgh, they continue to be under tremendous pressure, never so much as at present. The council appreciate what we do, as we are often reminded when they approach us for support.

If you would like to know more, please get in touch with the National Office.

Download the Cases Panel Guidelines here


Dunbar Harbour 05 by byronv2 CC BY-NC 2.0


Autumn 2019 Programme Launch

Patrick Geddes Centre has published its seasonal programme of events!

Join the Patrick Geddes Centre this autumn for a thought-provoking programme of cultural, music, craft and historical events. This season they will be exploring beyond Edinburgh to some of Patrick Geddes’ international projects, in particular his work in India.

In partnership with dedicated academics the study days will be full of new ideas and subject matter. Here are some of the specifically curated study days ‘Ahmedabad Walls: Geddes In India‘ and ‘Anna of Denmark: Queen Influencer‘. These subjects will be explored by prominent academic specialists in their fields, discussed alongside specifically curated visits to external exhibitions.

Follow this link to download the full autumn 2019 programme.

Tickets may be purchased online here or by calling 0131 510 8789. Any questions please contact 




National Study Tour 2020: ANGUS OR FORFARSHIRE – POSTPONED TO 2021


Due to the worsening virus epidemic and the forecast that the virus spread may reach its UK peak at the time of our tour, the AHSS co-organisers have come to the difficult decision that we must postpone the study tour.
We intend to offer the same tour over the equivalent weekend next year: Friday 30th April to Monday 3rd May 2021.

The AHSS 2020 Spring Study Tour will be to Angus in north east Scotland, exploring the built heritage of the wider area. We will be based in the adjacent City of Dundee, starting with a coach pick-up at its new railway terminus, adjacent to the award winning new V&A Museum of Design. We will be accommodated in a recently converted Building at Risk, the category A-listed Bell Mill of 1866, designed by Baxter Bros company engineer Peter Carmichael, its bell tower modelled on that of the church of Santa Maria della Salute in Venice, now along with adjacent North Mill (1935), Dens Street Mill (1865) and St Roques Mill (c.1830s) forming the Lower Dens part of the world’s largest linen sailcloth and canvas manufacturers. It is now the Hotel Indigo, Daisy Tasker restaurant and adjacent Staybridge Apartments. Our city centre location (NE side) will allow us to make walking forays into Dundee.

This year, our National Study Tour will be led by Simon Green and Adam Swan and administered by Caroline McFarlane.

To note your interest, please return a completed form to the National Office, along with a deposit of £100 per person payable to AHSS by 30 November 2019. If you are applying for a single place but prefer to share a room please indicate this (and if possible with whom*) on the form below.

Download your booking form here


Brechin, by Gershom Cumming, Dundee, 1848


RIAS Autumn Seminar – Climate Change, Conservation and Conservative Repairs

Upcoming conservation seminar at The Engine Shed.

Date: 29th October 2019
Venue: The Engine Shed, Forthside Way, Stirling, FK8 1QZ
Time: 1pm to 5pm (open hour – detail in programme – from 12pm to 1pm)
Cost: from £24  (£24 Conservation Accredited / Practice Services Member/ £30 RIAS or Historic Scotland / HES Member / £42 non-members)

Bookings are now open for the RIAS Autumn Conservation seminar. Topics will include: climate change and the historic environment, fungal decay of historic timber, stained glass (what to look for in a quinquennial inspection & protective glazing) and building maintenance in a changing climate.

For programme, speakers’ details and to book please visit:




Doors Open Days Lecture Series

Join the Cockburn Association for their Doors Open Days Lecture Series!

Date: 23rd- 27th September 2019
Venue: French Institute of Scotland, West Parliment Square, Edinburgh EH1 1RF
Time:  Lunchtime 12:00-12:45  – Evening 19:00- 20:00
Cost: £3, students £1  – to book, please follow the link.

Edinburgh & East Lothian Doors Open Days 2019 will be held on the 28th and 29th September, with a lecture series taking place 23rd – 27th September.

Follow this link to download the full lecture series programme.

Find out more at The Cockburn Association 


RIAS Convention & Doolan Award 2019: Climate of Opinion


Date: 4 – 5 October 2019
Venue: EICC, The Exchange, 150 Morrison Street, Edinburgh, EH3 8EE
Price:  Convention – £99 RIAS members / £125 non-members / £50 concession – limited number
Combined (Convention & Dinner) – £147.60 (RIAS Member) £171 non-member
Dinner – £69 (single ticket) £600 – table of ten
(all prices + VAT and booking fee)

This year’s event combines the conference and Doolan Award for Best Building in Scotland. Climate of opinion takes place in Edinburgh with a full day of discussion, debate and celebration around designing for climate resilience, diversity and northern Europe. The Friday evening dinner will involve presentation of the Best Building in Scotland Award (presented by Cabinet Secretary Aileen Campbell) as well as a chance to relax with fellow delegates and convention speakers in the stunning surroundings of the National Museum of Scotland. The event will be rounded off on the Saturday morning with building visits and a city tour exploring some of Edinburgh’s award-winning architecture.

View confirmed speakers so far here
Book your ticket here


RIAS convention 2019 © Reiach & Hall Architects


Winter Lectures Series 2019-2020

Our Strathclyde Group publish their programme of talks in Glasgow.

See below the full list of talks or download the flyer here

All on Thursdays: Coffee/tea at 7 pm; Lectures start at 7:30pm.
Admission: £5 / students £2 / season ticket for all 5 lectures: £20.
Venue: THE RENFIELD CENTRE, 260 Bath Street, Glasgow

Professor Bruce Peter of Glasgow School of Art explores ship design from the heyday of the ‘ocean greyhound’, with an emphasis on Clyde-built liners and their interiors.

John Hume, historian of industrial archaeology and architecture examines some of the extraordinary, magnificent and, indeed, noble buildings put up by Glasgow’s industrialists in the 19th and early 20th Centuries.

January 23rd: JAMES MILLER (1860-1947)
Fergus Sutherland of Icosse Heritage and Media talks about the career of one of Glasgow’s most successful (and least discussed) architects, the wonderfully eclectic James Miller.

Nick Haynes, historic environment consultant traces the architectural history of the University from its origins in the High Street to the most recent developments at Gilmorehill.

Niall Murphy, Deputy Director of Glasgow City Heritage Trust introduces us to one of the key architects from Glasgow’s Golden Age and one that was a rare beast, the Glaswegian architect with a European reputation.



Scottish Living History Festival

Celebrating 75 years of Archaeology Scotland: You are Invited!

As part of their 75th anniversary celebrations, Archaeology Scotland has planned a special family-orientated free event – the Scottish Living History Festival.

When: Saturday, 31 August 2019
Where: Callendar House, Callendar Park, Falkirk, FK1 1YR
Time: 11.00am – 5.00pm

This interactive, fun-filled and educational event will take place on Saturday, 31st August 2019 in the amazing Callendar House museum and outside in its wonderful designed landscape in Falkirk. The Provost of Falkirk has agreed to open the event. Also present will be our patron and forensic anthropologist, Professor Dame Sue Black, and Georgia Hirst one of the stars of Vikings, the much acclaimed History Channel TV series.

We will have a full day of interactive hands-on activities such as:

  • Digital experiences (such as recreating archaeological sites in Minecraft and experiencing the world of the Vikings through Virtual Reality)
  • Simulated excavations
  • Ancient writing
  • Period musicians
  • Exploring and sorting artefacts
  • Engaging talks from experts (with links to Game of Thrones and Outlaw King)
  • Ancient craft workshops
  • Re-enactment groups including the Antonine Guard and the Galloway Longfhada Vikings
  • Guided walks with heritage professionals
  • Stalls featuring leather working, jewellery making, kilt making, iron smelting, promotion of artisan crafts, local high quality food vendors, and much more will entice people to enjoy this free day of fun!

We also plan to create a replica Roman milestone where participants can try out stone carving under expert supervision – this will be a permanent legacy from the weekend.



2019 Craft Symposium hosted by the Centre for Stewardship on Falkland Estate

23 August: CPD lectures – including lectures from Peter Burman, Simon Green and Thom Simmons
24 August: a day dedicated to celebrating the William Morris Craft Fellows and Scholars of the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings & creating a dialogue with a wide spectrum of heritage professionals in Scotland.

Venue: Centre for Stewardship, The Stables, Falkland Estate, Falkland, KY15 7AF
When: 23-24 August 2019
Cost: £60 (day ticket) / £100 (weekend ticket)

The fourth annual Craft Symposium is to be held at the Falkland Estate from the 23rd to 24th August. This event is open to all.

The first day will consist of a day of CPD lectures appropriate for anyone working in the historic environment or with a serious interest in the historic environment, including lectures from Peter Burman, Simon Green and Thom Simmons.

The second day will celebrate the William Morris Craft Fellows and Scholars of the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings and look to create a dialogue with a wide spectrum of heritage professionals in Scotland including and especially those who are working with Historic Environment Scotland, National Trust for Scotland, the team responsible for the recreation of the Glasgow School of Art and the several national, county or city heritage organisations of Scotland.

To book, please follow the link: 

View the full programme here


Image: postcard of Falkland Palace estate, 1923 © SPAB Archives



Winter Lectures Series Announced!

Our Forth and Borders Group publish their programme of talks in Edinburgh.

See below the full list of talks or download the flyer here

Lectures take place at 6.30pm at St Andrew’s and St George’s West Church, 13 George Street, Edinburgh EH2 2PA.
Admission: £5.00 (Students Free). Non-members welcome. Members may attend 6 lectures for £25.

Monday 7th October 2019
KIRSTEN CARTER MCKEE – Calton Hill and the Plans for Edinburgh’s Third New Town
Dr Kirsten Carter McKee, author of a recent book on Calton Hill, will show how the architectural expression of Calton Hill has been perceived, accepted and rejected as ideas surrounding cultural identity, governance and nationalism have changed over the last two hundred years.

Monday 4th November 2019
SHANNON FRASER – Sublime experience in the Hermitage wilderness garden, Dunkeld
Shannon Fraser, a professional archaeologist, formerly of the National Trust for Scotland and now the National Trust’s Curator for Northern Ireland, directed a 15-year research programme at the Hermitage. Driven partly by a substantial building conservation project at Ossian’s Hall, an 18th-century garden pavilion, and partly by remedial works at the Hermitage following damage from a major flood in 2004, the results of this research have considerably expanded our understanding of the design philosophies of the Dukes of Atholl. This is our annual joint lecture with Scotland’s Garden and Landscape Heritage.

Monday 2nd December 2019
ANNETTE CARRUTHERS – Ernest Gimson: Arts & Crafts Designer and Architect
Ernest Gimson (1864­­–1919) was described by Pevsner as ‘the greatest of the artist-craftsmen’ and was a central figure in the British Arts & Crafts Movement. A new book on Gimson’s life and work by Annette Carruthers, Mary Greensted and Barley Roscoe will be published by Yale University Press in October 2019.  Some of the discoveries made during their recent research will be outlined in this talk.

Monday 3rd February 2020
VALERIA CARULLO – Edwin Smith, a genius at photography
When, in 1966, Edinburgh University Press published The Making of Classical Edinburgh by Professor A J Youngson with specially commissioned photographs by Edwin Smith, few could have foreseen the impact the book would have on moves to save Edinburgh’s Georgian New Town. John Summerson described Edwin Smith as ‘A genius at photography’ and his work was widely published. The collection of Smith’s images was donated by his widow, Olive Cook, to the RIBA, and we are fortunate to have as a speaker Valeria Carullo, Curator of the Robert Elwall Photographs Collection at the RIBA British Architecture Library. An exhibition at the City Art Centre (November 2019 – March 2020) titled Classical Edinburgh features a selection of Smith’s photographs plus new images by Colin McLean. This is a joint lecture with The Aperture Trust (

Monday 2nd March 2020
TOM PARNELL – Going Forth: Industrial Heritage beyond the Bridges
The Firth of Forth is dominated by a growing collection of celebrated bridges. But along the shoreline are less well-known remnants of an industrial past that were of enormous importance. The lecture will explore railways, limekilns, distilleries and power stations: some gone, some surviving, but all now out of use. Tom Parnell is an architectural historian, and is currently a Senior Casework Officer for Historic Environment Scotland.

Monday 6th April 2020
CHRIS STEWART – Collective Architecture
Chris Stewart is an Architect-Director of the award-winning architectural practice Collective Architecture and a director of the Scottish Ecological Design Association (SEDA). Collective Architecture, which has offices in Glasgow and Edinburgh, has been owned by its employees for the last twelve years. Chris Stewart will tell us about their projects and approach to sustainable design and client and user involvement.





Blair Castle: Furniture Study Day with David Jones

A wonderful opportunity to study 18th century furniture on 1st November.

Venue: Blair Castle, Blair Atholl, Pitlochry, Perthshire PH18 5TL
Date: Friday 1st November 2019
Time: 10am-4.30pm
Cost: £80.00 (includes: tea/coffee, soup & sandwich lunch)
Early booking recommended as places are limited!

Blair Castle, Perthshire, was transformed in the first half of the eighteenth century, employing the most fashionable craftsmen to create a Palladian mansion furnished with pieces by the leading English and Scottish cabinet makers.

The study day will be based in the Private Library of the castle, where it will be possible to scrutinise pieces and their associated documentation in some detail. Other furniture will be studied in situ. There will be an opportunity (weather permitting) to see over the extensive rococo gardens – the most northerly in Britain.

To book your place, please email
Accommodation if required is available, please email:

More information can be found on the event flyer HERE.



Open letter from the Chairs of The AHSS, Cockburn Association, Edinburgh World Heritage and Scottish Civic Trust to the Editor of the Scotsman urging Scottish Ministers to refuse permission to turn the former Royal High School into a hotel.


Plan to turn the old Royal High School into hotel must be rejected once and for all


We write as Chairs of four of Scotland’s leading heritage bodies – the Architectural Heritage Society of Scotland, the Cockburn Association, Edinburgh World Heritage Trust, and the Scottish Civic Trust – to urge Scottish Ministers to refuse permission to turn the former Royal High School into a hotel.

The proposal has been the subject of two planning applications, both of which were rejected by the City of Edinburgh Council. The most recent application was rejected unanimously by the Planning Committee, and was subject to a substantial number of public representations, 94% of which were objections.

The hotel developer lodged an appeal against the decisions, and this was heard in a public inquiry in September/October 2018. The decision on the appeal was called in by Scottish Ministers, who will take account of the Inquiry Reporter’s findings.

The Royal High School, built in 1825-29, was the masterpiece of renowned Greek Revival architect, Thomas Hamilton and is recognised as one of Europe’s most important historic buildings. The School, which is A-listed, makes a significant contribution to Edinburgh’s historic architecture. It is a centrepiece of the World Heritage Site, the design of it and Calton Hill play a major role in our cityscape.

The proposed hotel would add two very large wings to the building, ruining Hamilton’s composition, and distracting from the southern view of Calton Hill. The western wing would adversely impact on the view east from Waterloo Place. The proposal is not at all sympathetic to the original composition, and is out of scale for a relatively small site.

The economic case advanced by the developer for the new hotel did not stand up to examination in the Inquiry, in terms of neither methodology nor its assumptions.

The hotel’s net contribution to the City’s economy would be minimal, and grossly overshadowed by its adverse impact on the city’s heritage as “The Athens of the North”.

There is an alternative. The proposed adaptation of the Royal High School as a new home for St Mary’s Music School already has Planning and Listed Building Consents. It is a sensitive scheme which respects the Thomas Hamilton building by limiting physical intervention to the necessary minimum. It does not attempt to dominate it, nor does it damage its setting.

It also returns the building to its original use as a place of learning, and with sensible and imaginative levels of public access that are in sympathy with it. Moreover, the Music School project is fully funded and ready to go. The Royal High School would be a splendid home for St Mary’s Music School.

We call on the Scottish Government to reject the appellant’s proposals for an unwanted, unjustified and entirely inappropriate hotel.


Martin Robertson
National Chair, the Architectural Heritage Society of Scotland
15 Rutland Square, Edinburgh EH1 2BE


Professor Emeritus Cliff Hague
Chair, the Cockburn Association
Trunk’s Close, 55 High Street, Edinburgh EH1 1SR


Dr Brian Lang CBE FRSE
Chair, Edinburgh World Heritage Trust
5 Bakehouse Close, 146 Canongate, Edinburgh EH8 8DD


Colin McLean FSAScot LRPS
Chair, the Scottish Civic Trust
The Tobacco Merchant’s House, 42 Miller Street, Glasgow G1 1DT





published in The Scotsman, Thursday 6 June 2019, p.34


Study Day at The Patrick Geddes Centre at Riddle’s Court: ‘Modernism: Geddes, Abercrombie & Pepler’

A unique day exploring placemaking interventions in Edinburgh’s Old Town.

Patrick Geddes has been cited as inspirational by generations of architects and planners. George Pepler & Patrick Abercrombie were instrumental in shaping post-war Britain but were they really Geddesian?

How much of the modernist movement stemmed from Geddes work and would the father of modern planning have loved what was done in his name?

Following an initial exploration of the context and influence of Geddes, Dr Alistair Fair (Lecturer in Architectural History and Director of Research, Edinburgh School of Architecture & Landscape Architecture (ESALA) will explore various realised and proposed ‘modernist’ interventions within Edinburgh’s city centre. Participants will have the opportunity to interrogate original designs. After a light lunch, Alastair and colleagues will lead the group through public space interventions of differing generations in the Royal Mile area.

For more information on the programme or to buy tickets, click here


The Spring 2019 Magazine

Explore the latest edition of the AHSS Magazine!

The latest edition of the AHSS Magazine focuses on regeneration, with four featured articles that explore exciting projects and innovative ideas from Stromness to Dumfries. You will also find updates from our regional groups and Cases Panels, who continue their stellar work across Scotland to protect our heritage. If you’re looking for a new book or two, the Reviews section may have just what you need. Or if you need a new building to discover, see the piece on St John’s Tower in Ayr and learn why it’s Chiara Ronchini’s favourite building.

A word from our Editor, Abigail Daly:

‘Following on from last November’s conference, ‘Destination High Street’, this issue is almost entirely devoted to a single but complex topic: regeneration. The authors of our four main features look at different approaches and discuss projects at various stages… Regeneration takes many forms and, by looking through the reports in the Member’s pages, readers will be left in no doubt that AHSS volunteers have a vital role to play. The challenges we face are formidable, but so too are our members. In the words of one of our authors, “there is still a long way to go but I, for one, and optimistic”.’

Become a member today to receive your free copy!


Dumfries and Galloway Group Talk : ‘The Victorians’

‘Social and technological change and the impact on furnishings and crafts’

Venue: Gordon Memorial Hall, Castle Douglas
Date: Saturday 27 April 2019
Time: 14.15
Cost: FREE

Our Dumfries and Galloway Group are delighted to welcome Sybelle Thomson of Thomson Roddick Auctioneers to give a talk on the impact of social and technological changes on crafts and furnishings during the Victorian era.

The talk will be preceded by a short AGM.


Silenced Histories – Symposium

Gendering the Old Town – women led social change in late nineteenth century Edinburgh

Venue: The Patrick Geddes Centre, Riddles Court, 322 Lawnmarket, Edinburgh, EH1 2PG
Date and Time: Thursday 28 March 2019, 9:30 – 16:30
Cost: £25 – £40

Organised by The Patrick Geddes Centre at Riddles’ Court.
Tickets via Eventbrite here.


10.00 – 12.30

Morning session – presentations, papers and discussion (refreshment break approx. 11.00am)

  • Dr. Elizabeth Darling – Women of the social and urban improvement causes and campaigns in Edinburgh
  • We will interrogate the roles and position women held, what they achieved and why their stories have been obscured in history; did Patrick Geddes and his male peers directly replicate the work of women led movements around the country, to social improvement work in Old Edinburgh?
  • Dr. Deborah Reid – Women pioneers in garden design and landscape movements c1800-1930, including the, often overlooked, work of Norah Geddes, that of Mary Elizabeth Burton and other women pioneers who found opportunities in an area usually dominated by men.
  • St Andrews University Art History graduate and Geddes Centre volunteer intern Claire Robertson, will be sharing some of the research she has done into the women of the Edinburgh Social Union including Helen Kerr and Elizabeth Haldane.

12.30-13.30 Sandwich and Soup Lunch


Afternoon session – outreach activity

  • Visit to National Museums of Scotland led by Geddes Centre learning officer, Russell Clegg. Here we will look at and interrogate some of the material legacies of women in the arts, design and craft movements both domestically and professionally. We will also look specifically at the collection relating to Phoebe Anna Traquair, a revival of whom over the last 30 years, has led to her being celebrated as one of the pioneering women artists of the late nineteenth century.

Crumble in discussion: “Are we sitting comfortably?”

Join Crumble magazine as they investigate a range of different perspectives on the notion of comfort and how we feel about the environments in which we live.

Venue:  RIAS Bookshop, 15 Rutland Square, Edinburgh, EH1 2BE
Date and Time: Thursday 25 April 2019, 17:30 – 19:00
Cost: Free

Our friends at RIAS (The Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland) are hosting an event by Crumble magazine which asks ‘What makes us comfortable (or uncomfortable)? What can the architect do to create comfort in the world around us? Is the profession guilty of sitting too comfortably?‘  

The event can be booked via Eventbrite here.


Crumble is an independent magazine that takes an alternative view of architecture and explores the way that it shapes the world around us. Edited and published by students from the University of Edinburgh, the magazine aims to widen architectural discourse and acts as a platform for writers from a wide range of disciplines and backgrounds.

We were awarded the Stack Award for Best Student Magazine in 2017 and have been praised for the diversity of our content, the graphic quality of our illustration and our unique approach to risograph printing. Issue #3, “Conflict/Resolution” was launched in July 2018 and is currently on sale at a wide range of outlets across the UK, Europe and Asia, as well as through our online store.


Town Centre Conference

The Ayr Station Hotel Community Action Group, with support from the Civic Society, are organising a conference on resources available for small scale conservation and redevelopment.

Venue: Ayr Town Hall
Date Time: Wednesday 10 April 2019, 10:00 – 16:00
Cost: Free

The conference will have the following schedule:

  • Neil Langhorn. Head of Compulsory Purchase Order Policy Unit, Scottish Government
  • Malcolm Cowie, Community Empowerment Policy Manager, (Asset Transfer)Scottish Government
  • Philip Prentice, Chief Officer, Scotland’s Towns Partnership
  • James Turner Heritage Environment Scotland ( Designation of Listed Buildings) Edinburgh.

Discussion and lunch break

  • Colin Gray Community Right to Buy ( incl Abandoned Detrimental & Neglected Land & Buildings)
  • David Henderson, Advisor, Community Ownership Support Services which helps small development trusts.
  • Una Richards Chief Executive Scottish Historic Buildings Trust

Discussion and coffee

More information, including how to register, can be found on the Ayr Station Hotel Community Action Group website here.


Scottish Civic Trust Annual Conference on 27 March

‘Our Past, Our Future: Young People & Heritage’

Date: Wednesday, 27 March 2019
Time: 9.30am – 4.30pm
Venue: AK Bell Library, Perth
Tickets: Student / young person (25 and under) concession: £20
SCT affiliate rate: £45
Full rate: £65

Booking is available here

This one-day conference will bring together a range of speakers to share their experiences working on different heritage engagement projects across Scotland. We will reflect upon activities undertaken during the Year of Young People (2018) and explore how best to support young people’s interest in the past as they become the heritage caretakers of the future.
The keynote address will be given by Dr Jeff Sanders who has delivered high-profile projects for the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, including the successful Dig It! engagement programme since 2015.

Up to 3 Free Places Available for Students
Three free places for current students will be offered, waiving the cost of registration and covering travel costs up to £20. In return, you are asked to live-Tweet on the day of the conference and write a blog post summarising the conference for the Scottish Civic Trust.
To apply for a free place, please email a statement of interest, including your Twitter handle (follower count is irrelevant) and a brief (250 words max) explanation of why you would like to participate to by Monday, 11 March.



Casework News from Dumfries and Galloway

Dumfries and Galloway Cases Panel voice their concern about a worrying trend in the appeal process. Read their article and take part in the discussion.

The main text is provided below, or you can read the article in PDF format here 


12 February 2019

A worrying trend – Casework news from Dumfries and Galloway

Several recent cases in Dumfries and Galloway that seem to contradict historic buildings advice from the Scottish Government, Historic Environment Scotland and the local authority planning department have been a cause for local concern. These are cases where the AHSS Cases panel have objected and the local authority have refused the application, twice supported by HES advice. Two cases have led to successful appeals, and the third is in progress. If all three are to prove contrary to what we consider to be the correct conservation approach our Panel, and possibly the planning department as well, will be left confused as to the way forward.

The first case is that of 1 Old Union Street, a Category B listed building in the centre of the Dumfries Conservation Area and concerns the replacement of eleven timber-framed casement two pane windows on the High Street elevation (of a non historic type) with white uPVC casement windows to match the existing design.

The Reporter’s decision was to allow the appeal, with the condition that a new design in uPVC should be approved by planning.

‘The council has referred to Dumfries and Galloway Local Development Plan policy on the Historic Environment – HE1 Listed Buildings. Supplementary Guidance on the Dumfries Conservation Area and the Historic Environment is also referred to. As this is an appeal against refusal of listed building consent not planning permission, development plan policies do not have the status afforded to them by section 25 of the Town and Country Planning (Scotland) Act 1997 (as amended). Nevertheless, the policies and guidance are a relevant consideration and I have taken them into account in reaching a decision.’

Legal advice has supported the Reporter’s view as expressed above. The end result is that uPVC windows are to be allowed on an important listed building in the historic core of the Dumfries Conservation Area apparently on the grounds that the building will be enhanced in appearance through the reintroduction of windows with glazing bars, to a design approved by planning, and the alien material will not matter because they are on first floor level and above. The decision is regrettable in that it undermines the locally approved policy of using traditional materials in these situations and thereby supporting skills needed for the proper maintenance of our historic buildings. It also makes the final details of design a matter between the appellant and the planners, rather than a matter for public comment. This decision reflects another recent appeal in Annan (Sussex House, listed B) where new uPVC windows were allowed, subject to approval of details by planners, because they were deemed an improvement on the existing uPVC windows.

The second case is that of the Old Manse, Thornhill where timber double glazed sashes were refused as replacements for the apparently original sashes on the grounds that no case had been made for the necessity of their replacement through a proper condition survey. Such a survey was eventually provided only for the Reporter who then allowed the appeal. The Reporter said, ‘I consider that the window condition survey as submitted by the appellant responds directly to the reason for refusal of the application and so could be considered as part of this appeal….The appellant has submitted no evidence of exceptional circumstances that prevented the timely submission of the window condition report, or any justification for the lack of response to the council’s request for a report under Section 9 of the Planning (Listed Building and Conservation Areas) (Scotland) Act 1997. While this could be considered unreasonable behaviour by the appellant, I am satisfied that the consideration of the window condition report as part of this appeal is appropriate as it directly addresses a reason for refusal, although the document was not before the planning authority at the time of its decision.’

This decision appears to set a dangerous precedent for the way cases with inadequate background information are dealt with, if the public and amenity bodies such as the AHSS lose the opportunity to study and comment on details of proposals. The Dumfries and Galloway Panel see many cases where there is no Design Statement, or with misleading or inadequate information to make a proper judgement. Condition surveys for windows have been particularly poor.

A third case is that of Meikle Dalbeattie Farmhouse, Dalbeattie, where retrospective listed building consent was refused for the total replacement of apparently original timber sash windows in a mid nineteenth century C listed farmhouse. The replacements are uPVC and of designs not matching the originals in any respect. This has gone to appeal and we await a decision.

HES guidance ‘Managing Change in the Historic Environment – Windows’ states

‘Generally, replacement windows should seek to match the original windows in design, form, fixing, method of opening and materials. In replacing sash windows, materials other than timber, e.g. uPVC, will rarely be acceptable. (page 18).

Despite the best efforts of the planning department to apply their approved policies, based on accepted best practice advice, the character of listed buildings and conservation areas continues to be eroded. Contractors continue to offer standardised inappropriate replacement windows and doors. At 10 Lovers Walk, in Dumfries Conservation Area, the doorway with overlight of a paired Victorian villa has been changed without planning permission. It now has an ill-matched uPVC door with an overlight of a different size from the immediately adjoining original doorway of the house next door, giving a completely unbalanced appearance. The council has refused retrospective consent and we wait to see the outcome.

We can only hope that our disappointments in Dumfries and Galloway are not being repeated across Scotland. Input from other regions would help build a national picture.


Dumfries and Galloway Cases Panel


SPAB Scotland Lecture: ‘Preserving and Interpreting the Berlin Wall in a World of New Walls’

Professor Axel Klausmeier will speak about his experiences of conserving this most interesting of modern city features!

Venue: The Engine Shed, Forthside Way, Stirling FK8 1QZ
Date: Wednesday 13 February 2019
Time: 6.00
Cost: £6

SPAB Scotland are delighted to welcome to Scotland Professor Axel Klausmeier, of the Berlin Wall Foundation to give a lecture on the conservation of the Berlin Wall.

Book your tickets here!



Dumfries and Galloway Study Tour: The Great Houses of Northumberland (and Newcastle from the River Tyne)

Still a little time left to book your place!

The programme for this 4 day, 3 night trip is being arranged to visit interesting and varied places with an architectural theme but designed to be of interest to all. It will include some exclusive features especially for the AHSS.

The trip will be based at the 4* Doxford Hall Hotel & Spa set in the heart of Northumberland.

The original Hall, designed by John Dobson and built in 1818, stands in its own 10 acre estate and its elegantly refurbished rooms offer a relaxing stay with free internet, TVs and tea/coffee making facilities.

Our journey to Northumberland will see us traverse the military road running alongside the Hadrians Wall and include a visit to the Sill. This is Northumberland National Park Authority’s £14.8m state of the art visitor centre on Hadrians Wall.

The varied programme will visit Howick Hall and gardens. Chipchase and Coupland Castles- neither of which are open to the public, Ford village and Lady Waterford Hall, with Meldon House and gardens and Chillingham Castle also on the itinerary. Most of these visits will include a guided tour.

Highlights of the last day include a visit to Bessie Surtees House in Newcastle, a river cruise on the Tyne and we hope to see the Millennium Bridge open before heading home, stopping for a mean on the way. We are also aiming to include one or two other surprise venues.

Our last evening in the hotel will include a pre dinner talk by an interesting and entertaining guest speaker. Our aim is to arrange an enjoyable and flexible visit to suit everyone. The venues are located in close proximity to each other to minimise time on the coach. For the less energetic the variety of venues caters for all capabilities with plenty of seating available.

The cost of the trip will include all travel, accommodation, entrance fees and meals (including lunches, coffees and teas) but excludes alcoholic beverages.

The tour is proving very popular with our own members and with others from across Scotland and the North of England.  However, there are still a few places remaining but please contact for more details.  Bookings close early February.


Image by Andrew Curtis / Chillingham Castle / CC BY-SA 2.0


RIAS Bookshop Event: ‘Sustainable Construction Launch: Meet & Greet with Sandy Halliday’

Upcoming event from the RIAS Bookshop!

The RIAS Bookshop invites you to a meet and greet with Sandy Halliday to celebrate the launch of Sustainable Construction (Second Edition). Sandy will give a short talk followed by a Q&A and book signing. Copies of the book will be available to purchase on the evening for the special discounted price of £32.99.

Date: Thursday 31 January 2019
Time: 17:30 – 19:00
Venue: RIAS Bookshop
15 Rutland Square

Price: FREE
Register to attend:


National Study Tour 2019

The AHSS is delighted to announce that our 2019 Study Tour will be a five day trip to the Peak District.

This year, our National Study Tour will be based in the historic town of Buxton in the Derbyshire Peak District and will visit some of the many ‘peak’ attractions in the area.

  • Chatsworth House, home of the Dukes of Devonshire, where we shall be having a special tour of the house and gardens prior to the normal public opening.
  • Lyme Park (NT) as featured in ‘Pride and Prejudice’.
  • St Michael’s Church Macclesfield with Morris & Burne-Jones stained glass.
  • Haddon Hall with its outstanding gardens: ancestral home of Lord Manners.
  • Bakewell church with 15th century memorials, misericords etc.
  • Renishaw Hall and its Italianate Gardens: home to the Sitwell family for over 400 years and the notable artistic trio of Edith, Osbert and Sacheverell Sitwell.
  • Bolsover Castle (EH) dating from the early 17th century.
  • Hardwick Hall, dynastic architecture of 1590s built by Bess of Hardwick.
  • Lea Gardens, Matlock, a rhododendron garden at an altitude of 700 feet, ideal in May.

The price is £580 per person with a Single Room Supplement of £70. Single rooms will be subject to availability. This price will include:

  • Travel by luxury coach
  • Attractive and comfortable accommodation for four nights on a dinner, bed and breakfast basis in the Palace Hotel in Buxton (AA 4 star rated).
  • Morning coffee on the outward journey and light lunches each day.
  • Entrance to privately owned properties included in your tour price.
  • If you hold National Trust for Scotland (NTS) or National Trust (NT) and Historic Scotland (HS) or English Heritage (EH) membership cards, admission will be free to National Trust and English  Heritage properties respectively.

For more information, including how to book, your accommodation, accessibility, and more on what is/not included, please download the Study Tour 2019 information here. 


Buxton Opera © Rob Bendall


AHSS & Scottish Civic Trust Joint Conference on Nov 7

‘Destination High Street : restoring vibrancy to Scotland’s towns’

This conference on Nov 7, organised jointly by the Architectural Heritage Society of Scotland (AHSS) and the Scottish Civic Trust (SCT) will explore the challenges faced by Scotland’s high streets and smaller town centres. Speakers will examine projects and schemes aimed at regenerating high streets and the conference will bring together experts on the subject tackling the issue from a range of perspectives. This is a rare chance to hear from people working at the cutting-edge of practice and policy.

Venue : Glasgow’s Royal Concert Hall, 2 Sauchiehall Street, Glasgow G2 3NY
Time : 9:30 – 17:30
Cost : £45 (limited student/unwaged tickets for £30). Book your tickets now via Eventbrite!

The schedule for the day is presented below.

9.30 am Delegate registration and tea/coffee

Morning Session

Why do we need the High Street?

Opening remarks Colin McLean, Chair, SCT

The architectural value of the High Street

Simon Green, President, AHSS

The High Street as the centre of community

Dr Susan O’ Connor, Director, SCT

Keynote address: Thinking the unthinkable

Professor Leigh Sparks, Deputy Principal (Education and Students) University of Stirling; Chair, Scotland’s Towns Partnership

Afternoon Session

What else works?

Public money: conservation area regeneration schemes and townscape heritage initiatives – Lessons learned

Ewan Curtis, Regeneration Principal Officer, Glasgow City Council

Public money: repopulating the High Street – the Empty Homes Partnership

Diarmaid Lawlor, Director of Place, Architecture and Design Scotland

Coffee / networking

People: community take-over of the High Street

Evie Copland, Board Member, the Stove Network

People: Ayr’s Day O’ the Deid – a case study in vibrancy through ceremony

Leona Stewart, Artist, Bright Light Arts

Discussion and closing remarks Martin Robertson, Chair, AHSS

Drinks reception

Image reproduced courtesy of artist ©Lorna Gallagher


Former Royal High School Inquiry Starting Soon

Updates on the Former Royal High School Inquiry.

Edinburgh's iconic Royal High School under threat

The planning inquiry into two proposed developments to turn the former Royal High School on Calton Hill in Edinburgh into a luxury hotel starts on Tuesday 18th September, 2018.

Two reporters have been appointed, Scott Ferrie and Danny Onn, and they will hear the appeal against the refusal of both proposed hotel schemes. The first scheme is for a hotel of 147 bedrooms, and was refused planning permission in December 2015. Then the developers brought forward a second scheme, with a slightly reduced 127 bedrooms, but again, this proposal was knocked back by the City of Edinburgh’s  planning committee. Our position is that the scale of the proposed development overwhelms and dominates the iconic Royal High School Building and damages a beautiful, historic and valuable collection of buildings on Calton Hill.  This is one of the jewels in Edinburgh’s crown, and is one of the important and most recognisable, buildings of the world.

This is going to be a great matter for the Society. We have employed a solicitor to represent us,  Louise Cockburn of DC2 Planning , who is an experienced planning lawyer, and we have two impressive witnesses in Peter Drummond and John Lowrey, who are donating  their valuable  time and expertise to us, and that time has already been, and will continue to be, considerable. We have a team of volunteers backing our witnesses who are also working very hard to provide a strong public presence for the Society and all are doing their best to ensure that these ill advised extensions to the Royal High School do not leave the drawing board. The appeal is also being opposed by the City of Edinburgh Council, Historic Environment Scotland, a coalition of the Cockburn Association,  Edinburgh World Heritage and the New Town and Broughton Community Council, the Royal High School Preservation Trust, who have an alternative proposal for a new building for St Mary’s Music School, the Regent, Royal and Calton Terraces and Mews Association and three concerned individual Edinburgh citizens.

We are very grateful for all the donations we have received to date from our generous members, but we still require more money to cover the considerable costs involved in this complex inquiry.

Please consider donating to the AHSS to help us meet these costs – any amount is gratefully received.

Either send a cheque to the National Office or donate online:



DigiFest and DigiDoc at the Engine Shed

Scotland’s dedicated building conservation centre will host a programme highlighting the use of ground-breaking technology to preserve and explore the past.

Taking place from Monday 8 to Saturday 20 October 2018 at The Engine Shed, Scotland’s dedicated building conservation centre in Stirling, DigiFest will highlight Scotland as a global leader in digital innovation in the heritage sector. Aimed at schools, professionals, families and young people, it will feature a range of free events and activities allowing visitors to explore the latest technologies in areas including 3D modelling and printing, augmented reality, virtual reality, gaming, animation, robotics and coding.

The festival will also incorporate DigiDoc, a two-day international conference running from 11-12 October, and the DigiDoc Research and Innovation Day which takes place on Wednesday 10 October.

Showcasing ground-breaking technology, DigiDoc features an impressive speaker line-up of academics and high-profile industry experts from organisations such as Google, the Smithsonian Institution and gaming giant Ubisoft, and is expected to attract professionals in the technology and heritage sectors from across the globe.

A selection of speakers will also participate in the DigiFest programme, along with the Engine Shed’s own team of experts.

Delivered by Historic Environment Scotland and supported by Stirling Council, DigiDoc is sponsored by Leica Geosystems, a leading provider of premium 3D laser scanning equipment and services, and DigiFest is sponsored by Creative Scotland.

The full programme for DigiFest and DigiDoc, along with pricing information for the conference and research and innovation day can be viewed here.


Scottish Historic Buildings Trust Events

Upcoming educational and entertainment opportunites from SHBT!

Our friends at the Scottish Historic Buildings Trust are hosting many exciting events at The Patrick Geddes Centre, located at Riddles Court in Edinburgh. You can find more information about these wonderful opportunities on their website.


RIAS Autumn Conservation Seminar: ‘Conserving the Assets of Our Past’

The RIAS conservation autumn seminar is now open for bookings.

Conserving the Assets of Our Past – RIAS Autumn Seminar

Date: Tuesday 2 October 2018
Venue: The Scottish Storytelling Centre, Edinburgh
Time: 1.00pm to 5.00pm
Cost: RIAS Conservation Accredited members and members of Practice Services: £24 inc. VAT
RIAS member: £30 inc. VAT
Non-members: £42 inc. VAT

 There is still time to book your space for the RIAS Autumn Conservation seminar. Topics will include development of the HES Asset Management Plan, HES Corporate Plan consultation, inspecting tenements and church quinquennials, practical advice on survey specification for digital documentation and the restoration of the Great Pagoda at Kew Gardens.


For a programme and booking form click here.

 If you would like to book a place, please complete the booking form and email it to



Letter to Cllr Susan Aitken About Devastating Glasgow Fire

AHSS Chairman Martin Robertson expresses the heartfelt sympathy of the Architectural Heritage Society of Scotland to the City of Glasgow for the devastating fire at the Mackintosh Building of the Glasgow School of Art.

The main text has been provided below, or you can read the letter in PDF format HERE


19 June 2018

Cllr Susan Aitken
Leader of the Council
City Chambers
George Square
Glasgow G2 1DU

Dear Councillor Aitken

Glasgow School of Art fire


I am writing today to express the heartfelt sympathy of the Architectural Heritage Society of Scotland to the City of
Glasgow for the devastating fire at the Mackintosh Building of the Glasgow School of Art. This is a building we know the
City Council, and indeed all the people of Glasgow, look to with pride and affection. It is a building which, together with
its architect, draws thousands of visitors to your city from across the globe. Once there they quickly recognise that it is
not the Art School alone that makes Glasgow so outstanding a city architecturally. It must make the City Council very
proud that they are the custodians of such a place and very anxious to maintain that quality into the future. However, all
buildings of character, not the listed buildings alone, are of significant importance to the city and it is the remit of our
Society to call attention to their importance and to assist with the preservation of their character for the benefit of all.

The recent fire in Sauchiehall Street has also served to underline the peril that closely packed buildings in an historic city
centre can face. A significant number of these buildings, including many of the first importance, are in the ownership and
direct control of Glasgow City Council. While having no reason to think otherwise, the Society would like reassurance
from the Council that all appropriate fire precautions have been taken with the historic estate and, in particular, the other
Mackintosh building you have in your care, the Scotland Street School. This building is of a similar size and design
purpose to the School of Art and is very likely to have similar construction characteristics. I am thinking particularly here
of the timber lined voids within the building which have played so serious a role in the rapid spread of the GSA fire. Can
we be assured that the City Council has taken cognisance of such matters within a full fire safety appraisal?

The second concern to arise from the new fire is the way it appears to have been able to take serious hold without any
warning transmitted to the outside world. The Incident Officer from the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service, as reported on
the BBC, said that the fire station is closely adjacent and that the response to the first alarm was almost immediate, and
yet the fire was already extensive and uncontrollable. We know that the Scotland Street School stands alone and is
unoccupied for long periods, as well as being some distance from a fire station. Can we be assured that the alarm
system is adequate to the task of recognising a source of fire quickly and of transmitting this knowledge rapidly onwards
to the Fire Service?

We at the Architectural Heritage Society of Scotland are grateful to those organisations who continue to look after the
surviving buildings by our great architects. Scotland cannot afford to lose any of them, and especially not the School of
Art. We urge the City Council to do all in its power to ensure the survival of as much of the historic fabric as possible so
that this true icon can remain in place. We also have concerns regarding the future of the ABC O2; this has held an
important place in the cultural life of Glasgow since 1875 and contributes a fine 1920s frontage to Sauchiehall Street. As
with the GSA, we would urge that as much as possible of the historic fabric of this building be saved. We leave them to
your care.

Yours sincerely,

Martin Robertson




The Spring 2018 Magazine

Get stuck in to the latest edition of the AHSS Magazine!

We are delighted to celebrate 150 years since the birth of Charles Rennie Mackintosh with a look at one of his earliest projects, The Club Rooms in Helensburgh, a treasure that you are now able to visit and relish in its glory. You will also find our exciting updates from the regional groups of the AHSS and our numerous Cases Panels, who continue their stellar work across Scotland, protecting our heritage.

A word from our Editor, Abigail Daly:

‘This issue includes a clutch of features covering reappraisals, rediscoveries and rescues. William Leiper lived and worked largely in Helensburgh, but his villas are rather overshadowed by Charles Rennie Mackintosh’s masterpiece, Hill House. Like Mackintosh, Leiper’s work had a strong artistic dimension, and the feature on page 14 also explores his creative influences.’

Become a member today to receive your free copy!


New Opportunity with the AHSS!

Available post: Administrator and Secretary to the Council

Unique opportunity to work at the centre of a Scottish architectural heritage charity. If you are passionate about the built environment, the post of Administrator and Secretary to the Council of the Architectural Heritage Society of Scotland (AHSS) offers a responsible position which requires a high degree of self-motivation, administrative skills, and good communication abilities. The position offers the potential to help with the development of the Society, alongside the core requirements of administration, attracting and organising volunteers to assist in the head office, managing the Society’s IT, website and social media, and promoting national outreach and engagement.

National Office based in Edinburgh. Occasional attendance at national and regional events outside of office hours will be required.

Salary in the range of £18,000 to £20,000 depending on experience.

Download the full Job Description here: AHSS Administrator & Secretary to the Council Job Description

To discuss further, please telephone Sarah at the National Office, 0131 557 0019.

To apply please send a CV and cover letter to the National Chair, Martin Robertson at by 11th May 2018.

There will be a competency based interview.




Dumfries and Galloway Environment Fair 2018

AHSS was represented at the Dumfries and Galloway Environment Fair for the first time this year.

Held at University of Glasgow, Rutherford-McCowan, Crichton Campus, Dumfries on 10th March.

Participation by the Society had these four aims –

  1. Representing the built environment at an event otherwise devoted to the natural environment.
  2. Raising the profile of the AHSS as a local and national organisation.
  3. Interacting with visitors in an enjoyable way to encourage them to pay more attention to the historic built environment.
  4. Increasing membership of the AHSS and a greater interest in and attendance at the society’s events.

The Fair ran from 10-3.30 and is estimated to have been attended by 400+ people, with probably about 250 children and young people. The AHSS display was attended by 100+ of these.

As well as advertising the Society’s work and events it was a requirement of the Fair that every participating organisation should have an interactive element. The AHSS contributed this aspect by concentrating on a display of the variety of Scottish housing on display boards. Visitors were offered a choice of four envelopes, each containing pictures of four houses. Visitors were asked to place them in chronological order and then on a time line. They were encouraged to talk about them. They were then directed to the static display and asked to choose which two, of the many on show, were not Scottish. This done they were encouraged to design a house of their own, using the materials provided. They were encouraged to talk about building types, favourite buildings etc.

The interactive display worked well, catching the visitors’ attention and holding them for up to 20 minutes. The drawing, cutting and pasting was popular with more than the children and resulted in about 30 interesting pictures to add to the display boards. The youngest visitor was 6 months, the oldest 80+. All appeared to enjoy participating and there were very few who showed no interest though it was important to approach them directly to catch their attention.

A quick evaluation against the four stated aims was undertaken.

  1. It appeared that the AHSS was the only organisation representing the non-natural environment and thus made an important contribution which was commented on by both visitors and organisers.
  2. Reasonably effective at this within the limits of 100+ people. It was noticeable however that people chose to be more directly interested in local problems such as The Cruck Cottage and its recent fire.
  3. Successful at this with clear enjoyment and involvement shown by both children and their parents with both students and older people also showing interest.
  4. Probably of limited value. Some 3-6 people showed interest in joining and a few more in the events programme. This included several students at the University of Glasgow.

The question as to whether it is worth another go next year is answered by

‘probably’, but it would need more people to help with the display and a wider and more challenging range of activities to hold the interest of the older age groups. AHSS participation at the Environment Fair 2018 can be considered a successful first try. It demonstrates, however, just how much effort is required for a modest return and that the Fair as a whole enjoys a higher benefit ratio than the individual participating organisations. Another time it will be worth demonstrating more sustainability and the embedded energy which old buildings have which is wasted if they do not continue in use.


Dundee Lecture TONIGHT

Andrew Wright will speak on the history of Clackmannanshire Estates

Tonight’s Dundee Conservation Lecture will be going ahead as planned, do please plan your travel route carefully if you are coming from areas still affected by snow.

We look forward to seeing you there!

For more information, please view the event page here


Year of Young People 2018

Scotland’s young people will be celebrated at events and activities throughout the year.

The AHSS is delighted to support the Year of Young People 2018, which ‘aims to inspire Scotland through its young people, celebrating their achievements, valuing their contribution to communities and creating new opportunities for them to shine locally, nationally and globally’.

Events and activities are being organised by groups all over Scotland and focus on six themes:

  • Participation – looking at how young people can influence public services and decisions which affect their lives
  • Education – creating a stronger role for young people in shaping their learning
  • Health and Wellbeing –supporting young people to lead healthier, active lives and have opportunities to learn about and improve their mental health and resilience
  • Equality and Discrimination – broadcasting the value of young Scots, challenging negative perceptions of young people, and supporting young people to take leading roles in challenging discrimination in all its forms.
  • Enterprise and Regeneration – celebrating young people’s role in innovation, entrepreneurship and the Scottish economy as well as making Scotland a greener and more pleasant place to live
  • Culture –celebrating young people’s talent and contribution to Scottish culture and arts.

The Forth & Borders Group would like to welcome young people to attend upcoming lectures at no charge. These include talks on William Adam and formal landscape design in Scotland and the collapse of Holyrood Abbey Church in 1768.

You can learn more about the Year of Young People 2018 here.


The Autumn 2017 AHSS Magazine

The Architectural Heritage Society of Scotland is delighted to announce the latest issue of our magazine

This stunning front cover heralds the 200th anniversary of the birth of iconic Glasgow architect, Alexander Greek Thompson. We have teamed up with The Alexander Greek Thompson Society to bring you not only a fascinating feature piece on the architect’s contribution to the Greek Revival movement in Glasgow, but also a tear out walking tour of his finest projects. Not to be missed!

A word from our Editor Abigail Daly:
‘Glancing at this issue’s features, you wouldn’t imagine there was much linking them. Glasgow’s Greek-inspired architecture, James Craig and his Edinburgh New Town plans, tower blocks and industrial Ironbridge seem quite disparate. Reading them more closely, however, and some common themes emerge: each were created in a time of significant cultural, social and technological change, and each were architectural expressions of great optimism and hope for the future.’

Become a member today to receive your free copy!


Architectural Heritage XXVII

The Architectural Heritage Society Of Scotland is delighted to announce the latest edition of the Architectural Heritage Journal.

This edition of the Architectural Heritage Journal, edited by Sally Rush, Mark Cousins, Aonghus MacKechnie and Diane Watters, features articles dedicated to a variety of subjects related to built heritage in Scotland, from Regency architectural styles to an unbuilt twentieth century Edinburgh opera house.

 ‘The volume opens with a study by Antony Wolffe and Richard Agnew of two houses near Kirkcudbright… which reflect the variety of stylistic options available to the Regency client. Antony Wolffe, a former President and Honorary Member of the AHSS, worked as architect on both houses. Clarisse Desmarest reveals the hidden building history of Kinross House through her work on the correspondence of Mary Halket, wife of the owner-architect, Sir William Bruce, who emerges as the unacknowledged Clerk of Works for the Kinross site. Aonghus MacKechnie reconstructs the poignant context and architectural form of the Celtic revival in Scotland. Louise Harrington traces progressive solutions to the history problem of slum housing in the city of Cork back to public housing initiatives in Scotland through the work of the architect Daniel Andrew Levie who trained in Aberdeen. Finally, Alastair Fair raises the phantom of the long-imagined Edinburgh Opera House and explains why it was never built.’

Free with AHSS membership, hard copies are available to purchase through the National Office for £15 Special Offer.


National Study Tour 2018

Continuing our exploration of Scotland, our renowned Study Tour will next visit Galloway!

This event is now fully booked.

The AHSS 2018 Spring Study Tour will be to the south west of Scotland, exploring the built heritage of Kirkcudbrightshire and Wigtownshire. We will be ‘on tour’, starting in Edinburgh with a pick-up in Glasgow and based near Gatehouse of Fleet, and then Stranraer. We will be accommodated in style, staying in the celebrated Cally Palace Hotel, begun in 1763 by Robert Mylne as the country house of the Murrays; it has substantial and important landscaped gardens. Then to its sister, the North West Castle Hotel, the 1820s former townhouse of Sir John Ross (he discovered the ‘North West Passage’) which is on the shores of Loch Ryan. Both hotels have excellent facilities including gyms and swimming pools.

The tour will be led by Simon Green and Adam Swan and administered by Caroline McFarlane.

Galloway is scenic, remote from the central belt, and with a heritage reflecting Anglian, Norse and Irish influences. From the 12th century Cistercian abbeys of Dundrennan and Glenluce there are castles, tower houses, parish churches, laird’s houses, Victorian mansions, farm steadings, mills, tollbooths, lighthouses and a whole variety of towns and villages steeped in history and character. As well as Gatehouse and the port of Stranraer to explore, there are the county towns of Wigtown, Scotland’s book town and the picturesque artists’ town of Kirkcudbright, as featured in Dorothy Sayers’ Five Red Herrings, and includes EA Hornel’s home and studio (previously the town house of the Murrays), and Jessie M King and EA Taylor’s house. Galloway was also the setting for much of John Buchan’s The Thirty Nine Steps. Elrig and Montreith have Gavin Maxwell associations. Villages such as Creetown, Whithorn, Newton Stewart, Minnigaff and Portpatrick also have much to offer. The Scots baronial mansion of Threave House, has remarkable teaching gardens, run by the National Trust for Scotland, and Castle Kennedy has an 18th century landscape restored by JC Loudon in 1841 and Logan Botanic Garden (RBGE), half way doen the Rhins of Galloway, has Scotland’s best collection of exotic plants; and not far off is Glenwhan Gardens and Arboretum.

The Knockbrex estate near Borgue has an idiosyncratic range of Edwardian buildings provided by a Manchester textiles merchant. Old Place of Mochram has work by the later generation Arts & Crafts architects including Robert Weir Schultz and Ernest Gimson. In the 1930s the Galloway Hydro-Electric Scheme built a series of distinctive power stations, dams and associated structures, now sitting well in the landscape and looking very contemporary. (The above is to give a flavour of the area, and will not necessarily be included in the tour!).

The cost of the tour is £510 per person, based on two members sharing a room and will include visits, accommodation, transportation, meals and refreshments as provided. A limited number of single occupancy rooms will be available, subject to a supplement of £90. If you would like to note your interest in attending, please contact the national office using the form below.

Study Tour 2018 Booking Form


Winter Lecture Series Announced!

Forth & Borders Group publish their full winter programme of talks in Edinburgh

See below for the full list of talks and download our handy guide here.

Lectures take place at 6.30pm at St Andrew’s and St George’s West Church, 13 George Street, Edinburgh EH2 2PA
Admission: £5.00 (£2.50 students). Non-members welcome. Members may attend 6 lectures for £25.

Monday 2nd October 2017
ALISTAIR FAIR – Edinburgh’s Unbuilt ‘Opera House’, 1960 – 1975

Dr Alistair Fair is Chancellor’s Fellow and Lecturer in Architectural History, at the University of Edinburgh. He is a specialist in post-war architecture in Britain and has recently completed a book on post-war theatre building. This talk examines the infamous proposals of 1960 – 1975 for a major new theatre in central Edinburgh that were a regular fixture in the local press. Alistair looks at what went wrong.

Monday 6th November 2017
PATRICIA ANDREW – British architects, landscape designers and gardeners in Russia

Dr Patricia Andrew is an art and garden historian with a career in galleries and museums, and has also served on the Committee of the Garden History Society in Scotland. She specialises in Scottish artists at home and abroad from the 18th Century to the present day. This is a joint lecture with Scotland’s Garden and Landscape Heritage, focusing on the legacy of British (particularly Scottish) architects, garden designers and engineers in Russia.

Monday 4th December 2017
TOM PARNELL – Training the City: Built Heritage Legacy of a Railway Battle

Tom Parnell is an architectural historian, and is currently a Senior Casework Officer for Historic Environment Scotland. He has a personal interest in the built heritage legacy of railway development and re-development. His talk looks at railways in Edinburgh, particularly the dash for Leith in the later 19th Century, examining what might have been, what was lost and what legacy survives today.

Monday 5th February 2018
ELIZABETH DARLING – Heroines of the Canongate: Urban Reform in Edwardian Old Town

Dr Elizabeth Darling is Reader in Architectural History at Oxford Brookes University. Her work focuses on gender, space and reform in the 1890s – 1940s. Elizabeth offers us a different perspective on urban reform in the Old Town, highlighting the many women working around the same time as Patrick Geddes, and the change they effected in environments in and around the Canongate,

Monday 12th March 2018
LOUISA HUMM – William Adam and Formal Landscape Design in Scotland 1720 – 1745

A graduate of St. Andrew’s University, Louisa Humm works for Historic Environment Scotland- initially in their listing team and now as a Senior Casework Officer responsible for listed building consent work in Glasgow and other parts of South-West Scotland. Her lecture investigates how Adam’s garden designs related to contemporary and earlier fashions in Scotland and England. Featured estates include Newliston and Blair Crambeth.

Monday 9th April 2018
DIMITRIS THEODOSSOPOULOS – The Collapse of Holyrood Abbey Church in 1768

Dr Dimitris Theodossopoulos teaches conservation and architectural technology at the University of Edinburgh, and is also a civil engineer. He is particularly interested in the technical aspects of monuments and their preservation. His talk sheds light onto the collapse of Holyrood Abbey Church, following the puzzling substitution of decaying roof trusses with masonry walls in 1760.


61st Annual General Meeting

Hosted by Scotland’s new Building Conservation Centre, the Engine Shed, Stirling.

Join us on the 28th October 2017 for our 61st AGM and a chance to explore the new conservation headquarters of Historic Environment Scotland.

Welcome teas and coffees will be served at 11am, with the AGM beginning at 12pm. A sandwich lunch will follow at 1.30pm. Ian Walker, the clerk of works, will talk us through the project to restore and extend the Engine Shed building, whilst also explaining the future aims of the conservation centre, from 2.30-3.30pm.

The Engine Shed will be open to members of the public from 10am to 4pm, giving you time to explore the centre and watch the 3D video experience either before or after the AHSS activities.

Attendance at the AGM is free, please book your place for lunch at a cost of £12.

Download the booking form here.

Download the Agenda here.

Download the Minutes of the 60th AGM here.


RHS Update: Edinburgh Council Lease with DHP

Freedom of Information Request reveals heavily redacted documents

Following a Freedom of Information (FOI) request to the City of Edinburgh Council (CEC), the AHSS is able to make available for viewing, the lease between CEC and Duddingston House Properties.

Unfortunately a large amount of the documents have been redacted, however, they still make for an interesting read.

The AHSS is committed to stopping inappropriate development of the former Royal High School, Edinburgh, and to that end wishes to make the general public as informed as possible as to the future of this A listed, publicly owned building.

Please click on the links below to read the following documents:

Pinsent Masons Document 1.1 Redacted. ‘Suspensive Conditions’

Pinsent Masons Document 1.2 Redacted. ‘Development Agreement’ and ‘Confidentiality’

Development Agreement 2.1 Redacted

Development Agreement 2.2 Redacted

Development Agreement 2.3 Redacted. ‘The Schedule’ and ‘Draft Contract Award Notice’

Draft Lease Redacted. Document 3.1

Draft Lease Redacted. Document 3.2

Draft Lease Redacted. Document 3.3

These documents have been separated into multiple downloads due to their large size, they are also available on the City of Edinburgh Council Website.




Royal High School Success!

Unanimous rejection of hotel proposal by City Councillors

The City of Edinburgh Council, Development Management Sub-Committee, met on the 31st August 2017 to review and decide on the second hotel application put forward by Duddingston House Properties (DHP), for the former Royal High School in Edinburgh.

The proceedings began at 10am with the report from the Council Planning Officers, who gave a full review as to how the proposals contravene a great number of planning policies. This was followed by excellent presentations from the Alison Johnstone MSP, Historic Environment Scotland, the local Community Council and Residents Association, the Cockburn Association, Edinburgh World Heritage Trust, the AHSS and the three Ward Councillors. All of whom continued a persistent theme focusing on the unique importance of this building and its setting, and the inappropriateness of the height and scale of the design, ‘too much, for too little site’. In the afternoon, the Developers presented their case for granting permission, with a focus on the benefit to tourism that the hotel would bring. The day came to a swift end with Councillors unanimously damning the hotel proposal, describing it as ‘abhorrent and ugly’ and that the city would not forgive them if they allowed it to go ahead.

A good summary of all discussions can be read here.

Or you can access and watch the live recording here. 

Here is a timings guide to some key presentations:
0:16:55 Carla Parkes summarises proposal and report findings.
1:37:52 Steven Robb, HES
1:48:55 Adam Wilkinson, EWHT
1:57:00 Cliff Hague, The Cockburn Association
2:03:40 Alastair Disley, AHSS
3:30:45 David Orr, DHP and Rosewood Hotels
5:06:35 The debate and decision by Councillors

The AHSS were delighted to hear how often the general public were referred to throughout the day, the 3200 objections that had been made to the planning department, the numerous emails and letters that had been received by politicians and Councillors, all were taken note of and considered important. Councillors on the committee were exemplary and explored all elements of the economic benefit and heritage arguments before reaching their decision.

At the moment, it seems unlikely that the Royal High School is entirely safe from inappropriate development. The first hotel proposal is still at the Inquiry stage with Scottish Government Reporters and is sisted (paused) until 8th September. This may be withdrawn, or may continue. Our hope is that DHP and Rosewood hotels will realise that their hotel scheme is too large for this site and unless a significant number of bedrooms are dropped (perhaps 50% or more), no design will be appropriate for this iconic A listed building.
In the meantime, St Mary’s Music School waits in the wings with full (unanimous) planning permission.


Open Letter to the Lord Provost

Decision time for the second Royal High School hotel application – Thursday 31st August

The Architectural Heritage Society of Scotland in collaboration with the Cockburn Association, Edinburgh World Heritage Trust and the Scottish Civic Trust, have today submitted an open letter to the Lord Provost of Edinburgh, urging that the application be refused.

Read the letter HERE


Royal High School Update July 2017

Planning Committee date announced for second hotel application

Following the local elections in May, the City of Edinburgh Council have appointed a new Development Management Sub-Committee.

The committee will meet on the 31st August 2017 to consider the second hotel application from Duddingston House Properties and the Urbanist Group for the former Royal High School on Regent Terrace. Anyone is welcome to attend the proceedings which will start at 10.00am in the City Chambers on the Royal Mile, Edinburgh. Presentations will be made by the Council Planning Officer, followed by those opposed to the application including Historic Environment Scotland, the Residents Association, Edinburgh World Heritage Trust, the Cockburn Association, and the AHSS. The presentations will then be completed by Duddingston House Properties’ representation.

The full report on both applications (Full planning permission and Listed Building Consent) from the Council’s Planning Officers has been published and is available to view HERE.

If you would like to help the campaign, please contact your local Councillor now with any concerns that you may have over the second hotel proposal. Visit our campaign page for helpful information on how to do this.If your Councillor is on the Committee, it is even more important that you get in touch, either via email or face-to-face. Any Councillor that is on the Committee is able to listen to your comments but will not make any comment in response.

The new Development Management Sub-Committee consists of the following Councillors:

Councillor Lewis Ritchie (Convenor)
Councillor Chas Booth
Councillor Ian Campbell
Councillor Maureen Child
Councillor Denis DixonCouncillor Ashley Graczyk
Councillor Joan Griffiths
Councillor Max Mitchell
Councillor Joanna Mowat
Councillor Hal Oslar
Councillor Alex Staniforth

For more information on this Committee please visit the Council website


Festival of Architecture 2017

Continuing to celebrate Architecture – AHSS with the RIAS

If you enjoyed the Festival of Architecture 2016, you’ll be delighted to learn that the Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland are bringing the festival back for a second year! FoA2017 will take place across Scotland throughout the month of September and will be exploring the theme of ‘home’. It will join the Scottish Civic Trust’s Doors Open Day events in making this a fantastic month to celebrate architecture.

Exhibitions to look out for include 100 Best Scottish Homes and a return of the popular Adventures in Space.

“This National celebration of great architecture will transform Scotland’s relationship with its built environment. It will improve our appreciation and understanding. It will also be fun!”

David Dunbar, former President of the RIAS and now Chair of the Festival of Architecture 2017

Find out more at or see our events planned for September HERE.


Falkland Craft Symposium 2017

Programme announced for the second annual festival of built heritage craft skills in Fife

Welcome to the 2nd Falkland Craft Symposium

This event builds on the success of the first Craft Symposium in August 2016. Friendships were formed and networks established which are even now bringing benefits to individuals, the locality and nationally.
There are many talented people working in Fife, Scotland and the UK although, at the same time, there is a distinct shortage of skills in some areas. Real efforts are being made to grow those skills so that the crafts can continue to bring joy into our lives while providing a livelihood for those who have dedicated their lives to particular crafts.
Without the traditional building crafts and a renaissance in understanding of the particular needs of old buildings, it will become increasingly difficult to look after the nation’s built heritage adequately. Fife and Falkland have their own particular parts to play in the encouragement of craft and conservation skills.
Each day of the Symposium has been arranged to have a distinctive flavour with two or more fields of craftsmanship being explored. This year there is an over-riding theme which is the craft skills represented by the built fabric and richly crafted interiors of the House of Falkland, which will play an important part in the event. The interiors have a double-layer characteristic which is fairly rare: the house was built 1839-44 for discerning patrons, Margaret and Onesipherous Tyndall Bruce; half a century later the estate was acquired by John Patrick Crichton-Stuart, 3rd Marquess of Bute, one of the greatest architectural and craft patrons of his age (1847-1900). Working through his architects, first William Frame (1848-1906)and then Robert Weir Schultz (1860-1951), the 3rd Marquess added a layer of Arts & Crafts richness during the 1890s while respecting to a remarkable degree the then unfashionable layer of the 1840s. How to preserve the special qualities of the interiors is one our current challenges.
In addition to the crafts skills represented by the House of Falkland we also pay attention to those traditional to a well-run Estate in Fife and in particular to thatch; other roofing materials such as pantiles and slates; stone masonry and carving; and the appropriate use of lime-based mortars.
The Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings – a cause dear to John Ruskin’s heart – will be strongly represented both through the lecture programme and through the demonstrations of craftsmanship which will complement the lectures.
The William Morris Craft Fellowship represents, through the commitment and exceptional qualities of the craftspeople concerned, some of the best of the craft renaissance in Britain today. They are celebrating their thirtieth anniversary this year.
Members of Open Studios North Fife will be present to bear testimony to the rich cornucopia of craft-based activities, both professional and amateur, in our part of Fife.

We look forward to welcoming you all to the Craft Symposium.
Dr Peter Burman MBE FSA, Arts & Heritage Consultant
Craft Symposium Co-ordinator
Chairman of Falkland Stewardship Trust
Chairman of Falkland & Newton-on-Falkland Community Council

View the full programme and booking details here


The Spring 2017 AHSS Magazine

The Architectural Heritage Society of Scotland is delighted to announce that the latest issue of our magazine is now available.

We are very pleased that our editor Abigail Daly has freshened up our design, incorporating our new branding. Please find a selection of her Editor’s Welcome here:

‘Spring is traditionally a time of renewal, of clearing up and cleaning out. Appropriately then, this issue involves dusting off the Society’s archives, reflecting on a year marking the 60th anniversary of our birth and, yes, refreshing the magazine itself.

You will notice that while the magazine looks different, the content remains the same, with a mixture of features, activity reports and news form the ‘front line’ – our wonderful local groups. This issue reflects on our Jubilee year and includes a special focus on the AHSS itself, with our president Simon Green looking back at the Society’s long history. I received Simon’s article on Valentine’s Day, and it does read a bit like a love letter!’

Other fascinating contents include an exploration of ‘Under One Roof’, a resource for building maintenance, and articles on everything from brick collection to Balmoral Castle. Also included is an update on the AHSS’s campaign to save the former Royal High School, which is an ongoing effort in the hopes of maintaining a key part of Scotland’s built heritage.

Become a member today to receive your free copy!


The Planning and Building of the Hebrew University, 1919-1948: Facing the Temple Mount

Graeme Purves treats us to a full review of this exciting new publication

Diana Dolev

Lexington Books (2016)

ISBN-10: 0739191616


Diana Dolev teaches architecture at the Holon Institute of Technology in Israel and researches the relationship between national identity and architecture.  In this book she provides the first comprehensive account of the successive schemes for the development of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem under the British Mandate in Palestine, from the masterplan prepared by Patrick Geddes and Frank Mears in 1919 to Richard Kauffmann’s campus plan of 1944.

Dolev takes as her starting point the site chosen for the development of the university on a ridge to the east of the historic city.  Once the Gray Hill Residence on the summit of Mount Scopus was purchased for the future university, the view of the Islamic Dome of the Rock on the Temple Mount provided a powerful point of reference irresistible to its planners and architects.

The Hebrew University was a flagship project of the Zionist Organisation and was given prominence in its publicity and propaganda efforts across the world.  It was never meant to be simply the University of Jerusalem.  Its significance had nationalist and religious dimensions.  In 1913 the Zionist Congress in Vienna made the decision that the university should be located in Jerusalem, thus recruiting it to the cause of the revival of ancient Hebrew identity in Eretz Israel.  But the university project was also associated in Zionist rhetoric with the Holy Temple (or the biblical ‘Mount Zion’) and the idea of a Third Temple.  Dolev makes the point that in the nineteenth and early twentieth century, the metaphoric image of a Third Temple had wide currency amongst Jews and Christians, religious and secular.  It was not so much that they wished actually to construct it – rather it represented a general abstract idea of revival and hope for a better future.  Furthermore:

“Associating the proposed university with the rebuilding of the Temple had an enormous impact on the university’s image.  From then on the university and the Temple were merged in an equally abstract but dominant imaginary vision.  Mount Scopus became the dedicated home of the Hebrew University, as if it was meant to stand there by divine decree.”

Dolev describes Jerusalem as “…a forlorn, poor and badly neglected little town” by the end of Ottoman rule and suggests that its inhabitants “…lived out their mundane lives, more or (probably) less aware of its divine and spiritual reputation”.  However, Western visitors tended not to see Palestine as it was, but through the lens of the Bible.  While British rule brought a new concern for the built environment, Dolev argues that the building regulations introduced by the first Military Governor, General Ronald Storrs, perpetuated and enhanced “…a stagnating Orientalist picture of Jerusalem”.

Patrick Geddes was engaged to prepare a scheme for the Hebrew University at the instigation of the psychiatrist, Dr. David Eder, who headed the Zionist Organisation’s London Branch. The Old Testament emphasis of Geddes’ Presbyterian upbringing made him receptive to the Zionist vision for the university.  He also saw the project as a golden opportunity to put his ideas about universities into practice.

The involvement of Patrick Geddes in the early development of university is well established, but Dolev’s book gives prominence and welcome recognition to the role played by his son-in-law and assistant, Frank Mears, in translating Geddes’ ideas into plans and architectural drawings:

Frank Mears’ contribution to Geddes’ Hebrew University plan eventually became highly significant.  …though he was often overshadowed by Geddes and quite underestimated, he actually became enormously valuable for the project, and his training and capabilities contributed substantially to the attractiveness of Geddes’ plan.”

While the theory behind the master-plan was all Geddes’s, it was Mears’s drawings that dressed Geddes’s abstract ideas with luxurious visual images and captured the imagination of all interested parties as well as the general public.”

Geddes was at pains to stress that his university scheme was intended to echo the architectural characteristics of the city of Jerusalem as well as local towns and Arab villages, but he also acknowledged that his decision to accept the appointment was inspired by a passage in Revelations (XXI-2) in which St. John says: “And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.”  As Dolev astutely points out, the visionary perspective he shared with his Zionist employers led him to promote a campus university detached from the city and its population, quite contrary to his evolutionary and holistic ideas.  She also argues that the differences between the envisaged scheme and the historic city were fundamental:

“…while the Old City was formed of an unplanned hodge-podge of mostly dilapidated buildings built on top of each other, the Geddes plan and Mears’ drawings form not only an orderly building complex but also a set of magnificent palaces belonging to the realm of legend.”

Dolev sees Mears’ architectural drawings for the university buildings as reflecting an Orientalist perspective which dominated the European view of the Holy Land throughout the nineteenth and in the beginning of the twentieth century.  She provides persuasive evidence that one of Mears’ perspective drawings of the university campus is derived directly from a print depicting the Tower of David by William Henry Bartlett published in Jerusalem Revisited in 1855.

Dolev devotes a full chapter to the Geddes and Mears masterplan of 1919, giving detailed attention to Geddes’ proposal for a Great Hall, or ‘Dome of Synthesis” as its focal point.  This major building, designed to accommodate assemblies of up to 3,000 people, would face the Temple Mount and its hexagonal plan was intended to reflect sound principles of construction employed by bees, a six-faceted notation of Life, and the Star of David.

Mears’s depiction of the Great Dome as a mirror image of the Dome of the Rock truly and effectively represented Geddes’s concept of the dome as a temple within the university.  It gained enormous attention and popularity and became the best known feature of the future university – almost a sacred image in itself.”

A further chapter is devoted to a detailed account of the efforts of Mears, in collaboration with the Jerusalem-based architect Benjamin Chaikin, to come up with designs for specific university buildings which were acceptable to the various factions which wielded influence over the university project.  Dolev sheds valuable light on the divisions and rivalries within the Zionist Organisation which repeatedly bedevilled progress towards its realisation.  Three contesting university committees were established; in London, Paris and Jerusalem.  One powerful faction, to which the Chancellor, Dr. Yehuda Leib Magnes, was closely aligned, saw Jewish Studies as the principal raison d’être for the university.  Others gave priority to establishing scientific research institutes in and around the Gray Hill Residence.  British and German Zionists battled each other for influence.  The head of the World Zionist Organisation, Chaim Weizmann, saw the university as having a political role, while Magnes believed that it should be free of political involvement.  Some favoured the Geddes and Mears designs while others believed that it would be inappropriate for non-Jews to design the Hebrew University.

Geddes and Mears were finally dismissed by the Zionists in 1929, and only three university buildings designed by Mears and Chaikin were built on Mount Scopus: the Einstein Institutes of Mathematics and Physics and the David Wolffsohn Library.  The building on which the relationship between the university authorities and their architects finally foundered was the Jewish Studies Institute, which the Rosenblooms, a wealthy family from Pittsburg, Pennsylvania had undertaken to fund.  Mears and Chaikin made repeated revisions in an attempt to meet the changing demands of the Rosenbloom Trustees.  The funders were insistent that the Jewish Studies Institute should be accorded a central position on the university campus and eventually Geddes’ Great Hall was abandoned altogether in order to accommodate this desire.

It was all to no avail.  In May 1929, Mears, Geddes and Chaikin were informed by the University Trustees that their services were no longer required in relation to the design of the Rosenbloom Memorial Building.

In my own research into the planning of the Hebrew University I suggest that the hostility to the idea of the Great Hall expressed by some Zionists stemmed from their suspicion of the symbolism Geddes attributed to it as a Dome of Synthesis, a place where Judaism, Christianity and Islam are linked together, a commitment toward the unity of the different religious communities in Palestine to which they could not subscribe.  That view finds support in Mears’ correspondence and the comments of well-informed contemporary observers such as Charles Ashbee (though he had his own Arabist axe to grind).  Dolev doesn’t see such considerations as decisive.  In her perspective, the Geddes plan was primarily doomed because it bore little relationship to the university’s immediate practical needs and resources, but also because the appeal of its romantic Orientalist vision was rapidly fading in the face of Modernism.

The development of the university campus was halted abruptly by the 1948 Arab-Israeli war, which left Mount Scopus within the territory of Jordan.  At that time, it was little more than a scatter of buildings in a mix of architectural styles, some of them unfinished.  In the 1930s, the architect Erich Mendelsohn had described it bluntly as “…a wretched botched fruit of incompetence”.  For Dolev, the power of the invented significance of the site for Israeli national identity was demonstrated by the precipitate return of the university to Mount Scopus after the 1967 war:

Yet it did not matter: the image of the Mount Scopus campus in the eyes of the Jewish public in Israel was not dimmed as a result of the final architectural outcome.  An ephemeral portrayal of God’s Temple combined with the national significance attributed to university and mount had more power than the general impression of unattractive buildings scattered around.”

This is an important and ground-breaking book. In pursuing the missing pieces in the story of the Hebrew University, Diana Dolev has opened a window which offers fascinating new perspectives on the influences upon and debates and narratives within Zionism during the period of the British Mandate in Palestine and how these shaped the development of its flagship project.

Graeme Purves

Graeme Purves is the Chairman of the Built Environment Forum Scotland, BEFS. Graeme retired from the post of Assistant Chief Planner in the Scottish Government’s Planning and Architecture Division in September 2013. Graeme has a B.Sc. in Botany from theUniversity of Aberdeen and a Diploma in Town and Country Planning from Heriot-Watt University.  In 1988 he was awarded a Ph.D. for his research on the work of the pioneer Scottish planner, Sir Frank Mears. Graeme was appointed an Officer of the Order of the British Empire for his services to planning in the New Years Honours List for 2014.  He is a member of the Scottish Advisory Committee of the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds.


Royal High School Ministers Update

Breaking news today from Scottish Parliament regarding the Royal High School.

It has been announced today that the Scottish Parliament will not call-in all the planning applications on the Royal High School. Duddingston House Properties had requested that their latest application could be considered by Scottish Ministers in conjunction with their previous application and the St Mary’s Music School proposal so that they may be “properly scrutinised” together. Edinburgh Council emphasised that if this plan were to be carried out, there would not be sufficient time for consultation and proper assessment of the public’s views. The Scottish Ministers have agreed that there is no reason for them to become involved at this time. Download the letter here.

Further to this we are pleased to announce that the number of formal objections to the planning applications continues to increase as the planning department works through the physical letters that were submitted to them. The total number of comments as of the 6th April stood at 4649 (4214 objections) across both the FUL and LBC applications with the total continuing to rise.


RHS Fundraising Concert and Reception

Join us for an evening with two world-class pianists: Malcolm Martineau and Steven Osborne with eminent soprano Lorna Anderson.

6th June Update: Tickets still available, purchase on the door

As part of our ongoing campaign to save the Royal High School we are pleased to offer this world class event to help us raise funds to continue our work.

Malcolm Martineau is recognised as one of the leading accompanists of his generation, he has worked with many of the world’s greatest singers including Sir Thomas Allen, Dame Janet Baker, Olaf Bär, Barbara Bonney, Ian Bostridge, Angela Gheorghiu, Susan Graham and many more.

Steven Osborne’s standing as one of the great pianists of his generation was publicly affirmed in 2013 with two major awards: The Royal Philharmonic Society Instrumentalist of the Year and his second Gramophone Award, this time in the Instrumental category for his recording of Mussorgsky Pictures at an Exhibition and solo works by Prokofiev. Previous awards include a 2009 Gramophone Award for his recording of Britten’s works for piano and orchestra, as well as first prize at both the Naumburg International Competition (New York) and Clara Haskil Competition.

Lorna Anderson studied with Patricia MacMahon at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama, and excelled, winning several awards. In 1984, she won First Prize in the Peter Pears and Royal Overseas League Competitions and in 1986 won the most highly regarded English vocal award, the Purcell-Britten Prize for Concert Singers. Lorna Anderson has appeared in opera, concert and recital with major orchestras and festivals throughout Europe and elsewhere and is a renowned performer of the Baroque repertoire.

Royal High School Campaign
The Architectural Heritage Society of Scotland believes that the hotel scheme will irretrievably damage one of the most important Greek Revival buildings in the UK and the world and, by extension, the set piece of Calton Hill, which lies at the core of Edinburgh’s World Heritage Site.
Please help us to fund this campaign by attending this concert and also by visiting or writing to your city councillors (find them at, and MSP as Scottish Ministers will decide this important case (find them at

All funds raised will be used to support our efforts to stop this inappropriate development, the primary cost will be legal fees incurred during the Inquiry of the first hotel proposal. The AHSS have engaged a distinguished Planning Lawyer, feeling that the cost of an Advocate would be too great, to represent us in all the legal proceedings. We have sought donations from private donors/trusts and have committed funds from our central pot, we hope that this public appeal will fill the gap that remains. It is highly likely that the second hotel proposal will also go to an Inquiry. Thank you for your support.

Venue: Stockbridge Parish Church, 7B Saxe Coburg Street, Edinburgh EH3 5BN
Time: 6:30pm start
Tickets: cost £45 (£10 for students) including post-concert reception. Payment should be made in cash, cheque or BACS transfer. Cheques are made payable to ‘the Architectural Heritage Society of Scotland’ and should be posted to Sarah Pearce, AHSS, 15 Rutland Square, Edinburgh, EH1 2BE. Please write ‘RHS’ on the reverse of the cheque.
For payment by cash or BACS please contact Sarah Pearce in the National Office: 0131 557 0019


Strathclyde Group Takes a Stand for Mackintosh Building

AHSS delighted at outcome of potential planning blight in Glasgow

The following letter was sent to The Herald on Monday April 3rd in regards to plans for a student accommodation in front of Glasgow’s Mackintosh building. The group is delighted to say that plans for the seven storey building were refused by 12 out of 19 councillors.

You can see the letter on The Herald website HERE or read it below.

“Dear Sir,

Your recent article regarding the current state of Charles Rennie Mackintosh’s organ casing (“Sturgeon to demand answers over fate of Mackintosh organ found lying in pieces”) underlines the need for constant vigilance in preserving our heritage.

On Tuesday 4th April Glasgow City Council will demonstrate whether it really does have the vision to safeguard our built heritage, when the Planning Committee meets to decide an application to build a large unwieldy block of student flats on the corner of Dalhousie Street, adjoining Mackintosh’s world-renowned Glasgow School of Art. The proposed box-like development in its close proximity and dominating height will substantially obscure the present south elevation of the Mackintosh building from view and block out daylight to School studios. The design concept is wholly unsympathetic to its setting against such an iconic building of world renown.

It is ironic that just when every effort is going into restoring the Mackintosh building after the fire, the Council seems intent on approving an immediately adjacent 180-bed student housing development, which GSA director Professor Tom Inns has strongly criticised. The Architectural Heritage Society of Scotland (AHSS), the Charles Rennie Mackintosh Society, the New Glasgow Society and other Glasgow heritage groups, have also lodged objections.

The AHSS is fully supportive of developments which are sensitive to their surroundings;  this proposal is detrimental to an iconic part of Glasgow’s heritage, and should be turned down.

It would also seem as if one section of the Council is working to undermine another. Whilst Planning is proposing to adversely affect part of our Mackintosh heritage, the excellent efforts of the Glasgow City Marketing Bureau to attract international events to our city has chalked up another significant success. In June, some 600 delegates will be attending The Society of Architectural Historians’ Conference in Glasgow – only the second time this Conference has been held in Britain; the City Marketing Bureau specifically cite the Glasgow School of Art as one of the buildings that have helped to attract the Conference to the city.  It is unlikely that this group are travelling from the around the world to see yet another undistinguished student block.

The Planning Committee should therefore, on Tuesday, refuse the proposals for student accommodation at 294 Sauchiehall Street.

Yours faithfully,
Iain Wotherspoon

Chairman, AHSS Strathclyde Group
Tobacco Merchants House
42 Miller Street
Glasgow G1 1DT”


Royal High School Objection Letter

Have a read of our Forth & Borders Cases Panel letter to Edinburgh Council

Published today, take a look at our comprehensive letter which tackles each element of the new hotel proposal. This is the result of group viewings of the hotel plans and lengthy discussions to dissect the positive and negative elements of the proposal.

The panel had hoped to see a great improvement in the designs following our input in 2015, however, we have seen little that can be commended.

View the letter here

Great thanks to Stuart Eydmann for his guidance and support in putting this letter together.

Have you written to the City of Edinburgh Council? Do so now and have your say in the future of our World Heritage Site. Deadline Friday 24th March 2017. Find out all you need to know here.


Public Meeting Presentations

View all the presentations given by our esteemed speakers on Tuesday 14th March 2017

We are very pleased to make available online the presentations given at our Save the Royal High School Public Meeting by our passionate speakers. Click on the titles below to see the presentations.

Fred Mackintosh, the planning process to date.

Cliff Hague, the economic case

Adam Wilkinson, World Heritage Site context

Alastair Disley, the new hotel proposal and visualisations

Elizabeth Graham, how to object – step by step


Save RHS Public Meeting

Jilly MacLeod summarises an excellent evening held in Edinburgh’s Central Hall on Tuesday 14th March 2017

The Central Hall buzzed with excitement on Tuesday evening as just shy of 300 people streamed into its splendid interior to hear the AHSS’s presentation on the proposed hotel redevelopment of Thomas Hamilton’s Royal High School on Regent Road. After a brief introduction by Carol Nimmo, Chair of the Regent, Royal, Carlton Terraces and Mews Association, in which she read out a message of support from SAVE Britain’s Heritage, the first speaker – Fred Mackintosh, Faculty of Advocates ­–­ gave a recent history of the site and explained how we ended up with three proposals in the planning pipeline and who makes the final decisions. He concluded with the probing question: ‘What does it say about our country if we’re prepared to trash the Royal High School for a five-star hotel?’

Following on was an enlightening talk by Adam Wilkinson of Edinburgh World Heritage Trust, who put Hamilton’s building into historical context, describing how a rediscovery of ancient Greece in the late eighteenth century had given rise to a new architectural style – the Greek Revival – which unlike the Neo-Classical, based on the buildings of ancient Rome and redolent of empire, spoke instead of the people and democracy. This was a fitting style for a city steeped in Enlightenment thinking and seeking to express Scottish ideas through the built environment. Ambitious to show equal rank with cities of the ancient world, the Royal High School was the embodiment of Edinburgh’s concept of itself and as such is ‘one of the most important Greek Revival buildings in the world’.

Cliff Hague, Chair of the Cockburn Association, then gave an overview of the economic impact of the new development proposed by DHP (Duddingston House Properties), his PowerPoint presentation enlivened with emoticons of smiling and sad faces and a cartoon of an old hag with a crystal ball. His argument was that any economic forecast, such as DHP’s claim that their new hotel would provide £25 million per annum towards Edinburgh’s GDP over a seven-year period, were simply predictions rather than fact, and the assumptions and calculations upon which they were based were ‘no more sophisticated than a crystal ball’. Adverse conditions could easily change the context of the development, the predictions could be proved wrong, and we might end up with a budget hotel rather than a luxury one!

Alastair Disley, Convenor of the AHSS Forth & Borders Cases Panel, followed by looking at the planning application, outlining the extent of the proposed demolitions while highlighting common themes of the existing site – natural materials, symmetry, picturesque compositions, classical buildings given room to breath – elements sadly lacking in the new proposals. He then took us on a visual tour using before-and-after images from DHP’s planning application, eliciting gasps from the audience as he switched from one image to another and heady views of Arthur’s Seat were rudely interrupted by soaring barrack-like buildings that rose up from the ground like ‘a submarine surfacing’.

The final speaker of the evening was Elizabeth Graham, a long-term member of the AHSS Cases Panel, who provided practical advice on how to put in an objection to the proposed hotel development, either on the spot using the blank letters and guidance sheets provided on each and every chair or later online. In rounding up the evening, Carol Nimmo stressed that just because it has already received planning permission, it was wrong to assume the St Mary’s Music School proposal ‘has it in the bag’; it was now more important than ever to submit an objection. She finished with the heart-felt plea to ‘ask your granny, your children, your neighbours, even your postman, to object!’ and we sincerely hope you do!

Find out how to object here


Society of Architectural Historians Annual International Conference 2017

Attend SAH’s 70th Annual International Conference, their first meeting outside North America in 40 years

Society of Architectural Historians
2017 Annual International Conference
June 7-11 | Glasgow, Scotland
University of Strathclyde, Technology & Innovation Centre

The AHSS is delighted to be a conference partner of this event!

The Society of Architectural Historians will host its 70th Annual International Conference in Glasgow, Scotland, from June 7–11, 2017. Meeting in Scotland’s largest city, world renowned for its outstanding architectural heritage, reflects the increasingly international scope of the Society and its conference. Architectural historians, art historians, architects, museum professionals and preservationists from around the world will convene to share new research on the history of the built environment. The Glasgow conference will include 36 paper sessions, eight roundtables, an introductory address and plenary talk, 33 architecture tours, the SAH Glasgow Seminar, and more.



Study Tour 2017 – Book Now!

The AHSS is delighted to announce that our 2017 Study Tour will be a five day trip to historic Ironbridge, in the heart of England. 

Thursday 18th to Monday 22nd May 2017

This year, our National Study Tour will be led by the AHSS Strathclyde Group and is open to all members.

Booking for the Tour is required as soon as possible to secure places – so get booking now!


Download the Information Sheet and Booking Form here, please then email or post to the National Office to secure your place.

Study Tour 2017

Study Tour 2017 Booking Form

We look forward to welcoming you on a Southern adventure!


Buildings at Risk Toolkit

Online guidance available for all

The Buildings at Risk Toolkit is a collection of texts – as part of an initiative of Historic Scotland and The Architectural Heritage Fund – presenting a wealth of information on dealing with vulnerable historic buildings with the intention to aid in their preservation and management. The toolkit contains an abundance of guidance and advice sourced from a number of highly experienced practitioners, drawing on examples from around the United Kingdom. These documents would be useful for both professionals engaging with high risk buildings, and those with a general interest in heritage matters.

Sections include in-depth legislative guidance on liabilities, responsibilities, and current regulations concerning buildings at risk, as well as practical strategies for approaching historic buildings. Furthermore, it includes case studies and pilots wherein the guidance provided is demonstrated in current or recent projects, which is a useful tool for interpreting the information and applying it to personal projects.

These documents are easily accessible, available to all as PDF downloads from the Buildings at Risk Register for Scotland website


Gift an AHSS Membership this Christmas

Protect Scotland’s Heritage with this excellent present!

Looking for a Christmas gift with a difference?

Help the Architectural Heritage Society of Scotland campaign to protect Scotland’s listed buildings and conservation areas with a gift membership.

There are a great number of benefits to membership, including:

Two magazines and an Architectural Heritage Journal in 2017

Access to unique events and visits across Scotland

Access to our renowned Winter Lecture Series in Dundee, Edinburgh and Glasgow

Click here to learn more and apply online

The support of our members allows the AHSS to Speak for Scotland’s Buildings.



Architectural Heritage XXVII to be published 2017

2017 Publications Confirmed

In a recent update from the AHSS Publications Committee, we can confirm that the next edition of our Journal will be produced and issued to members in Autumn 2017. We are currently doing our best to secure the future of the Journal due to a recent loss of funding. If you are keen to support this publication, please get in touch with the National Office.

The AHSS Council is also delighted to confirm that we will publish two magazines in 2017, one Spring and one Autumn edition.


NEWSFLASH: New RHS Hotel Plans Public Event

Don’t miss the next Public Consultation for the Former Royal High School, Edinburgh. 3rd November

Pre-application Public Consultation

Thursday 3rd November 2016, 3-7pm

Pop down to look at the new hotel proposals from the Urbanist Group with Duddingston Properties, give feedback and have your say.
Location: Former Royal High School, 5-7 Regent Road, Edinburgh EH7 5BL
“Further information relating to these proposals can be obtained from Iceni Projects Ltd. Mercantile Chambers, 53 Bothwell Street, Glasgow, G2 6TS. If you wish to make comments on the proposals, you may do so at the above event and/or in writing to Iceni Projects at the above address or email ( by no later than Friday 25th November 2016.
Please note that all comments must be sent to the above address and are not representations to City of Edinburgh Council. An opportunity to make representations to the council will exist when a formal application is made.”

Photography Competition Winners Announced


The winners of the photographic competition, organised by the local group of AHSS as part of the Festival of Architecture 2016, were announced at the opening of an exhibition at the Mill on the Fleet, Gatehouse, on Saturday 29 October.  The exhibition, which moves on to Dumfries Museum on 1 December, features the winning photographs together with a short piece of text describing why the entrant likes the building.

In the under 15 age group, three prizes were awarded and two further entries were highly commended by the judges.  The winners were:

First Prize:           Rosie Norman for a photo of the Kirkandrews Bathing House

Second Prize:     Rachel Campbell for an internal view of St John’s Church, Penninghame

Third Prize:         Jack Norman for a photo of the modernist Tongland Power Station

Highly Commended

Toby Iglehart for his photo of Orchardton Tower

Maddison Wallace for her photo of Sweetheart Abbey

In the 16-25 age group, two prizes were awarded:

First Prize:           Roan Ballantine for a photo of the Coo Palace at Borgue

Second Prize:     Connor Bradley for a haunting internal view of Carnsalloch House near Kirkton

Thanks are due to the judges: Martin Robertson (Architectural Historian) and Allan Wright (Professional Photographer), to the Mill on the Fleet for accommodating the exhibition and prize giving, to Solway Heritage for financial assistance and to Wilko’s of Castle Douglas for donating two photo frames.

CLICK HERE to view all of the winning entries.


Autumn Newsletter 2016

The latest news from the AHSS


Once again, it has been a very busy time for the AHSS since the mailing of our Spring 2016 magazine, particularly in this, our 60th Jubilee year!

The Forth & Borders Group are working very hard to protect the Royal High School in Edinburgh, the Dumfries & Galloway Group are running their photography competition, we have launched our new website, and with the help of our North East Group, we are excitedly preparing for our special Jubilee AGM. We do hope that you will be able to join us at Fyvie Castle in October.

As you may know, the AHSS was formed in 1956 to stop proposed demolition in Edinburgh’s George Square. Unfortunately, we were unsuccessful in this campaign, however in the following 60 years we have been successful in many others! To mark this momentous occasion we will be producing a special Jubilee publication this winter, instead of our usual Architectural Heritage Journal. The Journal will return in 2017. If you have any stories, memories or photos that you would like to be included please contact the National Office, we would be delighted to hear from you.

It has been a pleasure to participate in the Festival of Architecture 2016, if you have not been to any events yet, make sure that you do before the end of the year.

To find out more about what we have been up to, have a read of our latest news pieces and view all upcoming events here on our website.

Keep up to date with all AHSS activity by visiting our Facebook and Twitter.


Best wishes,

From all at the AHSS.

Did you receive a paper version of our newsletter? Let us know your email address and we can email it to you in the future!


Royal High School Update

Processing of Royal High School planning Inquiry on hold

To read our full update CLICK HERE

The current Inquiry has been put on hold (sisted) in order for Duddingston House Properties and the Urbanist Group to submit a new hotel proposal for the A listed building. They have begun the process of making a new planning application by submitting a Proposal of Application Notice (PAN) on 16 September 2016.

There is to be public consultation of the new proposals on the 3rd November, 3-7pm at the Royal High School. This is to be confirmed.


Winter Lecture Series Announced!

Meet interesting people and learn something new.

The AHSS is delighted to publish the programmes for our Winter Lectures Series, taking place in Edinburgh and Glasgow.

As with previous years, there is a fascinating line up of topics to be covered between October 2016 and April 2017. Take this opportunity to learn more about your favourite Architectural genre or learn something entirely new.

Members and Non-members of the AHSS are all welcome to attend these events. Ticket costs apply, refreshments are provided at each talk.

Download the programmes here:

Forth & Borders Group Winter Lecture Series

Strathclyde Group Winter Lecture Series 

Dundee Conservation Lecture Series: information to follow


Urgent Royal High School Appeal!

Support the AHSS in fighting to save the Royal High School!

Dear Friends,

As you will know the planning application to turn the former Royal High School, Edinburgh into a hotel was turned down by City of Edinburgh Council in December 2015.  The proponent of the hotel scheme, Duddingston House Properties Limited, has appealed this refusal and the appeal will be heard before two government appointed Reporters over a period of three weeks beginning 28th November 2016. The final decision will be made by Scottish Ministers.

The AHSS intends to continue the fight to secure a future for the Royal High School, worthy of its category A listing and significance within Edinburgh’s World Heritage Site.  The costs of securing the necessary legal representation to ensure that the Society’s views can be put across to greatest effect will be significant, possibly as much as £50,000.

Substantial philanthropic funding has already been pledged and the Forth & Borders Group will make a major contribution.  It is hoped that individual members of the Society across the whole of Scotland will, collectively, be able to contribute £10,000.  While clearly, large donations to the Society’s legal costs will be greatly appreciated, it is the case, that with a membership of around 1,000, individual contributions of between £10 and £25 would enable the Society, relatively quickly and easily, to achieve the total it seeks.

There can be no doubt as to the significance of the forthcoming Inquiry.  No one can assume that the original City of Edinburgh Council refusal will be upheld, given the importance in planning terms which can now be attributed to the purported economic value of a luxury hotel.  Were Duddingston House Properties Limited to end up with planning permission on the Royal High School site, it would mean that no listed building, complex of buildings, or site, whether in the heart of a World Heritage Site or not, would be safe.

If you are able to help support our national campaign to protect the Royal High School for an appropriate future use,

Please see the attached document.


We are most grateful for any support that you are able to give.

If you have any queries, do please get in touch.

Kind regards,

Michael Davis
National Chairman, AHSS


Castles to Clock Towers

The AHSS are delighted to be a partner in this upcoming heritage conference

Conserving the Built Heritage of Aberdeenshire

Thursday 27th October 2016

Through a combination of inspiring case studies and expert testimony, this conference celebrates how opportunities have been identified in the creative re-use of Aberdeenshire’s built heritage; sharing knowledge and ideas on how projects can be funded, solutions found and challenges overcome.

Conference Chairman: Andrew P K Wright OBE
Confirmed speakers to date: Richard Murphey OBE, Tom Duff, David Narro, David Chouman, Ian Davidson and Alan Marshall.

Booking Now Open!

Download the flyer here.

Conference Programme

@NESPTconference #CastlestoClockTowers


AHSS New Website

Welcome to the AHSS’s new website and refreshed look!

In 2015 our Trustees decided that it was time for the AHSS to brighten up our appearance and overhaul our website to create something more user friendly and relevant today. You will notice a number of changes and will see great improvements in our communications in the coming months.

Our iconic Aberdeen Old Townhouse logo has had an update too, whilst our strapline has changed completely to ‘Speaking for Scotland’s Buildings‘. We feel that this better reflects our core role in protecting Scotland’s architecturally significant buildings.

Do you have any thoughts or feedback on our new website and branding?

We’d love to hear from you.


Edinburgh World Heritage Site Consultation

Have your say! 25th July Deadline

The City of Edinburgh Council have launched a public consultation and request your views on the Management Plan for the Old and New Towns of Edinburgh World Heritage Site. Our Forth & Borders Cases Panel are looking at this in great detail and encourage you to have your say!

“This survey gives you the chance to let us know how well you think the Old and New Towns of Edinburgh work as a place to live, work and visit.”

Not happy with inappropriate or short-sighted changes taking place in Edinburgh? This is your opportunity to influence future decisions. No specialized knowledge required, just your personal opinion.

Take part here.

Deadline 25th July 2016


Royal High School Update

Pre-Examination Meeting 20.07.16 City Chambers

Our Forth & Borders Cases Panel continue to campaign as the future of Edinburgh’s Former Royal High School is still unknown.

This A listed building is the centre point of the UNESCO World Heritage Site and was the subject of a planning application to turn the former school in to a 6 star hotel. Our Cases Panel, along with heritage and planning experts from across the world, objected strongly to the proposed design on the grounds that it was highly inappropriate both for this building and this location.

Refused by the City of Edinburgh Council on 17th December 2015, Duddingston House Properties and the Urbanist Group have now appealed the decision. The DPEA have appointed two reporters to consider the appeal, whilst the Scottish Government have ‘Called it in’ and will make the final decision.

The Cases Panel continue to make representations whenever possible. Please read our letters of objection below.

Objection September 2015

Objection April 2016

There is an alternative proposal to use the building for the new residence of St Mary’s Music School. Our Cases Panel has seen initial designs and approve in principle.

If you would like to be kept up to date with news, please sign up to our newsletter below.



New Cases Panel Guidelines Published

Everything you need to know about our Cases Panel work

Following our Cases Panel Conference in 2015, the AHSS National Conservation Committee have now published our new Cases Panel Guidelines.

As a complete overview of the AHSS Cases Panel work, this document lays out how the AHSS monitoring process works in respect to planning applications for Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas. It clearly gives best practice advice and guides our members to further information on a number of planning related topics.

Each of our Cases Panels across Scotland have read and contributed to the working drafts, which has now led to the completed piece. Although this has been a rigorous process, the Guidelines will remain as a working document and will be continually open to editing and change.

Take a look and download your copy below.

AHSS Cases Panel Guidelines

Get in touch with any comments that you may have.


‘My Favourite Place’ Photography Competition

Get snapping to win one of our excellent prizes!

To celebrate the Year of Innovation, Architecture and Design, our Dumfries & Galloway group is organising a photographic competition for young people in Summer 2016. There will be two classes, one for those aged 15 and under, and one for those aged 16 to 24. The competition aims to encourage young people to engage with the built heritage around them, as all entries must feature a whole, or elements of, a building.

The first prize for each class will comprise:

  • £100
  • A framed version of their photo
  • An hour’s photographic tuition with Allan Wright
  • Display of the photos on the web, at exhibitions throughout D&G and in the AHSS national magazine

The second prizes will be £50 and exhibition, and the third prizes £25 and exhibition.

All entries and enquiries must be emailed to Entries should be submitted as a JPEG file.
Entries will be judged on the quality of the photograph and on a 100 word statement of why the entrant likes the building.
The judges will be Allan Wright (Photographer) and Martin Robertson (Architectural Historian).
Each entrant may submit up to three photographs, each with a 100 word appreciation statement. The photos must be their own work and taken during 2016.

Entries will be accepted between 1 June 2016 and 30 September 2016. Winners will be announced on 1 November 2016.

For more information and rules:



60th Jubilee AGM Weekend

60 Years of protecting and promoting Scotland’s historic built environment!

Venue: Fyvie Castle
Time: 11am Saturday to 4pm Sunday
Cost: £70 (Discount available for Students)

To mark the occasion of the 60th Jubilee of the Architectural Heritage Society of Scotland, our North East Group will host a wonderful weekend of celebrations.

Join us on Saturday 15th and Sunday 16th October 2016, in Aberdeen to celebrate our 60th Jubilee.

The AGM will take place at the spectactular Fyvie Castle on Saturday afternoon, followed by a tour, talk and 60th Jubilee Dinner in the Castle. Accommodation has been arranged at the historic Carmelite Hotel in Aberdeen’s Merchant Quarter. There will be a coach to transport members from the Carmelite hotel to lunch on Saturday, Fyvie Castle, and back to the hotel.

Sunday’s activities will include a visit to one of Aberdeen’s most historic private houses, Chaplain’s Court, a light lunch, talk on the history and heritage of Aberdeen, and photo opportunity outside our beloved Aberdeen Old Town House.

Members to arrange their own transport to Aberdeen on Saturday morning and return on Sunday afternoon.

Download the Booking Form here.

Download the 60th AGM Notice and Agenda.


Scotstyle 2016 £10 Offer!

Scotland’s 100 best buildings since 1916 – Festival of Architecture 2016

For a limited time, the AHSS is pleased to offer the new Scotstyle 2016 publication at the special price of £10.

This superbly illustrated book describes 100 of the best buildings in Scotland since 1916, a period of unprecedented social and technological change. Bringing together highly detailed knowledge, significant insight and a liberal sprinkling of anecdote, this is more than an account of 100 individual buildings, it is a rich history of endeavour, creativity and pride. The buildings featured here also demonstrate that Scottish architecture can stand comparison with the very best – from anywhere!

Please complete the attached form and either email or post to the AHSS National Office.

AHSS Scotstyle Order Form

RRP. £25