New Perspectives on the Country House Lecture Series
As we enter the spring and summer seasons, when country houses re-open their doors to visitors, SHBT is offering a short series of free lectures with a slightly different take on the country house in Scotland. From the impact of urbanisation, hidden histories and new insights from state of the art technology, there’s plenty to uncover no matter what your interest.
From the Country House Estate to the Council Scheme
This lecture looks at the increasing importance of industry, particularly extractive industries like coal, as a component in the economy of the country house estate as far back as the seventeenth century. As the scale of this increased, the estate and often the house itself was threatened by the very source of the wealth that (literally) underpinned it. That process was often combined with urbanisation that also encroached on and threatened the country house. As the country estate, for complex economic and social reasons started to decline in the early twentieth centuries, many estates became available for housing, often municipal housing.
The lecture takes a wide view across lowland Scotland but also focuses on two case studies, the Hamilton Palace estate around the town of Hamilton, and the Niddrie Marischal estate in what is now the Craigmillar district of Edinburgh.
Projects, plans and politics – a Scottish tour by Lord Mar and James Gibbs in 1712
In 1712 the architect James Gibbs (1682-1754) accompanied his friend and patron, the 6th earl of Mar, on a tour of Scottish estates providing designs and advice to potential patrons. Mar also entertained several leading members of the Scottish aristocracy at his house in Alloa that autumn. At this date Mar was seeking support for a dissolution of the Treaty of Union of 1707, and testing opinions about a Stuart restoration. His campaign of persuasion involved not just architecture and landscaping but also infrastructure improvements.
The tour supplies important new evidence: currently little is known about Gibbs’s activities following his return from studying in Fontana’s studio in Rome to London in 1708 up to 1713, in which year he was appointed a surveyor for the construction of The Fifty New Churches in London.
Ghosts of Strathleven: Colonial History and Approaches to Heritage
Thomas F. Gieryn eloquently wrote that buildings ‘are forever objects of (re)interpretation, narration and representation’; their walls hold stories of our past. Strathleven House was owned by James Ewing, enslaver and MP for Glasgow, and his heirs, and contains histories of colonial exploitation and the legacies of slavery.
This talk investigates some of these stories, challenges accepted narratives, and searches for approaches to heritage which recognise this past. As part of this, the talk will look at approaches taken by other organisations and consider how these can be applied to Strathleven House and other projects more broadly.
Technology and the Country House: Understanding Design and Materiality with Drones, LiDAR and 3D Scanning
Advancements in digital technology and the removal of high entry costs have made LiDAR, 3D scanning and UAV/drones more accessible and easier to use in studying the country house.
In this talk, Daniel Bochman discusses how archival country house research can be complemented by digital technologies. Utilising his own research at Dalkeith Palace and Drumlanrig Castle as examples, Daniel analyses how digital technology can deepen our understanding of country house and estate design – and can point us towards the illumination of hidden material details.
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