The Restoration

[The linked images on this page may be viewed individually from the text links, or may be viewed sequentially using the < and > pointers below each image]

Barholm Castle has changed hands three times since the 1960's, most recently in July 1999. This came at the end of two years and two abandoned attempts by the present owners to conclude the purchase. The acquisition comprised approximately 1.25 acres of surrounding ground to the west of the access road and looking towards Wigtown Bay, including the remains of the former walled garden. In late 2005, 1.5 acres of woodland to the rear of the castle and east of the access road were also acquired.

The castle was purchased with the objective of restoring it to its original role as a family residence. Because of its status as a Scheduled Ancient Monument and a Grade A listed building, any such restoration required the consent and involvement of Historic Scotland (H.S.), to ensure quality and authenticity; however, the relatively complete nature of the ruin meant that a restoration plan for the building would require little conjecture.

Following a request for H.S. to carry out a Merit Assessment, a first site meeting took place on the 20th October 1999. A positive opinion resulted from this visit, and application forms for a Historic Buildings Repair Grant were received in the early summer of 2000, and the application was filed in August of that year.

A preliminary archaeological survey was carried out in 2000. However this had to be limited to structural recording; internal excavation was impossible because of the danger of falling masonry and would have to take place once stabilisation of the structure had been carried out during restoration.

A visit from an H.S. architect took place in late November of 2000 and his advisory report was received at the end of April 2001. The response to this was somewhat delayed and a final application was not filed with H.S. until April 2002.

The grant application went before the H.S. Historic Buildings Grant Committee on the 16th August 2002 and an indicative offer of a 33% grant towards grant-eligible elements of the restoration was made shortly afterwards. Early in 2003, full tender documents were issued and a contractor was appointed in May 2003.

During this time full plans had been drawn up, which envisaged the restored Barholm Castle comprising a kitchen in the vaulted chamber at ground level, a large living room occupying all of the former great hall on the first floor, a main bedroom and bathroom on the second floor, two further bedrooms and bathrooms on the third floor, and a further bedroom in the cap house. Elevations of the planned north and west, and south and east faces can be viewed.

In July 2003, exactly four years after purchase, preparatory work began on the site. In September of 2003, notification was received from H.S. that the indicative offer had been confirmed as a committed offer of grant. By the end of September, the large chimney on the south elevation had been taken down; according to the architect this was in imminent danger of collapse and "was held in place only by dead load and the grace of God". The weight of this chimney had caused significant "bellying" of the south elevation. However, before further downtaking, consolidation of the east and west elevations was carried out in order to reduce the chance of the planned downtaking on the south elevation causing a catastrophic collapse of the whole structure. This has included the use of steel wire ties to stabilise the large crack which was formerly visible on the west elevation. By the end of 2003, downtaking of most of the south elevation to the level of the vaulted chamber was complete. Rebuilding using the original stones then took place, and by mid April 2004, the elevation had been reconstructed to the top of the second storey. This allowed the roof beams of the great hall to be put in place and a temporary floor for the second storey to be laid on these, in order to facilitate internal restoration at this level. As rebuilding of the south elevation continued, placement of the roof beams for the second storey and and the laying of a temporary third floor was carried out. By July, a temporary floor had also been laid in the vaulted cap house ("John Knox's Room"), and thus access was possible to all of the tower's original rooms for the first time in over two centuries. Links are given to images of the great hall and the vaulted cap house at this stage. With this, restoration of the south elevation, with the exception of the chimney, was complete, and placement of the roof timbers was being carried out. Between August and October, external work to make the structure watertight for the internal winter work was completed. The roof was slated, most of the exterior was harled, and the chimney on the south elevation was restored to its previous height. The harling was a pale sandstone pink (from the sandstone used in the mix) although the final colour would depend on the lime wash used at a later stage. Also, at this time a decision was made on the access to the area at the top of the stair tower; two of the features which had been lost were the parapet wall at the top of the tower and the original cap house which would have provided this access. On the basis of the elongated D-shaped "footprint" remaining on top of the tower, the general shape and dimensions could be deduced and a plan for the parapet and cap-house was approved by H.S and subsequently constructed. The progress between October 2004 and summer 2005 was disappointingly slow. Although there had been no significant unforeseen structural problems during the restoration, the agreed completion date of 17 December 2004 was missed, and further promised dates of the end of March 2005, the end of May 2005 and mid-July 2005 were also missed. By the end of July, although most internal plastering had been completed, no room was in an inhabitable state and neither functioning electrical nor plumbing systems were in place. Plans to furnish the castle during the summer had to be postponed. With the installation of the windows in September - October 2005 the painting of the ceiling in the Great Hall was carried out by Jennifer Merredew , and it was possible to begin furnishing the building. A pale limewash was applied to the exterior and the scaffolding was removed to finally revel the as shown from the south and north-west.By the end of December 2005, internal work had progressed sufficiently to to have a small New Year party for friends and neighbours.

In the knowledge that once restoration had started, the ruin of Barholm Castle, as it has been for more than two centuries, would never again be seen, comprehensive internal and external photographic records were made. To add to this a watercolour of the south face was painted by Pat Ross, and a detailed pencil drawing from the north west was carried out by a local artist, Andrew Briggs.

The project was, of course, supported by a variety of professional services. Architectural supervision and project management was the responsibility of Peter Drummond and later of Patrick Lorimer of ARP Lorimer and Associates of Ayr. The quantity surveying contribution was provided by Leslie Dean and later by Adsley McCormack of KLM Partnership of Glasgow, and William Crowe was consultant structural engineer. The contract for carrying out the restoration work was awarded to Ian Cumming of Cumming & Co. of Perth. Archaeological input was provided by Gordon Ewart of Kirkdale Archaeology. Legal services and advice were provided throughout by John Henderson of John Henderson and Sons of Dumfries.

Early architectural and QS support came from Raymond Muszynski of ne Begg architects and John McKenzie of Abacus quantity surveyors.