Ardchattan Priory

Ardchattan, Argyll and Bute

Ardchattan Priory was founded in the early 13th century by the Valliscaulian order, the monks rebuilt the buildings in the 15th century and upon the order's closure in the Reformation this part of the buildings became a private house, which it remains. There have been a number of additions to the buildings, particularly a Victorian wing to the west side of the house on the end of the original monastic wing. Adjacent ruins of the original monastic church are in the care of Historic Environment Scotland.

Weather patterns in the area have noticeably changed in the last 10 or so years and the weather now more often comes from a more easterly direction. This brings driven rain onto different areas of the building and was creating water penetration problems, particularly at the east gable end which was originally an internal wall in the Priory but has been an exterior wall since the dissolution. The house has been regularly and well maintained and, considering its great age appeared in remarkably good condition. However, the combination of the altered weather patterns and the desire to have an overview lead the owners to ask Jonathan Gotelee to carry out a Fabric Condition Survey and prioritise any work that is needed.

The wing on which the first phase concentrated is the oldest part of the house and contains the remains of the original roof, a fine oak scissor truss construction which the RCAHMS records suggested had triangulated feet onto the wall head, however, only one of these appears still to be present.

The first stage of site works following on from the prioritisation has now been completed with another due to start in Spring 2017. The original aim of these works was as follows; a complete re-pointing of selected wall areas with new lime:sand pointing to replace a varied collection of mixes and colours of cement based pointing, new lead wall head and window flashings to cast water away from the wall's surfaces, a series of new lead water gates at roof to stonework junctions to improve the roof performance at junctions and some selected repairs of the quite heavily damaged roof structure.

However, opening up proved that the reality of the building's condition was worse than evident, the various insertions of floors and dormers at intervening periods since the dissolution had severely compromised the floor and roof structure, there had evidently been a significant wall collapse during one of these intervening periods which had been poorly rebuilt and disguised under the repointing and one of the chimneys was, under its coat of render, dangerously close to collapsing under the weight of its cope stones.

The owners showed considerable fortitude in the face of such discoveries and decided that this was repair to be done properly and for the long term. The chimney and gable wall head were rebuilt, a new oak truss built and inserted where an old one was too badly damaged to be worth leaving and large areas were re-roofed and repointed. We specified a wax like additive in the pointing mix, a modern equivalent of hot mixing tallow into mortar to increase the wall's water repellence without compromising its breathability. The Victorian cast iron veranda was also fully redecorated and repaired as it had to be de-glazed to allow for scaffolding.

The repointing and better "hat" means a dryer atmosphere in the house.

Needless to say this work took more time and resources than envisaged, but the clients and our colleagues on the building team's perseverance, forbearing and commitment has produced an excellent end result which should protect this part of the buildings for many years to come. Our thanks to them all for the enjoyable work.

Design Team

Architect: JGA
Structural Engineers: Elliott & Co
Selected photograph courtesy of Ardchattan Estate

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