Tuesday 16th April 2019
The Folly on the Hill
Helensburgh is set to join Oban with a distinctive architectural feature.

Oban has McCaig's Folly. In Helensburgh, work has started on The Folly on The Hill. Construction crews are on site at The Hill House on Upper Colquhoun Street and building The Big Box.

A folly is defined as a costly ornamental building with no practical purpose. The Big Box meets the definition. It is a folly. A costly ornamental building with no practical purpose

Two disasterous fires have destroyed The Glasgow School of Art, acknowledged as Charles Rennie MacIntosh's masterpiece, The Hill House has assumed greater status as his domestic masterpiece.

The property was completed in 1904 to the instructions of Walter Blackie, the wealthy publisher. It sits on an exposed site above Helensburgh. Water ingress has been a problem throughout the life of the building.

The Hill House was sold by the Blackie family, was on the market in the late 1970s for offers around 25,000 and was purchased by The National Trust for Scotland in 1982.

MacIntosh used an experimental Portland cement render instead of the traditional lime. Lime render allows a building to breath. Cement render does not. Water getting into the structure can't get out. The Hill House suffers from damp. Damage is clearly visible on the interior walls.

NTS have ignored the problem for 36 years. 2018 is the year of action. They have a plan. Spend 5 million and build a Big Box. They claim that The Box will allow the building to dry out slowly while they assemble "the brightest and the best" to come up with a solution. The Big Box will be a feature on the town landscape for 5 to 10 years. Not a penny of the 5 million will be spent on conservation of The Hill House.

The Hill House has survived 116 yearly cycles of Scottish weather. It is not the Mary Rose, submerged in sea water for centuries and likely to fall apart if allowed to dry out. Building materials and techniques have moved on since the house was built. The House for an Art Lover in Bellahouston Park in Glasgow is its twin sister. Built in the 1990s to an original MacIntosh design. The House for an Art Lover doesn't have the same water issues.

The Big Box has no practical purpose. It is a monument to indecision. A Folly on The Hill.