Westburn House is Falling Down

Westburn House

Westburn House

Old buildings can cost money to keep but where they are the responsibility of a local authority then it is incumbent upon that local authority to carry out its duty. You would have thought.

Westburn House  portico and Doric columns

Westburn House
portico and Doric columns

As you can see Aberdeen City Council is guilty of abandoning a category A-listed building to such an extent it looks to a casual observer like me that the Council is hoping one day Westburn House will simply topple down. One less worry for the Council. Frankly the state of this building is a disgrace. All we get from the Council is mealy-mouthed meaningless froth about caring about the city’s heritage  yet the evidence throws up a contrary view.

We will improve the quality and impact of arts, culture and heritage provision across the city

Westburn House  July 2015

Westburn House
July 2015

Then doesn’t .

We will protect and enhance our high-quality natural and built environment through support of initiatives including open space

Blah de blah de blah. Every so often it offers up a Master Plan signifying nothing. Master Plan, Mister Plan, Mistress Plan, Misconceived Plan, Missed Plan – all words and picture projections amounting to sweet f.a.. Aberdeen’s principal architect, Archibald Simpson, designed Westburn House for the Chalmers family who owned the forerunner of the Press & Journal, the Aberdeen Journal, in the 19th century. The Westburn estate comprised large grounds and the house. When the estate was broken up it was bought over by the then Town Council in 1901 and the house converted into a restaurant with some of the acres of land becoming the Westburn Park, including bowling greens and tennis courts in the formal walled garden. Part of the estate houses Cornhill Hospital. The house has been used for a variety of functions since, including a nursery and by community arts. There’s been no shortage of ideas for using Westburn House – a registry office, a council training centre, wedding venue. There were hopes that the building would become a museum for the City’s vast costume collection but nothing came of these plans either, just like nothing has come of all sorts of other noises about setting up museums in the city. The reason? Money stupid. And indifference. It is Aberdeen we’re talking about here so it’s always easier just to let the building decay and fall down than actually see such plans materialise. Aberdeen Council is that aspirational. The building is built of stuccoed brick with a portico with Doric columns and pediment on the western side and a lovely cast iron veranda facing south (added later). Being of brick is very unusual in granite Aberdeen. The Westburn (Gilcomston burn) runs through the park, through the guitar-shaped paddling pool but here too the decay has spread. Look at the state of it. Broken sections and filthy mud add to the evidence of an authority that has lost all sense of pride in the city it purports to look after. Another time, same place… …before this kind of neglect   I don’t think preventing bathing is the most important issue in Westburn Park. This is the flower garden at Westburn House.   The roof and ceilings at Westburn House are falling in, timbers are rotting, grass has blocked up the gutters leading to water seeping through the building. What should be a fine example of Simpson architecture is in ruin. It’s in a worse condition than the abandoned Wallace Tower but that’s a tale for another time.

PS Would it not be feasible for colleges or private businesses who train people in building skills to work with councils on properties such as Westburn House in order to preserve them at little to no cost and to provide practical training at the same time?

Are council employees too locked into their tiny cut-off areas of responsibilities when a wider vision and inclusiveness in the wider community be advantageous to all of us?

There is definitely a man with a clip-board mentality. The man says no.

13 Comments to “Westburn House is Falling Down”

    • Well, well! We shall see. Hope it works out for the sake of the building and the park. Thanks for directing me to this. I don’t get the paper so would have missed it. ☺☺

  1. It truly is a waste. I visit nearly every day and would love to have it and open it as a coffee shop but instead it is going to waste. It is busy all the time and would benefit with something like that even if only open for 6 months of the year! It is shocking and even the play equipment for the kids leave a lot to be desired compared to Hazelhead and Duthie Parks!

  2. Great blog & well said. This was my nursery when I was a kid & my earliest memories. Been there a few times over the years & disgraced by the neglect. It seems though it’s what we’ve come to expect from Aberdeen Council.

  3. I’ve not been to the Westburn Park for a few years but remember playing there when I was a child. I always thought it was a beautiful building and am quite shocked at the sight of it. I hope that they do something about it, surely if it was made into a museum or a wedding venue then it would generate cash for them to put back in to further repairs in other listed buildings that are needing doing?! No, it’s probably easier to just wait until it falls down!!

    • It was my first time for a while visiting the park last week. My jaw dropped at the state of Westburn House though I should be used to the council’s couldn’t care less attitude by now. Thanks for reading the blog.☺

  4. Just by way of adding to the mix. I recall in the 1950s that water came to the pond was actually warm, pleasant to paddle in, but which only later occurred to me must have been the hospital laundry discharging into the burn. Oh happy days when we had fewer concerns as to contamination. Now we have (I assume) no more warm water instead, as you say, plenty of hot air and hypocrisy.

  5. Aberdeen City Council saw fit to send me a letter warning me if I didn’t repair the front of my house (I had a velux window cracked open for circulation and the Dormer Window needing painting) threatening me with all sorts if I didn’t sort it out. I think if they ever have the brass neck to send me something similar I’ll point them at this post. Get their own house in order before advising others. 😄

  6. How very sad and tragic, I remember this place from when I was a child and playing there in what was then a lovely, well used park. Shame on you Aberdeen councillors.

    • Thanks Pearl. I hadn’t seen it close up for a while and was shocked at the state of decay. It doesn’t look good in a public park meant to attract children aside from the loss of what was a lovely property.

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