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Secrets of Ellisland to be uncovered

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By Fiona Reid
Nostalgia
Secrets of Ellisland to be uncovered

THE hidden history of the Dumfriesshire farmhouse that Robert Burns designed for his family is set to be revealed thanks to the first ever detailed heritage survey of the site.

It will provide a detailed understanding of the buildings at Ellisland Farm and their history; will identify urgent repairs and will recommend an in-depth conservation plan. The work will also include analysis of the first-ever environmental readings undertaken at the site, as well as new research to piece together the museum history.

Dr David Hopes, vice-chair of the Robert Burns Ellisland Trust, said the survey is a landmark moment in revealing the full history of the buildings and an important step in protecting it for the future: “This unique survey of the buildings will allow us to understand the story of Ellisland like never before. It will involve getting under the skin of the history of the buildings – quite literally – by analysing layers of paint, tracing alterations to the shape of walls, roofs, windows and doors, and gathering as much archival evidence as we can. Ultimately, we will have a robust material narrative which allows us then to prioritise our resources in caring for Ellisland, and to shed new light on an extraordinary period of Burns’ life.”

The survey is being carried out by Dr William Napier, of Adams Napier Partnership, a conservation accredited charted building surveyor and architectural historian. He said: “It is a privilege to have been appointed to help understand how best to care for Ellisland Farm. I am looking forward understanding its development from the 18th century, and reporting on its current condition and, most importantly, on how the buildings should be maintained and repaired appropriately in the future.

“Although generally in a reasonable condition, many areas are being adversely affected by the previous use of modern and inappropriate materials which are not suited in the repair of traditional masonry buildings. One of the main challenges will be reversing some of these interventions and re-adopting traditional materials and techniques for future maintenance and repair work.”

And he has appealed for any old photos or memories of Ellisland or pictures of traditional contemporary Dumfriesshire farm buildings or information relating to late 18th century farming practices to help with the understanding of the property.

Dr Hopes added: “Revealing the full story of Ellisland Farm and understanding Robert Burns’ time here is critically important to conserve the site for the future, and unlock its full tourism and heritage potential.

“Ellisland’s significance to Scotland and to Dumfriesshire can’t be overstated, and as a trust we look forward to revealing its authentic story and making Burns’ time here accessible and inspirational for generations to come.”

Anyone with information that may help should email [email protected].

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