History of the Belleisle Conservatory

The conservatory in Belleisle Park in Ayr is a listed building in the records of Historic Scotland. This means that it is a greenhouse of special historical importance and is part of our collective heritage.

1879 – It was in 1879 that the first conservatory was built in Belleisle Estate in Ayr. The owner of the estate at that time was William Smith Dixon, a famous ironmaster from Govanhill, who had bought Belleisle as his country house and retreat. Dixon commissioned James Boyd and Sons of Paisley to build a fine conservatory close to an established walled garden in the grounds of the estate, the statue is thought to date from at least this time or earlier(The orginal conservatory can be seen below).

1886 – The second owner was another leading Scots industrialist who bought the Belleisle estate. This was George Coats of the Paisley thread manufacturing family. Coats and his family spent part of each year living in Belleisle and part in their London townhouse in Berkeley Square.

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 old statue

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1926 – Belleisle Estate sold to the Burgh of Ayr for £25,000. The Burgh Council under Provost Gould was far-sighted as they set about developing Belleisle incorporating a hotel and two golf courses and laying out the rest of the park for the use of the public. 

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1955 – Conservatory rebuilt by Messrs MacKenzie 
and Moncur. By the early fifties, however, the conservatory was causing concern as it had become increasingly dilapidated during and after the war years. It was clear that the conservatory had become such an important feature of the park and of the town that the Council decided that it had to be replaced in spite of the cost.The total final bill came to £2968-9s-2d. This major reconstruction was, in effect, a resurrection of the conservatory and it led to a second golden age in its popularity. At this time an observation bee-hive was installed and planting displays updated. 

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2005 – Conservatory closed. At the beginning of the new millennium the conservatory was again in decline. Despite the best efforts of continually dedicated staff, a combination of vandalism and limited investment in repairs caused the conservatory to be closed to the public in 2005. South Ayrshire Council simply could not afford to repair and maintain it. In 2005 sadly the building was boarded up and fenced off.

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2010 – Belleisle Conservatory Ltd formed to facilitate rebuilding and regeneration 
of the Belleisle Conservatory.In 2010, a local community group was set up with the objective of having the conservatory restored. The organisation was called Belleisle Conservatory Limited. It was formed as a company limited by guarantee and was a registered charity. A committee of dedicated volunteers was established and within a year obtained from SAC a lease of the conservatory building and its surrounding lawns. The charge for the lease is £1.00 per annum. Belleisle Conservatory Limited (BCL) could now begin the herculean task of raising money to pay for the building's restoration. A subsequent estimate by a quantity surveyor of the total cost of restoration was £583,000.There was unqualified joy when HLF announced that they would award the conservatory a grant of £400,000.

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2016 – Conservatory open in July 2016 , filled with beautiful flowers and plants, the bees have returned and the statue is in her rightful place. Excerpts taken from Professor Gordon Wilson's book - available to buy from the conservatory at £3.50. Photos courtesy of general public.

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conservatory outline