The Archdiocese of Glasgow has transferred the ownership of St Peter’s Seminary and the surrounding woodland at Cardross free of charge to a charitable trust.
Completed in 1966, the modernist-style building fell into disuse and disrepair after the seminary closed 14 years later owing to falling vocations and maintenance difficulties.
Despite being left to ruin, it was classed as a category A building by Historic Scotland in 1992.
Designed by Andy MacMillan and Isi Metzstein of the architectural firm Gillespie, Kidd & Coia, the Le Corbusier-inspired complex has been described by the international architecture conservation organisation DOCOMOMO as a “building of world significance”.
Scottish arts organization NVA, which organized a 2016 sound and light show on the site, put forward plans to rescue the Cardross seminary, but these fell through after a failed funding bid to Creative Scotland in 2018.
The Scottish government subsequently declined a request in 2019 to take on the building’s maintenance, after Historic Environment Scotland estimated it would cost over £13 million to make it fit for public use.
At the time, the Archdiocese of Glasgow’s director of communications, Ronnie Convery, told the BBC it would probably have to remain a ruin.
“We would literally give it away for nothing but we can’t find anyone to take it off our hands,” he said. “The Archdiocese recognises that it has the responsibility to maintain the estate, to keep it secure and provide the proper insurance cover, but as you can imagine it is a huge albatross around our neck.”
However, a newly-established charity, the Kilmahew Education Trust, emerged this year as a new potential owner of the site.
Announcing the transfer of ownership to the trust on Friday, Archbishop Philip Tartaglia of Glasgow said: “This is a good day for the Archdiocese, for the local area, and, I hope, for the wider Scottish community.
“Times were very different when St Peter’s Seminary was opened in the late 1960s to wide architectural acclaim. Changing requirements in priestly education, a drop in the number of seminarians and difficulties in maintaining the fabric of the building mean that the seminary had a relatively short lifespan.
“For four decades the Archdiocese has sought a new owner for the site, and finally a solution has been found. I wish the new owners every success as they develop the site and move forward to a new chapter in the history of the seminary and its estate.”
Stuart Cotton of Kilmahew Education Trust said: “The Trust is delighted to take up the many challenges that exist on the Kilmahew Estate and is grateful to the Archdiocese of Glasgow for its outstanding support over the last year in facilitating the transfer of ownership and for trusting us with the honour of becoming the next custodians of this outstanding and unique heritage asset.
“There is no doubting the beauty of the Kilmahew landscape nor the atmospheric presence that surrounds the seminary complex of St Peter’s. We simply need to develop a viable vision, with education at its core, and execute the plans that develop from that to the best of our abilities.”
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