1

by
Graham Reed


The title of this article probably gives rise immediately to two questions. The first, hopefully largely from readers of ‘Context’ living south of Berwick upon Tweed, is ‘where is West Lothian?’ The District is one of four that make up Lothian Region which lies at the eastern end of Scotland’s Central Belt and focusses on Edinburgh, its largest settlement. The historic centre of the District is the former County Town of Linlithgow, regrettable known to many, if at all, as the birthplace of Mary Queen of Scots, whilst the present administrative centre, Bathgate, similarly tends to be remembered only as a consequence of the national publicity some years ago given to the closure of the British Leyland truck plant in the town. West Lothian does have some magnificent buildings and structures of national architectural importance Linlithgow Palace, a favourite royal residence of several Scottish monarchs; Hopetoun House built by Sir William Bruce and added to by William Adam and his sons, Robert and John, four of Scotland’s greatest architects; and the Avon Aqueduct which rivals Telford’s masterpiece at Port Cysylite on the Shropshire Union Canal in Wales but the general impression which a visitor gains of the District is one of mainly working class housing, much of it built in the second half of the last century, with a scattering of unpretentious churches and civic buildings constructed at the same time. For Architecture with a capital ‘A’ people automatically gravitate to West Lothian’s
neighbour to the east, Edinburgh. This brief background prompts the second question ‘why does the District have a Design and Conservation Award Scheme’? After all, the circumstances would not appear to be propitious.
The active encouragement of improved architectural standards within the District has been a positive attempt by the Council’s Planning Department to overcome some of the public’s misconceptions about West Lothian and the unassuming nature of much of the District’s legacy of old buildings has spurred the Department on to do better than our more architecturally fortunate neighbourhood authorities. Our object has always been to secure good standards of design in new building work and to promote the careful conservation and re-use of existing buildings of local architectural or historic interest. In 1980 the Council decided to recognise the efforts made by developers and owners in response to the Department’s objectives by instituting a Design and Conservation Award Scheme. It was hoped that by drawing attention to successful projects, greater public awareness of the benefits to the community of the District Council’s planning control and conservation activities would be achieved, and that even higher standards of design
and restoration work would be encouraged within West Lothian. Nominations for consideration for award were invited from Councillors, Community Councils, members of the public, builders and architects. Any project, large or small, relating to new development, the extension or alteration of an existing building, or the re-use and restoration of an old property, was eligible, the only exclusions being buildings which had already received an award or had been designed or commissioned by the District Council. Three judges, one representing the Scottish Civic Trust, one the Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland, and the Chairman of the Planning Committee representing the District Council, were to consider each nomination.
Three projects were given awards in 1980. The Design Award was won by the new Bathgate Head Post Office, designed by Hutchison, Locke and Monk of Paisley for the Scottish Postal Board; the Conservation Award was given to Linlithgow architect, William Cadell, for his restoration of 13-21 Lion Well Wynd in Linlithgow on behalf of the Grange Conservation Company Limited; and a Special Award was given to the Scottish Special Housing Association for its rehabilitation of 88 steel houses at
West Lothian District Council
DESIGN & CONSERVATION
AWARD SCHEME
Ochiltree Castle by Linlithgow
Winner of 1984 D.C.
Conservation A ward

1