Renovation of Ferry Inn

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THE RENOVATION of Rosneath’s historic Ferry Inn and Ferry Inn Cottage was the topic of Helensburgh Heritage Trust’s first 2013-14 winter open meeting on Wednesday September 25.

HHT-Ferry-Inn-1-25.09The speaker was the owner of the two properties, American dentist Dr Joe Brown, who with the help of his wife and several local tradesmen has restored the buildings.

He acquired the main house on the shores of the Gareloch in 2006 and the cottage in 2009, and the renovation, which he described as a labour of love, was completed in July.

In days gone by Ferry Inn was a small pub, but in 1896 it was bought by Princess Louise, a daughter of Queen Victoria who was married to the Duke of Argyll.

On the advice of a friend, the garden designer Gertrude Jekyll, she commissioned an unknown young architect to rebuild it as her dream cottage by the sea. His name was Edwin Lutyens, and Ferry Inn was one of his first independent projects.

The new Ferry Inn was a house designed for pleasure, comfort and convenience, rather than to make a grand artistic statement. Taking full advantage of its splendid setting on the Gareloch shore, its balconies and overhanging eaves seem to reach out to the beach.

What Lutyens created is considered a masterpiece of Arts and Crafts design, and the house is, in its modest way, as architecturally significant as Charles Rennie Mackintosh's Hill House in Helensburgh.

Princess Louise abandoned the house when the rebuilding was complete. Despite her longing for a cottage, she lived instead in Rosneath Castle.

In 1902 she turned Ferry Inn into a Home for Soldiers wounded in the Boer War, as hospitals were unable to cope with the numbers, and she continued to run it until the need was over. Afterwards it was sold to the Government, and in the Second World War it was part of the American naval base at Rosneath.

Dr Brown told of the changes made to the building over the years, and said that the renovation of the main house had been started by the previous owners, Mr and Mrs Taylor. He decided that the cottage, which contained a ballroom, should be reconnected to the house, and this has now been completed.

Heritage Trust chairman Stewart Noble introduced Dr Brown, and afterwards thanked him for an excellent illustrated talk in front of a capacity audience at Helensburgh Lawn Tennis Club in Suffolk Street.

  • Photo by Donald Fullarton.