Gates Get Golden Touch at Benmore

The magnificent Grade A-listed Golden Gates at Benmore Botanic Garden, near Dunoon in Argyll, have been restored and replaced after an absence of almost 10 years.

Commissioned by James Duncan, who owned the Benmore estate from 1870 to 1889, the gates were crafted in Berlin and were exhibited at the 1878 Paris Universal Exhibition. Complete with the marble pillars, carved by local stonemasons, they formed the main entrance to Benmore House from Glen Massan.

By the early 1990’s, the lodge adjacent to the gates had been demolished and changes to the fence line effectively left them without a purpose. They were removed and stored indoors to prevent further deterioration until funds were available to restore them.

Now, against Benmore’s autumnal backdrop of natural golden hues they have been restored to their rightful location and just status. Paying tribute to the small team responsible for achieving this remarkable project Benmore Curator Peter Baxter commented: “The aim of the project was to have the gates refurbished to a high standard and to a specification that would endure Benmore’s environment for many years to come.

“Research by Argyll-based environmental artist Jane Kelly resulted in her recommendations being used in consultation with Historic Scotland. She continued to advise throughout the restoration process and designed the new sections of heavy railing that meet the marble pillars, ensuring the gates should look an integral part of the landscape forming the boundary to the garden.”

The restoration costs were met by Benmore’s parent organisation, the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh with gilding made possible by funds from the Younger (Benmore) Trust, the Rowan Legacy and donations. The gates and lanterns were refurbished by G.H. Currie, Balcksmiths of Sandbank and gilded by John Nevin of Mackay Decorators.

Groundworks, landscaping and planting were carried out by Benmore with some assistance from intern students. But, not before contending with some classic Benmore weather.

While much of the landscaping had been programmed to take place last winter, persistent rain of 1,663mm (65.4 inches) over the period December 2013 to March 2014 resulted in serious delays.

Recovering from the deluge, the ground has undergone decompaction, drains have been installed, topsoil added and landform carried out. A selection of Sequoiadendron giganteum, Magnolia stellata, Stewartia pseudocamellia, Sorbus alnifolia and Parthenocissus quiquefolia will form the main structural plants. All are of known wild origin.

“The Golden Gates and the surrounding landscaping will become a main attraction to the southern part of the Garden” Baxter added.  “It was our duty to preserve the gates and to have them restored to their former glory. Visitors will not fail to be impressed by their magnificence and  the quality of the restoration work.’’

Photo by Ian Giles

The Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh is a charity (registration number SC007983)