Inverleith House


Inverleith House was designed in 1773 by David Henderson and built for Sir James Rocheid (1715-1787) as his family home and centre piece of his estate in 1774 at a total cost of £4,109. Around 1820 a part of the Inverleith estate was sold to become the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh (RBGE). The house was gifted to the Crown in 1877 together with the surrounding land for the purpose of extending the activities of RBGE and for the enjoyment of the public. After restoration work following a fire, Inverleith House became the official residence of the Regius Keeper (director) of RBGE.  From 1960 it housed the new Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, which in 1984 moved to the building of the former John Watson's Institution in west Edinburgh. On 4 December 1970 the house was listed as a historic building in category B, with Historic Scotland id 28081. An extension was built in 1974. Since 1986 Inverleith House has been used as exhibition space by RBGE.

It is currently closed to the public.

RBGE Statement - 18/10/2016

After considerable consideration the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh (RBGE) has accepted that, in the interests of prioritising its core mission To explore, conserve and explain the world of plants for a better future, it must be pragmatic about the overall diversity of its wider commitments.

As part of this, Inverleith House will no longer be dedicated to the display of contemporary art, and RBGE is looking at options for the alternative use of the building. RBGE will continue to use both the overall setting of the Garden and other existing indoor spaces to engage our visitors with art in the Garden environment. No member of staff will lose their job in the adjustment. The intention is very much that we retain our reputuation as an art venue across the board, be it for botanical art, illustration, performance, photography, sculpture and contemporary art.

Through this change the organisation will remove the various inevitable financial risks attached to running a high-profile gallery. It will also free-up resources to concentrate more fully on its scientific and horticultural research and conservation work and provide greater scope to encourage public engagement with the environment.

Statement on the Development of Arts and Cultural Engagement at Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh - 18/11/2016

Following discussions between Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh (RBGE), the Scottish Government and Creative Scotland it has been agreed to establish a short life Working Group to advise the RBGE Board on the strategic direction of its programme for arts and cultural engagement across RBGE that would include, but not be restricted to, exhibition making at Inverleith House. The Group will be convened by an independent Chair and will be tasked with establishing a clear vision for the development of an arts programme that would align with and amplify the core mission of RBGE and that would be achievable and sustainable within the current financial climate. The Group, which will include senior staff from RBGE, Creative Scotland and invited expert advisors will be asked to: review the current position and approach of the RBGE with regard to exhibition making and other arts /cultural activity; to establish an informed view of programming possibilities; to test and establish a series of options for wider consideration by the RBGE Trustees at their meeting in June 2017.

This Working Group is the next stage in the development of the future events and exhibitions programme at RBGE and follows a decision by RBGE Board that Inverleith House would no longer be dedicated to exhibiting contemporary art.

In reaching this decision RBGE Trustees gave careful consideration to the Report  “a Future for Inverleith House”,  the purpose  of which was to make recommendations on how a programme of contemporary arts exhibition might be might maintained and developed, addressing audience development, public engagement and financial sustainability.

The Board noted that Inverleith House had built up an excellent reputation as a contemporary art gallery. However, it was the view of the Trustees that the financial model proposed in the Report was high risk, required further financial investment and included untested assumptions. They further agreed that the need to increase income meant that it was no longer appropriate for RBGE to subsidise a dedicated contemporary art gallery. Although the Board did not accept the central recommendation of the Report, a number of options for making Inverleith House more relevant to and integrated with the work of the Garden were suggested and will be considered as the future events and exhibitions programme is developed.

Although the Trustees cannot continue to support Inverleith House as a venue dedicated to contemporary art, RBGE remains committed to being an art venue across the board, be it for botanical art, illustration, performance, photography, sculpture and contemporary art.


 Installation shot: Tony Conrad: Invented Acoustical Tools 1969 - 2014, 2014

Installation shot: Corin Sworn 2014

 Franz West and Heimo Zobernig, ‘Bateau Imaginaire’, 2004/13

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