Funding decision means artist’s unique house likely to be lost for the nation

In the wake of a decision by the National Heritage Memorial Fund (NHMF), the extraordinary Scottish home of artist, Tim Stead, is now likely to be lost for the nation.

The fireplace at The Steading

Earlier this year, Historic Environment Scotland (HES) listed The Steading complex as Category A – its highest level. Described by Prince Charles, Duke of Rothesay as ‘a place of extraordinary artistic interest’ the house has been twice visited and praised by HRH The Duke of Edinburgh. The National Trust for Scotland describes it as ‘of considerable aesthetic and social significance’ and HES regards it as being as important as Charles Rennie Mackintosh’s buildings. 

Tim Stead, MBE, died young in 2000 but left a multi-layered legacy. His fluid style of working with wood is probably most famously seen in Café Gandolfi in Glasgow – Stead’s equivalent to Charles Rennie Mackintosh’s Willows Tea Room – and the Millennium Clock at the National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh. The Oil Industry Memorial Chapel in the Kirk of St Nicholas in Aberdeen shows the breadth of his sculptural designs. Stead’s infectious style spawned a whole school of followers whose work can be seen throughout the country. Often ahead of his time, he raised funds to create the UK’s first community woodland in the Scottish Borders and was also instrumental in forming the Carrifran re-wilding project at the turn of the century. For this work he was awarded an MBE.

On hearing the news, Maggy Stead, Tim’s widow, said: “That is terrible news! This was my last hope that the Steading could be saved as part of national heritage.” The news came on November 12th and left the Tim Stead Trust reeling.

Situated near Lauder in the Scottish Borders, The Tim Stead Trust’s proposal for The Steading will benefit a huge variety of people and businesses. It has garnered wide ranging national support, from schools, forestry, wood and environmental organisations, art colleges, local children’s groups, musicians, artists, writers, and more.

We are gutted. We have prepared a fantastic programme to make the future of The Steading not only secure and viable, but of huge benefit to a wide spectrum of people who are inspired by the extraordinary work of Tim Stead. It would give real, genuine benefit, both locally and nationally, and we have dozens of local organisations wanting to work in partnership with us. These proposals are highly appealing to funders and we have the resources to support us whilst applying for grants.

Nichola Fletcher, MBE, Chair of the Trust

The decision from the NHMF means that it is unlikely that the house will now be available to the public and will, instead, be sold privately. Much of the unique furniture that would have stayed in The Steading will now be sold. Although acknowledging the heritage and aesthetic significance of The Steading, NHMF said that in the light of the covid pandemic, they decided it was too big a risk to give 100% funding. “We dispute that,” said Nichola.  “Our project is eminently viable and, given that the purchase is for buildings which could be sold if need be, the risk is minimal. Our project is particularly covid-secure, being small, rural, and not reliant on catering or retail sales. Maggy Stead was offering to gift Tim’s entire Archive and Collection, worth over £250,000, as our contribution, so we are both disappointed and perplexed by this decision. It is hard to dispel the notion that, had The Steading been in the south of England, it would long ago have received the funding it deserves. Tim’s masterpiece should be saved for the nation.”

Now we appeal for someone out there who could step into the fire right now and offer us private funds before the year’s end to save it for the nation.  It is necessary to raise £450,000 before the end of January, otherwise The Steading will be put back on the market. There is already one private buyer waiting in the wings to purchase it.