Friday, 7 August 2020

Crowdfund the Great Hall Restoration

Recently, I was pestered beyond human endurance by some delightful Spanish visitors to the castle to start a GoFundMe page. Actually, they used charm and irrefutable logic. And the bribe of a home-made tortilla, which turned out to be spectacularly delicious.

I thought it was time to go for the castle's Great Hall right in the core of the building. To my mind, the castle is not truly alive until its heart has been re-animated. I have appended the content of my GoFundMe page for posterity below, but you can follow the link directly to the actual page here.

Deterioration of Great Hall from 1968 to 2007, and the consolidated Great Hall today

I am raising money to restore Balintore Castle's Great Hall. I bought this A-listed property in Angus, Scotland 13 years ago from the local Council, on condition that I save the building. This has now been achieved: the roof has been fixed, new floors and new windows have been installed.

However, at the very heart of the building lies the cavernous, magnificent and sadly ruinous Great Hall, which is too costly for me to restore as an individual.

I would love to be able to restore this room in my lifetime and friends have repeatedly pestered me to obtain external funding. Now that I have consolidated the exterior of the castle, at great personal cost,  the time is indeed right.

The Great Hall is a triple height space which could be used as a music venue, a theatre, a cinema, or as an events space, hosting exhibitions, and workshops. In short, not only does it represent internationally important architectural heritage, but it could be a great community resource.

A externally contracted restoration of the Great Hall could easily cost £1m. However, I reckon I can bring it in at £100k, using the money-saving principles I have learned from restoring the other areas of this castle i.e. employing good local craftsmen directly, using reclaimed materials and auctions to obtain fixtures and fittings. I appreciate £100k is a big ask but for an individual to take on such a large project was also a big ask. :-)

A particular challenge will be the plasterwork ceiling, of which around 50% survives. The plan is to use the opportunity to train apprentices and local tradesmen in the traditional skills, to ensure their continuation.

I hope you will donate to this great endeavour. Anyone who donates will be very welcome to visit: to see how far we have come; the work in progress; and how far we have to go.

The Great Hall in 2007. This was open to the elements - note snow on the ground!

The Great Hall in 2020 - taken from ground level

The Great Hall in 2020 - looking down from principal bedroom floor.
Windows blocked up and roof propped

The story so far can be read here .

Dr. David John Johnston 13th July 2020


  1. I am sooooooo glad you did this, David!

    I donated, and did a blog post about your GoFundMe:

    And, if you’ll forgive my brashness, may I offer some suggestions?

    It’s difficult to appreciate the Great Hall from the small, dark images. Would it be possible to light the Hall, and get high-quality images? Can images of surviving details be posted?

    Would it be possible to empty the space? Even in a ruined state it’s a powerfully evocative room. I can imagine your having great success with fundraising events in the Hall, all lighted by candles, and with music playing. How thrilling!

    Here in my small town in America we have a stone auditorium built in 1900. In 2000, its roof collapsed and destroyed the interior. We managed to get a new roof on, but then the building just sat and sat. A few years ago we cleaned out the interior, and have been hosting movies and events in the vast ruined shell. It’s all quite dramatic!

    A big hug to you from across the pond.


    1. Hi Ross,

      Thanks for your encouragement. I have no problem with brashness. :-) The restoration is at a turning point where ideas for moving things forwards are very welcome.

      I appreciate the photos I have used are not good. It was all pretty rushed. I just took a quick couple of snaps and used a couple of older shots. One problem is that the big windows are sealed to keep out the weather. A room which once would have been flooded with light is now dark.

      My next communication has pointed out some better photos of the great hall, so I will used these. :-)

      It is hard to empty the space as scaffolding at one end is holding the roof up. We are also using the big space to hold insulation, "new" reclaimed timber and existing timber which holds clues to the restoration.

      It is true that the room does need some tidying/clearing-out but we are more than flat-out trying to reclaim other space within the castle which is less problematic.

      I like the sound of your auditorium. :-) The space in the Great Hall here cannot be used without the wooden floor being put back, as the sub-floor is extremely uneven being built-up of basement vaulting. So to get the room into any kind of usable condition at all, requires some considerable investment.

      Many thanks for your donation!

      A big hug in return!


  2. I think Ross has got a point about the pictures in your GoFundMe. The images of the Great Hall that Duncan took capture more of the latent majesty of the space - could you ask him if you could use them?

    1. These are much better photos. By an amazing coincidence, I am seeing Duncan tomorrow, so I can ask him in person about using these photos.

  3. Hello David, so glad that you have set up a GoFundMe account. Donated to help your dream along. Please add a link in your blog so that each time you post,the GoFundMe icon is easily accessed by the reader. Thank you. "Hugs.

    1. By the way David, you are not begging for donation. We are paying you for your time, your stories; plus it makes it possible for us to help out, even remotely.

  4. Hi. Great idea. Happy to help support the project - I have really enjoyed reading about it. As an aside, I cannot see the go fund me button anywhere when I view the blog - just an FYI.