The Twentieth Century Society

Campaigning for outstanding buildings

St Peter's Cardross aerial view
St Peter's Cardross aerial view after site clearance Photo: Reigart

The tragedy of Cardross Seminary

We are dismayed by the Archdiocese of Glasgow’s recent comments in the press where it has described St Peter’s Seminary in Cardross near Dumbarton as an ‘albatross around our neck.’

“St Peter’s is an outstanding building, which was built at the wrong moment as new doctrine on the training of young priests was emerging,” says C20 Society Director Catherine Croft.   “It rapidly became clear that the very idea of locating a large seminary in a stunningly beautiful but isolated site was to be superseded.  The archdiocese’s approach to priest recruitment and training shifted fundamentally as it was under construction, making it virtually redundant from the very beginning.”

“We have been urging the Diocese to find a suitable alternative use for the building for decades, and we are really disappointed that the NVA scheme, which would have been properly sympathetic to Gillespie Kidd & Coia’s masterful design was halted as a result of withdrawal of the charity’s revenue funding. Anyone who went to Cardross for NVA’s fabulous and inspirational Hinterland installation in 2016, will have seen the potential the building has, and although the current hiatus is a setback, it’s certainly not a “back to scratch” situation.

The very difficult first phase of the project which included clearing and de-contaminating the site, stabilizing key parts of the original structure, salvaging and storing original features, and tackling drainage problems and unchecked vegetation, has been successfully completed.  This exercise revealed many previously lost features in the building and landscape, which have now been comprehensively digitally surveyed and compared with the original GKC drawings, to aid understanding of the building.

Prior to this, the great tragedy was the lack of maintenance and security from 1987 (when the seminary closed) onwards. Unchecked vandalism and lack of repairs had caused millions of pounds worth of damage. It’s a real object lesson on how important it is to secure buildings whilst their future is decided.

However, viable Planning and Listed Building Consents, together with a detailed Conservation Plan, are now in place, and design work has gone considerably further, with detailed design drawings for virtually all elements of the proposed rescue, completed.  These include full structural drawings and calculations for the reconstruction of the pyramidal sanctuary rooflight. With everything primed for a decisive next push, it would be a tragedy if the professional team, which is still together and led by Avanti Architects, were not able to secure new partners and complete the necessary funding package.