Secret Scotland

If it's secret, and in Scotland…

Hill House will not be the only house ‘under glass’

I’ve already written a few posts about plans to save Mackntosh’s Hill House in Helensburgh from further decay thanks to Scotland’s assorted weather extremes, by enclosing it in a transparent box. This will prevent the rain getting at it, but allow the air to pass around it to help dry it out, and stop the water trapped by the materials from causing further damage, then allow rectification.

However, the idea of enclosing a house in this way is not, it seems, entirely new.

After losing touch with the excellent Atlas Obscura web site, I recently managed to get the link working again, and set up to deliver itself to me regularly. I’m amazed at how it keeps getting (so many) interesting places added, and the fact that Scotland appears rather more often than I would have expected. Beware! This is a web site you can lose a lot of time looking at, if you let yourself be diverted.

Almost as soon as I got back to it, the house of a former Argentinian president (Domingo Faustino Sarmiento, Argentina’s seventh president) popped up, because it stands protected within a large glass case. Sound familiar?

Sarmiento lived with his family in this house after his tenure as president, from 1855 until he died in 1888. He chose a quiet abode in Tigre, a city within the delta around the La Plata River. Trees he planted still stand around the property, and the house still holds some of its original furniture. The building, which became a National Historic Monument in 1966, now functions as a museum.

Sarmiento House – Tigre Partido, Argentina

Sarmiento House Museum

Sarmiento House Museum – Niels Mickers (CC by 2.0)

18/11/2018 - Posted by | Civilian | , , , ,


  1. My favourite place of employment ws at Helensburgh’s Hill House as a guide 15 yrs ago. It makes me sad to think it needs saving. I am somewhat surprised, however, that it’s weather and not tourists that it needs protecting from. As a guide it was part of my job to stop folk touching or stealing things. One, rather large, American lady knelt on the original horsehair alcove seating in the white drawing room so she could reach right over and have a good feel of the curtains before I could get to her to haul her off… Folk like that make me mad when it’s not even my place of employment they’re in tho 😛


    Comment by FlikeNoir | 19/11/2018

  2. It’s sad, but true, that one of the biggest dangers to historic venues is in fact the visitor. People just don’t seem to be able to grasp the concept that they are not excluded from contact because NASTY NATIONAL TRUST (or whichever custodian), but because if everyone was allowed free access, then their “Just a wee feel” would quickly amount to decades of wear and tear as thousands of ‘Wee feels’ quickly took their toll.

    Like the old saying, “This would be a great business, if it wasn’t for the damned customers!”

    As a partial student of architecture, I’m afraid the condition of poor old Hill House is no surprise, and was inevitable given the state of materials knowledge in the day of its construction, and lack of understanding of the Scottish coastal environment, and weather. It wasn’t bad work, just the state of the art in the day.

    What is not acceptable is making the same mistakes today.

    People buy old houses and cottages made of stone and similar original materials, which were originally rendered with lime. Then they ‘restore’ them and finish with a nice cement bases render. And then wonder why their dream home become sodden wet. These clever people don’t understand natural lime rendering is porous and breathes – cement is non-porous, waterproof, and they might as well be living in a plastic bag, as far as moisture is concerned.

    Similar problem with Hill House – I’m surprised there are not more houses from the time with the same problem, Maybe it’s a ticking time-bomb.

    Incidentally, I’ve been on Bute, where there is a steady growth of new building and flats, unfortunately built by more people without a clue about coastal differences. I spotted a number of these ‘lovely white buildings’ develop splits in the rendering which erupted into beautiful brown stains running from roof to ground as inappropriate/unprotected internal steel fixing rusted, expanded, then blew out.

    This, only a few years after completion, and for the five years or so I was able to keep visiting, never tended to, so just got worse each time I looked.


    Comment by Apollo | 19/11/2018

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