Viewhill House Update August 2019

Posted on 25th April 2018.

                                                                                                 April 2018

Highland Historic Buildings Trust (HHBT) has always considered that it is important to have regard to Viewhill House as the former home of Joseph Mitchell, arguably the Highlands’ leading road and bridges engineer (both in his own right and as Thomas Telford’s right hand man). 

Mitchell was also responsible for the first ever mains drainage scheme and public water supply for the town of Inverness. In addition, he oversaw the routing and construction of the Perth to Inverness railway in the 1840s. Joseph Mitchell's contribution to the science of engineering, and to the quality of life in Inverness in the mid nineteenth century Scotland, was immense. It is fitting therefore that his family home, which he designed himself, be restored and given a new life and purpose including a visitor centre displaying and interpreting his huge body of work.

HHBT also considers that it is important to have regard to Viewhill House because of its prominent setting in the City Centre and on the skyline of Inverness.  The importance of the building as a vital townscape feature on the escarpment skyline has been emphasised by recent developments such as the inter-visibility provided by the Castle Viewpoint and with the possibility of a tourism development at the Castle moving forward, together with the prospects of relocating Porterfield Prison opening up more development opportunities for the Crown area.  

The Trust welcomes the recently adopted City Centre Development Brief as confirmation of the Highland Council’s continuing support for the adaptive re-use of Viewhill House and that the Council will adopt a flexible approach to proposed alternative uses.

Heritage outcomes would be achieved through the restoration and sustainable use of an important historic building and through an exhibition which focuses on the life and achievements of Joseph Mitchell. There would be scope during the reconstruction and redevelopment works for people to be trained in traditional skills.

To achieve the financial and other resilience necessary to submit major funding applications, the Trust continues to work with grant-giving bodies, the Highland Council, the local Community Council, neighbouring property owners and others.  National support for the refurbishment of the building as a tribute to Joseph Mitchell continues to be received from a wide range of organisations and individuals.

The Trust continues to engage with local interests and would welcome any support from Invernessians and others with an interest in Viewhill House.

                                                                                                      13 August 2019 

             Investigations into conversion into serviced offices for single or multiple use

Having been unsuccessful in its effort to attract an operator to restore Viewhill House as eight serviced apartments as highlighted as the preferred end use in the Options Appraisal which was commissioned by HHBT, HHBT has been in discussion with Impact Hub Inverness which is the trading name of HISEZ, a Community Interest Company that operates a co-working space in Castle Street Inverness, and delivers contracts that support the start-up and growth of social enterprises in the Highlands and Islands and beyond. Conversion into serviced offices for single or multiple use is the second preferred option in the Options Appraisal.

In partnership with HISEZ, detailed investigations are to be carried out into the structure at Viewhill House, details of the proposals developed and possible funders approached, with the potential to put Viewhill House back to good use where co-working space, shared office space, and meeting spaces would be at the core of the restored building. The proposals would include a feature devoted to the life and achievements of Joseph Mitchell, an engineer whose importance to the Highlands is not fully appreciated. He was apprenticed to Thomas Telford and then for decades delivered the railways, bridges, harbours and roads that made the Highlands the place that we know today.

On 6 August 2019, a meeting took place hosted by Impact Hub Inverness to inform and enlist the support of the neighbours and other interested parties in the wider community. Also in attendance was David Stewart, MSP, a couple of representatives from Crown and City Centre Community Council and conservation architect Calum Maclean, as well as HHBT Chair and Company Secretary. Following some discussion, there was overwhelming support for the proposals.

The owners of Viewhill House have given their permission to allow access to the site to clear vegetation which will facilitate preliminary investigations by a surveyor and a structural engineer and hopefully lead to the production of architect’s sketches.