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Issue 49 - Coodham raised from the ruins

Scotland Magazine Issue 49
February 2010


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Coodham raised from the ruins

Behind the ornate and opulent façade of Coodham House in Ayrshire lies a story largely unknown but one that is close to the hearts of millions of people around the globe.

Here Captain James Ogilvy Fairlie, the creator of Prestwick Golf Course, came up the idea for the greatest golfing tournament in the world –The Open Championship.

Until recently the magnificent four-storey Victorian mansion was little more than a derelict shell but it has now been rebuilt and turned into six exclusive apartments and three additional luxury homes just minutes from old courses such as Turnberry, Royal Troon and Prestwick.

”Fairlie is credited as being the man who persuaded Old Tom Morris to design Prestwick Golf Club in 1851 and of setting up the first ever British Open Championship at the same venue nine years later,” said Malcolm Campbell, chief executive of The Links Golf Association.

“He was a leading character in the Royal & Ancient back in the early days and was a mentor to Old Tom.

”Old Tom held him in such high regard he acted as his caddy and it was Fairlie who took him down from St Andrews to Prestwick to build the golf course which led to the first Open Championship.

“He is recognised as a leading historical figure among those who delve into the roots of the game” Coodham House, with its carved pink sandstone, ornate balustrades and gleaming period sash windows overlook rolling lawns, acres of landscaped gardens and an ornamental lake, is a far cry from the broken shell of a country house which just five years ago was a roofless, burnt out shell.

Built in memory of James’s father, William Fairlie, by his widow Margaret the 90 acres estate and four storey house was originally called ‘Williamfield’ in his honour.

William Fairlie was a man of his time. He made his substantial fortune as a trader in the British Empire and his business interests ranged across the world from India to Java, Europe, Australia, China and elsewhere.

After Margaret Fairlie died in 1845 the property passed to her son James Ogilvy Fairlie, a former army officer who on arriving to live at Coodham was alarmed to discover there was no golfing in the area so he set about rectifying the problem.

He persuaded the Earl of Eglington to release ground at Prestwick for the construction of a new links course and invited the professional at St Andrews’, ‘Old’ Tom Morris, to design the course, which held its first tournament in 1857.

In 1860 Colonel Fairlie orchestrated the first ever championship in order to decide the title of the best professional golfer in Britain.

In the late 1800s the estate was sold to Sir William Houldsworth, a one-time millowner who made his own mark on the house by adding a private chapel, creating the lake and populating the gardens with a variety of rare plants from around the world. Today, the grounds are regarded as being of considerable national importance.

The estate remained in private hands right up until the outbreak of World War and was used as a spiritual retreat by a Catholic Order, the Passionist Fathers until they moved out in 1988.

For 16 years the house and the grounds were left to decay until developers Goldrealm Properties acquired the estate and began to restore and improve on the original splendour.

“It had fallen into total ruin. There was no roof, no interior and lots of fire damage so we had it all to do,” said Willy Findlater of CDP Architects, who was charged with turning the remains into a series of luxury homes.

“We were aware that in renovating Coodham House we were acting as custodians of history and culture as well simply redesigning a magnificent property.

“Being a listed building meant it all had to be restored using traditional skills, and to satisfy the requirements of South Ayrshire Council and Historic Scotland we had to ensure the integrity of the historic fabric was maintained.” Lime mortars and putties were used and samples of the remaining stone were taken away for analysis so an exact geographical match could be found for the new stone work.

Five years of painstaking work has resulted in the original A-listed external walls being meticulously restored or replaced, including the intricate roof balustrade and entrance pillars which lead to a spectacular Turkish marble hall and staircase.

Within the traditional façade a totally new structure has been designed around the existing windows and other features to create four luxury apartments and two lavish duplex apartments.

The East Wing, Chapel and West Wing form a further three very individual designer homes.