By Democrat reporter
The Archdiocese of Glasgow has secured a deal on the transfer of ownership of the former St Peter’s Seminary and its surrounding estate at Cardross to new owners.
A new charity, the Kilmahew Education Trust, will be the legal owners of the site.
They aim to develop it as an asset for the local community while respecting the unique archaeological status of the iconic St Peter’s building.
Announcing the transfer of ownership, Archbishop Philip Tartaglia, the Archbishop of Glasgow, said: “This is a good day for the Archdiocese, for the local area, and, I hope, for the wider Scottish community.
“Times were very different when St Peter’s Seminary was opened in the late 1960s to wide architectural acclaim.
“Changing requirements in priestly education, a drop in the number of seminarians and difficulties in maintaining the fabric of the building mean that the seminary had a relatively short lifespan.
“For four decades the Archdiocese has sought a new owner for the site, and finally a solution has been found.
“I wish the new owners every success as they develop the site and move forward to a new chapter in the history of the seminary and its estate.”
Stuart Cotton of the new charitable trust was equally enthusiastic at the news.
He said: “The Trust is delighted to take up the many challenges that exist on the Kilmahew Estate and is grateful to the Archdiocese of Glasgow for its outstanding support over the last year in facilitating the transfer of ownership and for trusting us with the honour of becoming the next custodians of this outstanding and unique heritage asset.
“There is no doubting the beauty of the Kilmahew landscape nor the atmospheric presence that surrounds the seminary complex of St. Peter’s.
“We simply need to develop a viable vision, with education at its core, and execute the plans that develop from that to the best of our abilities.
“In the build up to the acquisition, our Education Trust has been busy putting together an internationally-renowned team to assist us.
“We are currently fine-tuning our plans to enhance Kilmahew and these will be made public in due course.
“It goes without saying that the Kilmahew Estate and St. Peter’s Seminary are of significant historical importance to the Scottish public and we are acutely aware of just how many diverse groups are stakeholders, including the local Cardross community, Historic Environment Scotland and the Scottish Government.
“The next few months will see us developing relationships with these and other stakeholders and presenting our vision for Kilmahew alongside our expert team.”
“We believe our vision will provide Kilmahew with a very exciting and vibrant future whilst also respecting its outstanding heritage.
This news means that the transfer of ownership from the Archdiocese of Glasgow to Kilmahew Education Trust is now complete.
No payment was made as the Archdiocese bequeathed the estate and buildings free of charge to the Trust.
The Kilmahew Education Trust has been created to provide access to the Kilmahew Estate’s outstanding historical, spiritual, architectural and horticultural legacies whilst educating the public on its diverse cultural heritage.
The acquisition of Kilmahew marks the end of a 10 year search by the Trustees to identify a suitable site in the UK from which to base their educational programmes which will be aimed at young children and their families.
With backgrounds in education consultancy and complex business turnarounds, the Trustees claim they are are uniquely placed to deliver a new chapter in the history of Kilmahew and the St. Peter’s Seminary complex.
The seminary building was designed by the firm of Gillespie, Kidd & Coia, and has been described by one international architecture conservation organisation as a “building of world significance”.
Brutalist in style and owing a huge debt to Le Corbusier, the seminary is widely considered to be one of the most important examples of modernist architecture in Scotland.
On the other hand it has been severely criticised as being ugly and not being fit for the purpose for which it was built.
It was completed in 1966 just as the number of candidates entering seminary began to decline. The building never reached its full capacity of around 100 students. It closed in February, 1980.
For some years, at the instigation of the late Cardinal Tom Winning, it acted as a drug rehabilitation unit which eventually transferred to Red Towers, a mansion house in Helensburgh.
Despite many ideas and plans being submitted for St Peter’s it is only now, 40 years on, that what the Church perceives to be a suitable long-term and viable solution to the question of the controversial seminary’s future been found.