Preeminent Edinburgh architect works on plans for historic East Lothian farm site

Plans for the next phase of an ambitious redevelopment of an historic East Lothian farm site have been revealed by an award-winning architect.

The latest phase at Papple Steading, near Haddington, will incorporate an agricultural heritage centre, a heritage reference library, cafe, shop, auditorium, artists’ studio, meeting rooms, private dining areas and additional accommodation “cottages”.

The plans have been outlined by Richard Murphy Architects, whose previous East Lothian projects include John Muir’s Birthplace in Dunbar, with other completed works through the years including the British High Commission in Sri Lanka, Dundee Contemporary Arts, Edinburgh’s Fruitmarket Gallery, and the Dunfermline Museum and Art Gallery.

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George and Eriadne Mackintosh bought Papple Steading, one of Britain’s finest historic “model farms” of the agricultural improvement movement, in 2017.

The site includes the ruins of the 15th century Papple Convent, and Papple Steading originally sat within the Whittingehame Estate, whose laird was Arthur Balfour, the British prime minister between 1902 and 1905.

Papple Steading’s phase one was completed in August 2021. It comprises the renovated farmhouse, the completely restored Grieve’s Cottage and two bothies created from old farm sheds - bothies that have been included in lists of Scotland’s most stylish wee shelters.

Director George Mackintosh said: “Richard is probably Scotland’s preeminent architect, we’re delighted to secure his services, and our focus will remain on being sympathetic to the agricultural styles of East Lothian.”

In June 2020, Eggplant, the software testing business Mackintosh founded in 2009, was acquired by California-headquartered Keysight Technologies in a transaction valued at some $330 million (£270m).

Architect Richard Murphy reveals plans for phase two of the Papple Steading development. Picture: Stewart Attwood

Edinburgh-based Mackintosh previously founded 3i-backed audio, video and web conferencing business Geoconference, in Glasgow in 1996, with the company being sold to Global Crossing - now CenturyLink - in 2000. The entrepreneur was also the chairman of shellfish exporter Laeso Fish, as well as vice-chairman of the CBI’s SME Council.

Mackintosh set out his ambitious plans for Papple Steading last year.

At the time he said: “Scotland’s agricultural built heritage is being lost and as the son of a farmer, it’s always been a subject close to my heart. In fact, the ruins of my father’s first farm, Seafield of Raigmore in Inverness-shire, now sit at one corner of the Inverness Retail Park.

“I have a passion for conservation and restoration, and a vision to explain our agricultural heritage.”

Last month, Mackintosh and his nephew Gregor Mackintosh launched Mackintosh Oats and acquired Untitled Oats, with a view to creating a powerhouse oat milk brand in Scotland.

Mackintosh Oats aims to scale the Untitled Oats operation to achieve a leadership position in the UK, and the company expects to announce major distribution deals and supply partnerships in the second half of 2022.

The plans for phase two of the development were revealed as Papple Wood was officially opened.

Scottish singer and songwriter Barbara Dickson joined a group of official and private guests to look around Papple, including Papple Wood, which was officially opened on the day, while senior representatives from the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh, the National Trust for Scotland, VisitScotland and the Lammermuir Festival also attended.

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