Obituary: Neil Hynd, conservation architect who left his mark on historic buildings across Scotland

Neil R Hynd
Neil R Hynd
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Neil Robertson Hynd, LVO, FRIAS, FSA Scot, architect. Born: 29 April 1945 in Dundee. Died: 4 March 2019 aged 73

Neil Hynd was a highly respected architect, whose significant contribution to architectural conservation, particularly of notable public and historic buildings in Scotland, was widely recognised. In 1998, his extensive work at the Palace of Holyroodhouse was personally recognised by the Queen, with the award of the Lieutenant of the Royal Victorian Order Medal (LVO).

Neil was the second son born into the Dundee family of George Hynd and Marjory Draffen. He attended Dundee High School, Cargilfield Prep School and Fettes College. Thereafter he went on to the University of Edinburgh to study Architecture in the department newly set up under the professorship of Sir Robert Matthew.

On completion of studies in 1969 he married Sarah Jenkyns and set up home in Eskside House, Musselburgh – a house which he saved from ruination as one of his first exercises in the field of architectural conservation. Sarah worked her magic on the interiors to produce a home where much entertaining was enjoyed throughout their occupancy. At the same time Neil joined the Ministry of Public Buildings and Works, and was put to work in the then little-known corner of “Ancient Monuments,” with a promise that after six months he would move to the more mainline work with the Post Offices Division.

However, he enjoyed his first few months so much that he kept his head down and went on to have a 34-year career in the branch. Over the years it changed its name several times to finally become Historic Environment Scotland.

He had started under the supervision of George Hay, one of only a handful of private architects in Scotland, who had pioneered the repair of historic buildings under Iain Lindsay & Partners.

As his responsibilities grew over the years he took on more major projects on behalf of his department. Early on, in a partnership with the local authority, he oversaw the repair and restoration of New Abbey Corn Mill to bring the building back into use. The building was subsequently handed over to the Department and now stands as one of their industrial monuments. Back in Edinburgh there was a lot of upgrading to be done at the Palace of Holyroodhouse, where modern security systems were to be inconspicuously installed throughout. Thereafter his attention moved to the restoration of Chatelherault, an 18th-
century hunting lodge in its own grounds. On completion this became the centrepiece of the “High Parks” Country Park under the leadership of Hamilton District Council.

At this point he was called back again to Edinburgh to explore how the visitor facilities at Edinburgh Castle could be improved. This resulted in a wide-ranging project. Firstly, the driving of a vehicle tunnel from the esplanade to the rear of the Castle, thus clearing the visitor route of motor traffic. The project also 
consisted of work to recreate the King’s Dining Room, a re-display of the crown jewels, a new restaurant overlooking Princes Street with views over the Firth of Forth, a four-
storey souvenir shop inside one of the castle bastions, and other new facilities. This work culminated with Neil leading a team which brought the Stone of Destiny back to Edinburgh, where it was cleaned and finally displayed with the other Royal Regalia in the Crown Room within the castle. Visitors continue to benefit from his excellent work.

His attention was then redirected toward Stirling Castle, where he was given the task of completing the restoration of the Great Hall, following the work of several colleagues who had started the project as early as 1964. He achieved his task in time for the Queen’s opening on 30 November 1999. This was swiftly followed by a millennium party in the Hall which thoroughly tested all the new installations, as well as the catering facilities, and formed a memorable evening for all attendees.

In the new millennium he immediately started planning for the next phase of work at Stirling Castle – the reinterpretation of the interiors of the 16th-century Royal Apartments. Although work could not start immediately, it was clear that the interiors would not be finished without the production of a series of tapestries for which the spaces were originally designed. Apart from new finance, this part of the project would need a considerable lead-in time if it was to be completed within the same timescale as the building repairs. Money had not been originally planned for this feature, but with his usual enthusiasm Neil set about raising the finance to get started on this programme.

Help came through the generous sponsorship of Mrs Helen Buchanan who, along with Historic Scotland, set up the Quinque Foundation to facilitate the cross-flow of conservation knowledge between Scotland and the USA, including a sizeable contribution to the weaving of the seven tapestries needed to decorate the interiors of the Palace. These were completed in time to be part of the newly restored interiors within the Palace. Although Neil retired from Historic Scotland in 2002, he kept in touch with progress of the tapestry production, and considered these to be some of his proudest achievements.

In his last years of work, Neil was able to participate in negotiations to bring Iona Abbey into state care, carrying out negotiations with the original Iona Abbey Trust and the Iona Community, enhancing this ancient and iconic Scottish site.

Outside his working career, Neil was no less busy. Firstly, taking his cue from his wife’s entertaining successes, he began a lifelong interest in fine wines which led to him belonging to several serious study groups, including a term as Chairman of the Scottish Wine Society; and he was an active member of the Edinburgh New Club Wine Committee until his death. This interest led in turn to Neil becoming a serious collector of Scottish table glass – some of his collection will shortly be deposited within the Edinburgh City Museum.

He also served for ten years on the University of Edinburgh’s General Council Business Committee, latterly as Vice Convener. He became a Trustee and then Chairman of the Thirlestane Castle Trust, steering the management through a challenging period of dry rot eradication – an expertise gained from his conservation training and work within Historic Scotland.

Invited to join the committee of the Edinburgh Decorative and Fine Arts Society, Neil quickly found his niche and spent many years arranging events and study days for members. Having practically exhausted all local venues, he instigated annual tours of the English Counties, starting with the Lake District in 2010. His final tour was to Lincolnshire in 2017. These tours became firm favourites amongst the membership and will be much missed.

Neil died after a cancer bravely borne. He is survived by Sarah, children Andrew and Antonia, their spouses Yvonne and Darren, and five grandchildren, Josie, Riley, Madeleine, Grace and Elsa.

Alan M Johnston