Lottery fund support to breathe a new lease of life into St Peter’s Seminary

Published: 5 December 2013

The University of Glasgow's partnership with leading public arts organisation, NVA, has paved the way to a successful Heritage Lottery Fund bid.

The University of Glasgow’s partnership with leading public arts organisation, NVA, has paved the way to a successful Heritage Lottery Fund bid.

NVA’s campaign to raise £7.5 million to resuscitate one of Europe’s greatest modernist buildings, St Peters Seminary, has been given a substantial boost, with a first-round pass from the Heritage Lottery Fund. The award will release £565k development funding leading to a second stage submission for £3 million in 2015.

St Peter's seminary

The announcement follows three years of work in partnership with the universities of Glasgow and Edinburgh in a research initiative entitled The Invisible College, funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council. Casting St. Peter's Seminary and the surrounding landscape of Kilmahew estate as a ‘future field station’, the Invisible College has used the ‘site as subject matter’ for a series of performance events and open learning days. The aim is to expand these creative activities into a world class research programme for students, local communities and the wider public over the next five years.

Investment from the Heritage Lottery Fund represents a significant contribution towards the realisation of ambitious plans for this cherished and contested site on the banks of the Firth of Clyde. The building, considered a masterpiece of modernism, was designed by Scottish architectural firm Gillespie, Kidd and Coia for the Archdiocese of Glasgow in 1966. It was closed in 1980 and lay abandoned until NVA acquired conditional missives from the owners in 2011.

Over the past four years NVA has forged strong local and national partnerships that can now move forward to unlock the full potential of a ground-breaking heritage project. Consolidated historic buildings, an improved path network and new learning pavilion are central to plans for a programme of events, performances and activities providing enhanced opportunities for local and community participation, and designed to attract new audiences to Kilmahew. The works will partially restore the stunning chapel within a wider consolidation of the derelict seminary buildings and reinvigorate the surrounding 45 hectare woodland and productive gardens, gradually bringing the site back to life.

Angus Farquhar, Creative Director of NVA, has acknowledged the importance of The Invisible College in "laying down stepping stones that have led to this Heritage Lottery Fund award, and significantly advancing proposals for an iconic cultural resource where powerful art and heritage learning will sit side by side."

Hayden Lorimer, Reader in the School of Geographical and Earth Sciences and project P-I, has welcomed news of the award: "This is perfectly timed. In a few days, the Invisible College will host a 'Next Steps' gathering for a public audience. We can celebrate the impact of a creative research partnership, and set out our plans to take care of St. Peters and Kilmahew in the future."

Fiona Hyslop, Cabinet Secretary for Culture and External Affairs, has added her endorsement to the project: “I am delighted that NVA's innovative project at Kilmahew has been successful in gaining Stage 1 funding from Heritage Lottery Fund. The former seminary at St Peter's is one of Scotland's most important modern 20th Century buildings. The project would at last see the buildings and their wonderful landscape setting conserved and enhanced for the benefit of the community.”

NVA plan to secure a further £3.5 million through capital fundraising and a major public campaign to be launched early in 2014.

Find out more

For further information, contact Cara MacDowall on 0141 330 3683 or email

First published: 5 December 2013