This week’s #BeConnected Explore Our Campus looks at a little known part of the campus which played a very important role in the University’s history, Garden Cottage. Garden Cottage is located near Airthrey Castle beside Gardens and Grounds at the University.
Prior to the University being established in 1967 the Airthey Estate where the University stands had been in various hands. The owner who had the single greatest impact on the present landscape was Robert Haldane, who between 1787 and 1798 created the loch, employed Thomas White (Senior) to assist with the designed landscape, and built Airthrey Castle.
During this time most of the estate were laid out as parkland, but to the north of the Castle there was a more intimate area, containing the practical supporting buildings upon which the smooth running of the household depended. These included an icehouse, stables and offices, Ivy cottage and Garden Cottage.
Garden Cottage was contained within a walled garden and would have been appreciated from the Estate East Drive. The character of the bricks in the surviving walls of the walled garden suggest a late 18th or early 19th century date. Originally it would have been fitted with glasshouses along the north wall.
Gardeners Magazine described the garden in 1842 as “perfect as regards culture and neatness and the abundance and fine quality of fruit”. The position of this cottage within the walled garden was carefully chosen, and its front elevation included an elegant porch. The building still contains some 18th century joinery and fireplaces
In 1965 when the new University was established Garden Cottage took on new importance and became the epicentre of the new University as home of the first University offices. Its use was short lived as by 1966 there were 27 members of staff which proved to be too much for it and adjacent Ivy Cottage.
However, during this brief period of use those who came to the University remember visiting these offices. The first Curator of the Art Collection Matilda Mitchell recalls that the original idea for an Art Collection began in Garden Cottage with a conversation with Principal Tom Cottrell.
When we first moved into Garden Cottage, my boss and hero said “Matilda, better fill up the place with pictures: try the Scottish Arts Council”. After a very civilised lunch in Edinburgh with the director, I brought back paintings and prints (artists’ prints) for our walls.Public Lecture, Matilda Mitchell, 2007
The memories of those who worked in the University have been captured by the Stirling University Retired Staff Association and you can listen to former staff including Curator Matilda Mitchell recalling their experiences of life at the new University.
Garden Cottage is no longer in use. However, the Art Collection aspires to gain funding to restore the building to its former glory to be used as an artist and writers retreat.