Panmure House in Edinburgh’s Canongate, once a home to the economist Adam Smith, has been formally opened as an academic centre and a celebration of the Scottish Enlightenment for hosting debates, talks and events.
Edinburgh Business School will also permanently house two PhD scholars in the building and a rotation of visiting academics from all over the world. A first edition of The Wealth of Nations, Smith’s masterpiece, is on display.
The opening ceremony was led by former Prime Minister Gordon Brown, who was also a United Nations Special Envoy for Global Education, and – like Adam Smith – with his roots in Kirkcaldy.
Mr Brown was joined by Lord Vallance of Tummel, Chairman of Edinburgh Business School and Professor Heather McGregor, Executive Dean.
Mr Brown said: “This fine renovation in honour of Adam Smith is not just an investment in bricks and mortar but, in the spirit of the Scottish Enlightenment he led, a commitment to a vibrant new centre at the heart of our capital city for debate, discussion, innovative thinking and fresh ideas about the future.”
Lord Vallance of Tummel said: “It has taken a decade to restore and reopen Panmure House but it has been worth the wait. Panmure House is a distinctive and valuable asset for Edinburgh, Scotland, the UK and beyond.
“I congratulate Heriot-Watt University and Edinburgh Business School team for driving the project forward and, not least, the Master of Panmure House, Professor Keith Lumsden, for conceiving of the project in the first place.
“I would also like to thank our supporters from all over the world, including Edinburgh World Heritage and Garfield Weston Foundation, and pay tribute to our partners, EKJN architects, LLPMaxi Construction and project manager Faithfull & Gould for their extensive work in bringing the building back to life.”
Professor Heather McGregor said: “This is the first time since 1790 that Panmure House has been used in the same way as Adam Smith did – to host groups of people to debate the big issues of the day.
“Just as Adam Smith took Scotland’s ideas onto the world stage, we want a 21st century Panmure House to bring the world to Scotland.
“We believe that the sharing of expertise and exchange of ideas at such a significant, historic building can have a substantial global impact. It will be a leading venue for the development and spread of thought.”
Panmure House was bought by Edinburgh Business School in 2008 with the aim of conserving and developing the house as a centre of excellence for the study of contemporary economics, a place of reflection on the legacy of Adam Smith, and a venue for debate. The two major rooms Adam Smith used to work and study in, have been restored to continue with their intended purpose.
Built in 1691 by Lieut. Col. George Murray, the house was sold to the 4th Earl of Panmure in 1696. It remained in the family until the death of the 5th Earl. It then passed to the 8th Earl of Dalhousie, who leased it to Adam Smith in 1778.
Smith lived there, with his mother and a cousin, until his death in 1790, aged 67. During this time the house was a regular meeting place for Smith and other leaders of the Scottish Enlightenment such as Adam Ferguson and James Watt. Whilst living at Panmure House, Smith revised The Wealth of Nations and wrote two further editions of The Theory of Moral Sentiments, his two most famous works.
The house was made a Grade A listed building in 1970 and was purchased by Edinburgh Business School after it had fallen into a dilapidated state. The building needed full-scale refurbishment and, after a fundraising drive and some initial work, the project slowed down until it was revived by Heriot-Watt University’s current Vice-Chancellor Professor Richard Williams and Professor McGregor, following her appointment by Edinburgh Business School in 2016.
Recent refurbishment work has included rebuilding the tall chimney stacks, re- slating the roofs, repairing the stone walls and renewing the windows. Archaeological investigations below the building and below the new extension uncovered a well and a number of medieval kilns.
Work inside the house has concentrated on reconstructing interiors typical of the period of Adam Smith, using materials and techniques that would have been familiar in his time. Timber panelling is of tulip wood and the new stone stair uses Clasach stone. There are new stone fireplaces, new oak floors and new lime plasterwork.
The original roof timbers have been preserved in the attic, still with joiners’ marks on them, numbering the trusses. The colours of the building were chosen from a colour pallet of colours that would have been available in the 18th century. An unobtrusive contemporary extension to the building now creates an entrance that is accessible to all, presenting visitors with information about the house and Adam Smith.