Heritage groups lose battle for romantic castle

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The Independent Online
A romantic Scottish castle, which became a shrine for the Pre-Raphaelite art movement, was sold yesterday to a private buyer.

The sale, to a Scots-born Canadian businessman, ends the hopes of Scottish heritage organisations who were trying to buy the 16th-century castle.

Penkill Castle, near Girvan in Ayrshire, a summer haunt for Victorian artists such as Dante Gabriel Rossetti and William Morris, was sold by Elton Eckstrand, an American. An auction this month of many of Penkill's paintings, ceramics and other objets d'art, ended the battle to keep the castle and its art under one roof. Heritage organisations, including the Penkill Trust, wanted the Government to buy Penkill as a heritage treasure trove. The contents sale, which raised pounds 98,593, effectively killed off the campaign.

Don Brown, the new owner of the castle, graduated in chemistry from Glasgow University in 1955 and then emigrated to Canada. He had been searching Scotland for his dream home with his fiancee, Leslie Lander. They live on a luxury yacht in Toronto harbour. The couple plan to marry in the new year and hold their reception at the castle.

Mr Brown said that if the castle had been put on the market in Canada it would have almost certainly been taken into public ownership because of its historical significance. His comment has brought even more embarrassment to the Scottish heritage organisations which failed to buy Penkill as a national asset.

The sale price is believed to be about pounds 400,000, close to the asking price. Dr Eckstrand originally wanted pounds 1m for Penkill but lowered the price to allow heritage groups a realistic chance to purchase it.

The sale will exclude certain art treasures that were not sold at the auction. It is understood that a painting by William Bell Scott, a double portrait of Spencer Boyd, the 14th Laird of Penkill and his sister, Alice, may be allowed to remain hanging in Penkill with Mr Eckstrand retaining ownership.

The painting is said to be cursed, a claim given credence by one owner who tried to remove it from the castle but collapsed and died.

Mr Brown, who through ownership becomes the 19th Laird of Penkill, said he did not believe in superstitions but he is understandably cautious about the Scottish legend.

(Photograph omitted)