Kilmahew Estate, located in Cardross, west of Glasgow, has long been a source of fascination. Despite having been a settlement of some sort for hundreds of years, featuring both a medieval castle and a Victorian stately home, the contemporary lives of the site, first as a Catholic seminary, and then a drug rehabilitation centre, have by comparison been surprisingly brief. St Peter’s Seminary opened in 1966 and lasted two decades; the rehabilitation centre, only half that before closing its doors. Since then, the site has become one of the most popular ruins in
But thinking of its futures, other questions remain. Given its extensive grounds (133 acres, encompassing woodlands, fields and burns), its diverse constituencies (many of which are transitory and difficult to document or engage) and its architectural histories (a chapel, a castle and a stately home now demolished), the lives of Kilmahew collide and converge in ways that challenge both cohesive collection and swift, dispensable interpretation. The site precludes our understanding, no matter how many times we visit. As it should. For if anticipatory history teaches us anything, it's that we should move in the direction of, from away from, those limits. The land always has more to tell us. If only we would listen.
A writer and researcher, Benjamin Morris is currently a post-doctoral fellow at the Institute for Advanced Studies in the Humanities at the University of Edinburgh.