Time running out to save Tim Stead’s house

The Steading in Blainslie, home of master woodcrafter Tim Stead – who died aged 48 20 years ago – will soon be offered on the open market.

By Kevin Janiak
Thursday, 20th February 2020, 2:36 pm
Updated Thursday, 20th February 2020, 2:52 pm
Maggy Stead Lenert, outside the home which holds much of her husband Tim’s work.
Maggy Stead Lenert, outside the home which holds much of her husband Tim’s work.

The Tim Stead Trust, which was formed in 2015 to secure funding to purchase the house from Tim’s widow Maggy Stead Lenert, is a long way from meeting the target of £895,000.

It’s chairperson, Nichola Fletcher, said it needs either urgent public funding, or for some private benefactors to step in quickly to save his life’s work.

She said: “So far it has been hard to attract public funding because, like Tim during his life, The Steading does not easily fit into the neat boxes required by so many funding bodies.

All of the furniture was designed and built by the late wood wizard.

“So we need someone to look out of the box. Someone who appreciates this extraordinary building and the work it contains.

“We employed a fundraiser, we applied for lottery funding, and also to National Trust for Scotland, and various other bodies.

“We’ve also approached various ‘friends’ of The Steading – people who admire Tim’s work. We also had some welcome funds from the local Co-op –thanks to local supporters.

“This has of course yielded some funds and we also have some funds promised for when we acquire the building, but nowhere near enough to buy it.”

Stead made all his furniture from locally-sourced wood.

We visited the house in 2016 and were shown some of the unique features by Maggy, who wants to retire to Europe, despite being massively passionate about the house and its contents.

Then, she told us she wanted to safeguard the Steading’s future as a living showcase and to keep this highly significant example of Scottish craftsmanship and environmental philosophy here in the Borders, where it can be viewed, and touched, by the public.

She said: “The trust was created to keep this house the home of Tim Stead, not as a museum, because museums are dead places, and there is a lot of life in this house.

“It has been an inspiration to many people and continues to be so.

Time is running out to keep these masterpieces in the Borders.

“We think it should be a vibrant place, with an artist in residence, running workshops for children as well as adults.”

The sculptor, furniture-maker and environmentalist devoted his life to wood – he created Britain’s first community woodland at nearby Wooplaw – and was commissioned to make many extraordinary pieces, such as a Papal chair for Pope John Paul II’s visit to Scotland, the memorial chapel at the Kirk of St Nicholas in Aberdeen and the wooden parts of the huge Millennium Clock in the National Museum in Edinburgh.

But it is in his own home that he dreamt up his designs and built prototypes, and he furnished each room with unique works of art made from locally-sourced wood – even the bathroom basin.

But time is running out to make the house a cradle of all things to do with Stead’s work, or it will be sent to the grave.

Time is running out to keep these masterpieces in the Borders.

Nichola said: “The Steading is now recognised by two major bodies in Scotland to be of significant artistic and historic importance, and some of Tim’s peripheral work is to be archived by Art360 – a body which recognises the importance of artists’ work after their death.

“The Steading is remarkable and almost unique in that most architects’ or artists’ homes that have been protected or preserved were not actually made by the artist or architect. Tim Stead made this interior with his own hands so the building is the artwork.

“It gives huge joy and inspiration to everyone who goes there and we want to be able to share this much more widely.

“It is hugely frustrating that we don’t seem able to reach and release a source of funding.

“This building really does need to be saved for all of us to enjoy. Something of which the Borders should be inordinately proud.

To donate, or offer assistance to the trust, visit www.timsteadtrust.org