The restoration of Boleskine House continues

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INVERNESS, Scotland – TWH has reported regularly on the situation with Boleskine House, Aleister Crowley’s old home on the shores of Loch Ness and the efforts to restore the property. The house was also formerly owned by Led Zeppelin guitarist Jimmy Page and has frequently been the focus of the occult community.

Image courtesy of the Boleskine House Foundation

The property has repeatedly been damaged by fire, severely in 2015, and then again in 2019. After the last blaze, the house was taken on by a non-profit organisation, the Boleskine House Foundation (BHF), with the aim of fully restoring it.

Their latest goal is to replace the roof, which had been completely destroyed by the fire, via their Raise the Roof campaign. Slate work started on May 30th, with 100 tiles going up (as the group’s Facebook page remarks, only 39,000 to go!).

The restoration of the house is taking place in a wider heritage context, not simply as part of British occult history. The BHF says:

“Our project is conservation-led. It is the intention of the charity to restore the house to its historical integrity. Boleskine House is a Grade B listed property, which means that there are restrictions to ensure that this is done. We are working closely with conservation-accredited architects, the historic environment team at the Highland Council and interior designers to be favourable to how the house might display its original Georgian and Jacobean features.”

The house and the district in which it lies have a long and interesting history: Minister Thomas Houston is said to have had the depressing task, in the 16-1700s, of replacing reanimated corpses back in their graves after an aspiring local necromancer raised them.

Boleskine itself was built in the 1760s as a hunting lodge, by a Colonel Archibald Fraser, and is said to have been placed on the site of the kirk, which burned down killing everyone inside. A tunnel linked the house to the graveyard and the house is also supposed to be spiritually connected to Errogie, the alleged geographical centre of the Highlands.

Boleskine House – Image credit: Aleister Crowley – Manifesto of the M/M/M, Ballatyne Press, 1912, Page 21, Public Domain,

In 1899 Aleister Crowley purchased the house from the Fraser family, apparently in order to make the most of its secluded position and undertake the Abramelin ritual. Crowley wrote that:

…the first essential [for the ritual] is a house in a more or less secluded situation. There should be a door opening to the north from the room of which you make your oratory. Outside this door, you construct a terrace covered with fine river sand. This ends in a ‘lodge’ where the spirits may congregate.

However, Crowley’s life during his time at Boleskine was predictably turbulent and he later claimed that his magical experiments had got out of hand. Equally predictably, rumours about goings-on at Boleskine were rife around the neighbourhood, fuelled by tragedies such as the death of the children of Crowley’s head keeper, Hugh Gillies.

Crowley himself left the house in 1913, moving to a cottage near Falkirk. But the dark reputation of Boleskine continued, with a further owner, Major Edward Grant, committing suicide by shotgun in what had once been Crowley’s bedroom. In 1969 the house was rented for a few months by the filmmaker Kenneth Anger, and subsequently by Page, who bought it in 1970.

In July, the BHF reported that it was reinstating the original damaged sandstone to the courtyard-facing part of the building. Work began in late June to repair the decorative stone on the front of the house.

The group says that historic stone is being reused whenever possible. Damaged elements are being replaced with decorative matching stone and “lots of work” will begin on chimneys and gables throughout the summer.

This restoration project involves not only the house but the gardens: the group has been working with the Visit Inverness Loch Ness and Aviva Community Fund and has completed a number of new pathways through the grounds, which will take visitors through a wildflower meadow and allow them to see four new viewpoints of Loch Ness.

A commentator on the group’s Facebook page, which is public, has asked if any relics relating to either the Crowley era or the Jimmy Page occupation of the house have been found in the outside walls, to which the response was “Jimmy Page – yes. Crowley, no.”

They’re also calling for volunteers, so if you’re interested in being part of the restoration project, check out their Facebook page, which has the links or the BHF’s own web page.
 
Additionally, they have two paid positions open to local candidates.

The charity says that its prime goal at present is to “consolidate and preserve the listed fabric of the building” with the aim of completing this in 2022. Boleskine House will then be open to the public for guided tours. The house will be open to all and will be staffed.


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