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Moo-ving forward at the Palace

Posted by Jonathan Broom on 7 November 2018
Related property: Coo Palace
Moo-ving forward at the Palace

Work continues apace to turn the Corseyard Farm and Model Dairy, AKA the Coo Palace, into 26 luxury holiday cottages and apartments plus communal leisure facilities.

Overlooking Wigtown Bay and the Solway Firth in Dumfries & Galloway, the Coo Palace was once a dairy farming facility, built by eccentric millionaire James Brown, half of Affleck & Brown, whose flagship Manchester department store (long gone, alas) was known as ‘the Harrods of the North’. Brown used his wealth, derived from the store, to indulge his passion for the Arts & Crafts movement, Art Nouveau and the Italianate style – and the Coo Palace, built early in the 20th Century, amalgamates all three.

The place was built to house Brown’s small herd of 12 prize Belted Galloway cows – and from what one can still see the bovine beauties must have lived in some style: curved finials here, decorative glazed tiles there, Palladian water troughs to drink from...

The place having fallen into serious disrepair over much of the 20th Century, construction work is ongoing – both sensitively restoring what’s already there, reusing as much of the original material as possible; and building new units and facilities in a style that’s of a piece with Brown’s original vision. It's hoped that the Coo Palace will be ready to welcome its first human guests in March 2020.

But while the builders press on, an interior design team is working to ensure that the finished properties and facilities meet or exceed expected standards of luxury and furnishings, while remaining in, and retaining, the spirit of this unique landmark building.

“Our brief – our self-imposed brief, really – is to bring the Coo Palace up to 21st-Century standards, in terms of furniture, equipment and so on,” says Rosie Johnson, who’s responsible overall for the design, “while remaining true, or as true as possible, to James Brown’s original template.”

Warming to her theme, Rosie continues: “The Coo Palace may be in Scotland – and a beautiful part of it at that – but Brown wasn’t Scottish himself: he was born in Rochester, Kent, and Affleck & Brown was in Manchester. So we’re nodding to the site’s Scottish location with a bit of tartan here and there (see picture at top) – but we’re going easy on the plaid! I’ve commissioned a series of original paintings by Fiona Roberts (example above), a renowned and award-winning landscape and seascape artist, which will be distributed about the site and echo the Coo Palace’s glorious position; but really this place is all about the styles prevalent in the early 20th Century, especially Arts & Crafts. Plus, we want where possible to provide a reminder of the Coo Palace’s original occupants.”

Which is why certain of the holiday units are to be named after the individual cows themselves. And why a subtle bovine motif – stools fashioned from repurposed milk churns, for instance (above); cow silhouettes imprinted on curtain fabric (below) – will be found across the site.

But overall, the Coo Palace is about traditional craftsmanship using simple forms – the essence of the Arts & Crafts movement.

“To say that Brown was an adherent is an understatement,” says Rosie. “Arts & Crafts informed every aspect of his ideas for the Coo Palace – as it did for nearby Knockbrex Castle, the Brown family’s Scottish seat. He owned a number of prints by Arts & Crafts and Art Nouveau architectural luminary Charles Voysey, which he bequeathed to his grandson, whose widow, Elizabeth Brown, has been personally advising me on this project; her assistance has been invaluable, and reassures me that what we’re doing is a continuation of James Brown’s original ideals.

“This is one of the most exciting, worthwhile projects I’ve ever been involved with – and I can’t wait to see it completed.”

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Jonathan Broom

Jonathan Broom

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