Broughton Gallery is a treasure trove of contemporary art and crafts housed in a Sir Basil Spence tower house in a magical setting in the Scottish Borders. The gallery, just north of the village of Broughton, occupies the ground floor of Broughton Place, one of the last of Britain’s large houses to be built in the traditional style. The house was designed by the young Basil Spence for Professor and Mrs Elliott in the style of a seventeenth century Scottish tower house and was completed in 1938.
That Broughton Place should house an art gallery is singularly appropriate given Sir Basil Spence’s own interest in art and craft. He believed in art’s ability to enhance the quality of life, that art humanised buildings, and he collaborated with many artists throughout his career. For Broughton Place itself, one of his earliest commissions, he used the Scottish architectural sculptor Hew Lorimer to add decorative reliefs to the building.
The aim of Broughton Gallery is pure and simple: to provide a showcase for exceptional and competitively-priced contemporary arts and crafts. Wherever possible, work is sourced from Scotland so that we can visit our artists and makers in their studios to discuss their work and see it being made. The watchword is “quality”. The gallery’s philosophy is not new. It draws a line straight back to William Morris and the Arts and Crafts Movement (who would have been a strong influence on Sir Basil Spence) in seeking to preserve arts and crafts and eliminate the bad effects of mass production on both the maker and the consumer.
Broughton Place was built on the site of Broughton House; a building which included part of an older tower house, and which had been the home of Sir John ‘Mr Evidence’ Murray. Murray acted as Secretary to Prince Charles Edward Stuart after his arrival in Scotland in 1745 in the ill-fated attempt to restore the Stuart monarchy. After the Battle of Culloden, Murray was arrested and dispatched to the Tower of London. He turned King’s Evidence against his former Jacobite compatriots and was instrumental in the execution of Lord Lovat, Chief of Clan Fraser. Shunned by his friends and colleagues after his release, he remained in England until his death in 1777, the epithet ‘Mr Evidence’ referring to his insistence on being called ‘Mr Secretary’ in his role for the Prince. In 1764 the Murray family’s Broughton estates were sold (as were the lands of many other Jacobite sympathisers) by order of the Edinburgh Court of Session, and in 1775 Broughton House burned to the ground.
Today, life is much more tranquil at Broughton Place.