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The Centre, Howden House and the Estate
Howden Park Centre reopened in Spring 2009 following redevelopment to designs created by award winning architects Nicoll Russell Studios. This is the latest in a series of changes to the building that have transformed the former stable block into a 21st century venue for all kinds of arts in West Lothian. In April 2010 it was named "Building of the Year" by the Edinburgh Architectural Association.
Actor Andrew Cruikshank opened Howden Park Centre as an arts centre in 1972. It was built onto the old stables and coach house of the 18th century Howden House which stands around 100m away.
Recorded as far back as the 16th century as Over Howden, the estate belonged to the Douglas family of Pumpherston. In 1601 a complaint was made to the Privy Council that "upon the 7th of the said month, William Borthuik.....and others, at nine hours of the morning came to the complenaris landis of Over Howden and there slew two of his horses while ploughing and wounded his ploughmen, so that they dared not labour his lands. The accused, not appearing, are ordered to be denounced His Highness "rebels".
The current Howden House was completed in 1795 and was a family home for several hundred years lived in, at different times, by the son of Sir Henry Raeburn and the daughter of James "Paraffin" Young. She continued to live there until her death in 1931 when it was then sold to Sir Adrian Baillie of Polkemmet. His mother Lady Baillie lived there until she died in 1946.
Just after midnight on Tuesday 25 June 1940 a bomb fell on the coach house and stables - now Howden Park Centre. Mrs Maria Fleming and her granddaughter Margaret, aged 10 were killed. These were the first civilians to be killed on the Scottish mainland and the only WWII deaths by bombing in West Lothian.
In 1946 Howden House was bought by the Ministry of Agriculture and used as an agricultural machinery testing station. In 1965, as the first houses in Livingston were built and occupied, the House was bought by Livingston Development Corporation with assistance from the Carnegie UK Trust to create a centre for community activities.
References: Three Generations of a Stoddart Family Jan Malloch, History and Antiquities of The Parish of Mid Calder H. B. McCall, Keep Smiling Through: West Lothian at War 1939-45 West Lothian Libraries, New Town Leslie Higgs