Don spends £100k on “invisible staircase” at Edinburgh home


A FORMER Oxford don has spent an astonishing £100,000 on a “invisible staircase” at her historic home.

Dr Angelica Goodden suffers from Multiple Sclerosis (MS) and needed help accessing her home in Edinburgh.

The 61-year-old refused the local council’s offer of a standard lift and insisted on an eye-wateringly expensive bespoke design more in keeping with her listed Georgian property.

The remarkable piece of precision engineering operates without a sound to turn the steps into a flat platform at pavement height.

The lift in action
The lift in action


This then gently lifts Dr Goodden to the door of her 1807 townhouse in the city’s Gayfield area.

She describes the lift at her £950,000 home as “thing of beauty”. It is thought to be the only one of its kind in Scotland.

Dr Goodden was in her late 20s when she was diagnosed with secondary progressive MS, a neurological condition which affects muscle movement, balance, vision and even cognition.

But she managed to forge a successful academic career at Oxford, where she taught French and published ten books in a career spanning 30 years.

She was forced to retire early in 2012 after her case worsened, and shortly after moved to Edinburgh where she had always dreamt of living.

But on arriving she found that the front steps to her newly purchased property were an obstacle to her mobility.

She refused to install the standard Stannah lift that the council suggested, saying that the “poorly designed” product would be “an intrusion into the beautiful architecture of the square.”

Instead she commissioned the £100,000 contraption which was designed with “mathematical calculations and very low tolerances.”

The lift lowering to street level
The lift lowering to street level


She said “the council did their best to veto” her tailormade lift, but that she eventually gained permission to install it.

The lift took four weeks to install and Dr Goodden admitted that it cost her “an absolute fortune”, saying “if I wasn’t as interested in design as I am I wouldn’t have forked out £100,000.”

She explained her interest in “disability design” saying “as someone with a modicum of design consciousness a Stannah was not the option to prefer.”

She also admitted that the design challenges of the project had prove to be “an exciting nut to crack.”

The distinguished academic, currently writing her first novel, is now leaving Edinburgh to be closer to her family and has opened the unusual property up to offers from buyers.

The property, which is being sold by McEwan Fraser Legal, is on two floors, boasts four bedrooms, two reception rooms and five bathrooms and a working, ornate carved fireplace.

Scotland has one of the highest rates of MS in the world, with one in 500 citizens affected by the degenerative condition.

Inhabitants of the Orkney Islands suffer from the highest rate of MS in the world, with 402 in 100,000 islanders suffering from some form of the disease.

There is some evidence that the condition may be caused by a lack of light or more general environmental conditions in Northern climates.