Vital restoration work has begun on the 132-year-old William Wallace statue, in a clean-up of the 14ft-high bronze figure that’s set to cost £260,000.
It’s the only time the sculpture has been removed from its plinth above the entrance of the Wallace Monument since it was first unveiled in Victorian times, and is being restored as part of an overall project worth more than £500,000.
Over the next ten weeks experts will re-patinate the statue’s bronze to halt decay, clean out the interior, and design and insert a new armature (skeleton) besides repairing structural casting failures.
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They’ll also assess and carry out repairs to Wallace’s shield and sword.
The scheme means the medieval warrior will be missing from his time-honoured slot during this year’s main tourism season, but he will be back on his pedestal in time for the monument’s 150th anniversary celebrations in September.
The repairs needed are said to be “hugely challenging and complex”, but aim to ensure one of Scotland’s most internationally famous icons is safeguarded for the future.
Getting the figure down from its plinth was a major exercise in its own right, as the bronze cast sculpture had to be removed in sections.
The William Wallace statue was created by renowned Edinburgh sculptor David Watson Stephenson and was added to the Monument in 1887.
Before this month’s repairs began specialists used the latest technology to analyse its condition, guiding how they would perform the intricate task of its removal and restoration.
This included an x-ray survey, an endoscopic survey and ultrasonic thickness-mapping. A sample was also taken of the casting bronze to identify a match for repair metal and brazing wire.
Jim Mitchell, Conservation Engineer at Industrial Heritage Consulting, said: “The decision to dismantle in situ has been proved correct as we have found around 500kgs of sand and other fill inside the statue.
“This was done to deliberately add weight.
“All of that must be carefully removed before the rest is lifted, due to the fragile nature of the bronze.
“We are looking forward to examining this massive bronze in the workshop, to better understand the sculptor’s approach.”
The Monument will close February 11 while work is underway, and will reopen in spring with “an exciting new look”.
series of new events have also been planned throughout the year, as well as two large-scale public celebrations in September.”
The 220ft high Wallace Monument is one of Scotland’s most popular landmarks, attracting 140,000 visitors a year.
Designed by Glasgow architect John Thomas Rochead, it was constructed between 1861 and 1869 at a cost of £18,000.