The bronze 14ft figure of the Scottish hero, which towers above the entrance to the world-famous attraction, has spent around 10 weeks receiving painstaking repairs from specialists across the border.
Stirling Council has invested an estimated £260,000 in the challenging project to ensure the stunning structure is back in peak condition ahead of the Wallace Monument’s 150th anniversary celebrations in September.
The expert work has involved:
- repairs to the structural casting failures on the statue
- cleaning, stabilisation and re-patination of the bronze to halt decay
- cleaning out the statue’s internals which had been originally filled with sand to stabilise the statue
- designing and inserting a new armature (skeleton)
- assessing and repairing the shield and sword.
Critical to safeguard the future of the statue
It forms part of the overall exterior restoration project at the National Wallace Monument, which is being funded by the Council and is expected to total £515,000.
The popular landmark was last year prioritised for repair works by the Council and Stirling District Tourism – an independent charity which manages and operates the Monument – following a building and condition survey.
After the statue was carefully removed in sections from the tower for the first time since its unveiling in 1887, Wallace travelled down south to Wigan-based firm, Lost Art, to begin the process of restoration.
Brian Roberts, Senior Manager for Infrastructure at Stirling Council, said: “We are absolutely thrilled that the magnificent William Wallace statue has been restored to his former glory and is back home in Stirling for the upcoming National Monument’s 150th anniversary celebrations.
“The investment by the Council was critical to safeguard the future of the statue and the Monument, one of Scotland’s most popular attractions, and underlines our commitment to ensuring Stirling continues to be a must-visit destination.
“This was a hugely challenging and complex project, requiring the collaboration of a range specialists, including the expertise of the craftspeople of Lost Art, who have a proven track record in restoring Scottish historical structures.
“What happened on Wallace’s last trip to England is obviously well-known, and very much in the past but, this time, thanks to Lost Art’s painstaking work, he has returned across the border in peak condition and ready to greet visitors from all over the world as they arrive at the Monument.”
Test of the skill and ingenuity of our staff
Damian Liptrot, Office Manager at Lost Art, said: “Lost Art have felt it both an honour and a privilege to have been entrusted with the care and repair of such an important national symbol of historic and emotional significance.
“It has been a test of the skill and ingenuity of our staff, they have delighted in the challenge and the result. We all hope that the people of Scotland will feel as much pride in what the statue represents as we do in the work that has gone into the restoration.”
The William Wallace statue was created by renowned Edinburgh sculptor David Watson Stevenson and was added to the Monument in 1887.
Prior to work commencing, 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.
Linda Cannon, a professional stained glass artist and Icon Accredited Conservator, has also restored the stained glass window in the niche behind the statue.
An honour to be involved
Jim Mitchell, the Project Engineer and also an Accredited Conservator restorer with Icon, said: “I have led the restoration of many engineered structures throughout the UK but this is among the most culturally significant.
“It was an honour to be involved but also a challenge for me and the team, with many unknowns and not a few surprises revealed during the work, including the discovery of over a half ton of sand inside the statue.
“Work to the ornate sandstone decoration around the niche demanded the highest standard from Kelsen Technical, the enabling and logistics contractor.
“The reconstruction of the statue has included a stainless steel space-frame structure inside the body to ensure its ongoing structural integrity and a safe method of lifting the 2.5 tonnes on bronze.”
Ken Thomson, Marketing Manager, Stirling District Tourism, the charity that operates The National Wallace Monument said: “An immediately recognisable feature of The National Wallace Monument since it was unveiled in 1887, we are delighted to see the restored William Wallace statue, depicting Scotland’s National Hero holding his famous sword, being brought back to its home.
“The statue’s restoration and return in the Monument’s 150th anniversary year is one of the final stages of the 2019 refurbishment programme, funded by Stirling Council and Stirling District Tourism. It will once again be a focal point for visitors who come from all over the world to discover the story of William Wallace.”
Notes and Picture details
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.
Refurbishment of the Monument's stonework and exterior, including the statue is being funding by the Council and is expected to total £515,000. Stirling District Tourism, the charity that operates The National Wallace Monument has funded the £500,000 renovation of the Monument's interior exhibition spaces.
Pictured alongside the head of the William Wallace statue are (from left) Senan Kelleher, Kelsen Technical Managing Director; Jim Mitchell, Project Engineer and Accredited Conservator Restorer with Icon; Drew Leslie, Stirling Council Infrastructure Delivery Service Manager; Dan Lea, Lost Art Project Manager.