National Wallace Monument, Stirling
The National Wallace Monument (generally known as the Wallace Monument) is raised on the Abbey Craig, near Stirling and commemorates Sir William Wallace, the 13th-century Scottish hero. The bronze statue of Wallace was sculpted by David Watson Stephenson of Ratho Edinburgh and is in excess of 4.50m tall, standing on a plinth approximately 10.0m above ground level and weighs approximately 3 tonnes. The National Wallace Monument was completed and opened in 1869 and is a Grade A listed building.
Following extensive surveying from ground and MEWP, it was determined that the sculpture was in generally poor condition with evidence that the internal iron armature had corroded and was beginning to expand through the bronze. In order to effect thorough conservation and restoration of the sculpture, it had to be removed from the stone niche that had been its home for 150 years.
The challenges associated with this removal were many, not least the very poor access to the Monument. Visiting members of the public need to ascend a steep and narrow (single track) road from the visitor centre car park to the main entrance to the Monument – this is the only site access. Sitting atop the Abbey Craig, the site is severely exposed and the works were commenced in December 2018 and completed in July 2019.
Kelsen Special Projects Ltd were appointed to tackle the logistical issues surrounding accessing the site, developing and implementing a safe lifting strategy, removal of the sculpture from its stone niche, transport off Abbey Craig and delivery to the specialist bronze conservator. Following the restoration of the bronze, the entire process was reversed.
As access was so limited and conventional equipment unable to access the site, we developed a scheme to design and construct a huge cantilevered scaffolding which also provided access for work personnel and acted as the main lifting structure for removal and reinstatement of the bronze. As part of the initial phase of works, the bronze was extensively surveyed including 3D scanning (carried out by Historic Environment Scotland) and Radiographic surveying to attempt to determine the internal structure of the sculpture. This x-ray work required to be carried out at night when the site was vacant and there were no visitors present.
The combination of the 3D scanning and radiography illustrated that the sculpture was in worse condition than had been anticipated and the work process had to be amended to allow for the disassembly of the original casting in-situ. This required a forensic approach to properly ascertain how the original casting was formed and joined and then painstakingly un-doing this work to free elements for removal. The sculpture was ‘broken down’ into six key elements: the head, the sword, the sword arm, shield arm, torso and then legs with the shield. Each element was placed within specially fabricated art cases for lowering to ground level and transport from monument to the conservator. Whilst undertaking the elemental removal it was discovered that the bronze was largely full of sand residue from the original casting. All lifting operations were carried out by Kelsen Lifting Supervisors and slingers and transport of the historic work was carried out by Kelsen with special provisions in place to insure the work in transit.
The bronze restoration works took twelve weeks to complete and during this time Kelsen Special Projects stonemasons carried out extensive repairs to the niche stonework involving intricate carving of replacement stones, dentil repairs to the plinth and extensive lime repointing. The stone crown that is located above the niche required to be consolidated as it had been subject to the ravages of the weather over its’ 150-year life. The remaining elements of the crown were made safe with injected masonry adhesives and wrapped in a protective mesh – unfortunately, time and budget constraints did not allow for the complete restoration of the crown stone.
Additional works carried out during the bronze conservation phase included the repair of a stained glass window which is located behind the sculpture and viewable internally. The tie rods which secure the sculpture to the monument also required to be replaced.
The project was a huge success and resulted in the extensive celebration of the National Wallace Monument arranged by Stirling District Council to mark the 150 year anniversary of the building.
The Monument remained open to visitors throughout the construction process and Kelsen worked alongside two other contractors appointed by SDC to complete new interpretation installations within the Monument and refurbishment work to the Keepers Lodge.
Client: Stirling District Council.
Sculpture Conservation Consultant: Industrial Heritage Consulting Ltd.
Masonry Consultant: Craig Frew Building Conservation Ltd.
Structural Engineer: David Narro Associates Ltd
Contract Administrator: GVA.
Bronze Conservation: Lost Art Ltd.
Stained Glass Restoration: Linda Cannon
Scaffolding: ASC Edinburgh Ltd