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6 Mar 2023

Conservation in action: Cameronians’ Regimental Memorial

A large statue standing at the edge of a park is surrounded by scaffolding and then wrapped in a plastic film.
The Cameronians’ Regimental Memorial, wrapped for repair work
Find out about our plans to restore the Cameronians’ Regimental Memorial using traditional skills.

The Cameronians’ Regimental Memorial is situated in Douglas in South Lanarkshire. The memorial was designed by the British sculptor Sir Thomas Brock RA and it takes the form of a statue depicting James Douglas, Earl of Angus (1671–92) who was the first commander of the Cameronians’ Regiment. The statue was erected in 1892 to commemorate the bicentenaries of the first raising of the Regiment in 1689 and the death of the Earl of Angus in 1692.

In May 1689, the Cameronian Regiment (26th Foot) was raised as part of the British army, at Douglas Parish Church. They are the only regiment in the British Army with a religious foundation. Prior to forming this regiment, these men had been Covenanters who had rebelled against the king for the right to follow their Presbyterian faith. They had suffered persecution under the rule of Charles II, but the arrival on the throne of the Protestant William of Orange in 1688 provided the opportunity for the incorporation of the Covenanters into the Government forces. The regiment’s first action came at the Battle of Dunkeld later that year, where they succeeded in repelling the main Jacobite army. Three years later, the Earl of Angus was killed in action fighting the French army at the Battle of Steinkirk in Flanders. The regiment was finally disbanded in Douglas in May 1968.

The Category A-listed structure is of national architectural and artistic importance in addition to its high national significance as a fitting acknowledgement of the regiment’s distinguished service record.

The statue of James Douglas points out over the surrounding countryside, which was the main recruiting area for the regiment. In 1963, Douglas and Angus Estates granted a feu to the Cameronians’ Regiment Trustees for the site of the memorial. In order to ensure its permanent preservation, the National Trust for Scotland acquired the site in 1991. The site is unmanned and is accessible to visitors at all times.

A statue of a military man stands on top of a stone plinth in a park. The statue is pointing to his right, across the surrounding countryside.

Recent inspections highlighted that some repair works were required. We put up a scaffold around the monument at the start of February for a few weeks – this offered incredible views of the statue. We were able to see so much more of the detail and have a new appreciation of the intricacy of the clay mould used to cast the bronze.

The statue

Tests were carried out on the bronze statue to determine the most appropriate method to clean and remove any loose paint. It was then treated to stabilise any active areas of corrosion. Any corroded areas will be repaired before the entire sculpture is waxed for future protection. Various holes and damage have been repaired, and the statue has been inspected for structural defects – none were noted, which is surprising given its size, age, and the wind load it takes from being in such an exposed location.

Investigations have been ongoing to determine the original decorative finish to the statue. Unfortunately, the company that carried out the previous repair project in the 1990s don’t have a record, and our own records are limited. However, the conservator has been looking at remnants of possible early colouration of the bronze in crevices in the statue and discovered a mix of green/brown colours. This what the new wax coats are based on. The bronze has now had 4 layers of the green/brown wax applied, which is much closer to what the statue would have looked like when it was first made. The conservator is currently undertaking final burnishing and then the work to the statue itself will be complete.

The plinth

The stone plinth has been cleaned of all algae growth and fully inspected. In the past, cement repairs have been made across the plinth but these were now damaging the structure of the stone – they were carefully removed. Any cracks were inspected by a structural engineer to determine if they were stable or not, before additional repairs were made. The structural engineer concluded that, although cracks are evident, these don’t appear to pose a future risk to the monument and are likely caused by the wind loading, so internal interventions aren’t required at this stage. We repaired the cracks and then they will be monitored to see if there is still movement. The entire plinth will be repointed in a lime-based mortar.

Iron railings

A separate contractor was commissioned to repair parts of the iron railings surrounding the site. Following repairs, they were cleaned and repainted. Currently, there is quite a difference in the finished paint and what they were like before. We’ve actually got evidence that the railings would have originally been painted a bright green colour, but it’ll have to be a future project to return them to this original scheme.

Perimeter wall

We are also working on additional stonework repairs to the perimeter wall. We carried out an initial site visit to review the work required at the start of March, and we will be using the Culzean stonemason for some of these repairs.

Works complete

By mid-April, the work at Cameronians’ Regimental Memorial was very nearly finished, and the scaffold was removed.

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