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3 Feb 2022

Conserving 500-year-old statues at Falkland Palace


Speakers: 2 voices – WENDY PURVIS (WP), TARA CROOKE (TC)

WP - Falkland Palace was the favoured place of the Stuart kings and queens of Scotland.
They used to come here to enjoy the hunting, to enjoy time away from court, a little bit like Balmoral is today in many ways for the current royal family.
Since then, the palace fell into something of disrepair, certainly during those later 17th and 18th centuries.
And then in the late 19th century, it was partially restored by the third Marquess of Bute and so we have the palace that everyone sees and enjoys today.

On the front of the building there are a number of sculptures or statues.
Sadly, there's only three remaining.
There's only one that's anything like complete.
The work that we've got ongoing at the moment is to take those statues down, to have them conserved and cleaned as much as possible, and then to put them back and, most importantly, put them back in a safe way.

TC - So we have a specialist stone conservator on site today and the two of them are bringing down the remaining statues.
Those are carefully being removed and being brought down via scaffolding.
They are being placed on Plastazote, which is a protective layer, before they are wrapped up and taken away in the van to the conservation studio down in Edinburgh, where works will take place on them to remove some of the pollution and also to check for any structural repairs that are required and consolidate the stone, before returning back to the building with a more suitable fixing that will be longer lasting than what they've been on previously.
Hopefully they'll be there for another 600 years!

If you look closely at the front elevation of Falkland Palace on the South Range, you'll see lots of tiny little holes in the sandstone.
Those are a result of mason bees, who are solitary creatures that like to burrow into the soft sandstone and make a nest.
They then fill that nest with pollen and lay a single egg, and then the larvae from that egg lives in there until it's fully formed and then pops out and will go off and find another hole to nest in.

Conservation work such as this, that we are carrying out at Falkland today, is a major part of what we do as part of the buildings team at the National Trust for Scotland.
It'll help conserve these important pieces of heritage for future generations of Scotland.

We’re working on the conservation of the statues that stand in the South Range of Falkland Palace, with support from specialist conservation surveyors the Adams Napier Partnership and stone conservator Graciela Ainsworth.

Update – February 2022

The remaining statues on the South Range of Falkland Palace have been returned. They had been removed for urgent conservation treatment, due to the deterioration of the stonework and damage caused by masonry bees!

Work was undertaken to pin the cracks and fill the more severe delamination with resin to prevent further decay. Additional fixings were required to secure the statues to the niche background – these have been designed to be as discreet as possible.

Research is underway into the history behind the statues, forming part of the ongoing conservation to the south façade. More information will be shared about this soon, as well as our plans to provide an alternative nesting site for the masonry bees.

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A young woman walks along a clifftop path, with binoculars around her neck. >