A challenging seven-month project to remove, restore and reinstall the historic 132-year-old William Wallace statue on the National Monument in Stirling has now been completed.

After the bronze 14ft figure of the Scottish hero was carefully taken down from the world-famous landmark for the first time, it headed to England in February for 10 weeks of painstaking repairs by specialists before returning home to Stirling where experts fixed it back in position.   

Stirling Council invested an estimated £260,000 in the essential repairs which have brought the iconic statue back into peak condition for the Monument’s 150th anniversary celebrations in September.

The work formed part of the overall exterior restoration project at world-famous attraction, which is being funded by the Council and is expected to total £515,000.

Restored to its former glory

Stirling Council Leader, Cllr Scott Farmer said: “After a challenging and complex project involving a number of different specialists, it is fantastic to see this magnificent statue of William Wallace restored to its former glory and standing proudly over Stirling once again on the National Monument.

“The Council’s substantial investment was vital to safeguard the future of the statue and the Monument in its 150th year, demonstrating our commitment to ensuring Stirling continues to be a must-visit destination.”

The restoration work to the statue 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.

The National Wallace Monument was last year prioritised for repair works by the Council and Stirling District Tourism (SDT) – 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 popular landmark for the first time since its unveiling in 1887, Wallace travelled down south to Wigan-based firm, Lost Art, for restoration.

The structure returned across the border on May 14 and was raised up the attraction in three separate parts during a challenging operation.

In the final stage of the process, Wallace was fixed back into position on the corner of the 220ft high tower and all the surrounding scaffolding was removed.

A happy homecoming to Stirling

Stirling Council Depute Leader Cllr Danny Gibson said: “Visitors arriving at the world-famous National Wallace Monument will be highly impressed by the quality of the refurbishment of this bronze statue of Scotland’s national hero.

“It’s been a bit of journey for Wallace over the past few months, which has included a return trip to England, but he’s certainly enjoyed a happy homecoming to Stirling, with the skilful restoration work ensuring the statue is back in peak condition in time for the attraction’s 150th anniversary celebrations.” 

SDT has funded a £500,000 renovation of the Monument's interior exhibition spaces to mark its 150th birthday.

Really strong impression with visitors

SDT Chair Zillah Jamieson emphasised how the statue has really become a signature feature of the Monument. She said: “It is just so striking - Wallace stands at 13ft in height – and at 21ft to the tip of his sword, and faces towards Stirling Bridge, the scene of his famous victory in 1297. 

“Now that it has been restored to such as high standard it is looking ‘good as new’, and it creates a really strong impression with visitors.  We really appreciate the commitment which Stirling Council has made in undertaking this important work in the Monument’s 150th Anniversary year”.           

The William Wallace statue was created by renowned Edinburgh sculptor David Watson Stevenson and was added to the Monument in 1887.

Demanding in every way both technically and logistically

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.

Jim Mitchell, the Project Engineer and also an Accredited Conservator restorer with Icon, said: “This was a project which everyone involved was proud to add to their portfolio. It was demanding in every way both technically and logistically - not to mention a bit nerve-racking at times! 

“Personally I have been very proud of what we have done and of everyone involved: Lost Art (conservators), Kelsen Special Projects (logistics and stonework) and Industrial Heritage Consulting (work specification and supervision).”

Picture details and background info

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.

Pictures and footage should be credited to Thomas Haywood/Stirling Council. Photo of the Wallace Statue before work got underway should be credited to Stirling District Tourism.

 

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