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Photo 6- Anne at work in the Chapel at Falkland Palace, preparing the wood so that a cast of the ring-pattern can be taken.

Dendrochronology at Falkland Palace


A big project is under way to date some of the surviving original timbers throughout Falkland Palace. Anne Crone of AOC Archaeology Group and her colleague, Alan Duffy have been working their way through the buildings taking samples of the roof over the South Range, the roof of the Stables and the doors into the Chapel.

Photo 1- Alan sampling in the South Range roof using a corer powered by an electric drill.

Photo 1- Alan sampling in the South Range roof using a corer powered by an electric drill.

The timbers in the roof spaces were sampled by coring, powered by an electric drill (Photo 1). In the South Range roof this sometimes involved getting into very uncomfortable positions (Photo 1), while in the Stables we had to use a scissor lift to get up in amongst the timbers (Photo 2) and that was even more uncomfortable! The corer removes a core of wood 10 mm in diameter (Photos 3 & 4); back in the laboratory the core has been glued to a wooden mount and the surface prepared so that the ring-pattern is clear. The sample is now ready for measurement and analysis.

Photo 2- Working from the scissor lift in the Stables.

Photo 2- Working from the scissor lift in the Stables.

Photo 3- Removing a wooden core from the corer.

Photo 3- Removing a wooden core from the corer.

Photo 4- The wooden core. The growth-rings are just visible at the right hand end of the core.

Photo 4- The wooden core. The growth-rings are just visible at the right hand end of the core.

A different approach to sampling the doors of the Chapel has been taken because we cannot drill holes through them. The doors have all been made with vertical oak boards and the end-grains are visible on the tops of the doors. The surface of each board is prepared by finely sanding and cleaning it (Photo 6) and then a cast of the ring-pattern is made using Fimo clay (Photo 7). The Fimo clay is baked hard and so a reverse copy of the ring-pattern can be used for measurement.

Photo 6- Anne at work in the Chapel at Falkland Palace, preparing the wood so that a cast of the ring-pattern can be taken.

Photo 6- Anne at work in the Chapel at Falkland Palace, preparing the wood so that a cast of the ring-pattern can be taken.

Photo 7- The cast is made using Fimo, a modelling clay – here the black Fimo cast can be seen in situ over the prepared surface of the vertical board.

Photo 7- The cast is made using Fimo, a modelling clay – here the black Fimo cast can be seen in situ over the prepared surface of the vertical board.

Photo 9- 9Using the measuring equipment at AOC’s dendrochronology laboratory.

Photo 9- 9 Using the measuring equipment at AOC’s dendrochronology laboratory.

In the next few months Anne will be measuring and analysing the samples in the dendrochronology lab at AOC’s offices in Loanhead (Photo 9). We are very excited to find out what when the original beams can be dated to. Keep an eye on the blog and Facebook page for updates on the results!

South Range Palace roof.

South Range Palace roof.

Stables - view from roof

Stables, view from the roof.

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Historical Excavations by the Third Marquess of Bute


On 12th June our summer Education and Outreach Intern presented a paper in Edinburgh on the archaeological excavations undertaken by the John Patrick Crichton-Stuart, or the Third Marquess of Bute, at Falkland Palace after his purchase of the palace in 1887. Here is a summary of the paper.

As soon as he had purchased the palace, Lord Bute began archaeological excavations in the palace grounds. Between 1887 and 1900 Bute also renovated and restored the palace (which had been in decline since the 17th century and was in a pretty poor state) and he is responsible for most of the interiors inside the palace today.

The excavations ended in around 1892 and focused mainly on the 12th and 13th century castle which had previously been on the same site. Bute was very keen to find the castle and well-tower in which David Steward, Duke of Rothesay, was held by his uncle (Robert Stuart, Duke of Albany) and mysteriously died in 1402. The ruins are below the oak lawn and still be seen in the ground today. Lord Bute did have large scale maps (about 5m by 2m) and plans of the excavations drawn up by the architect working on the restorations of the palace, John Kinross. The maps are colour-coded each according to age of the structure found. Clearly, Bute was keen to record and document his excavations. Pictures of one of the map can been seen on the Royal Commission of Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland website.

The Well-Tower of the 13th Century Castle. The 16th Century palace, built by James IV and V, is visible just behind the trees.

The well-tower of the 13th century castle. The 16th century palace, built by James IV and V, is visible just behind the trees.

The patio of the well-tower seen here was completely restored by Bute in order to give a clearer indication of where the tower originally was. The level of the floor (picture above) has very little to do with that of the medieval castle (which is underneath). Bute did ensure that later historians and archaeologists would know that this was his work by using red sandstone for parts of the foundations, a common practice at a number of his restorations to distinguish between old and new work.

The red sandstone string course which Bute often used during restoration work. This is the Roman Fort wall at Cardiff Castle, another of Bute's properties, restored by Lord Bute in the 1890's.

The red sandstone string course which Bute often used during restoration work. This is the Roman Fort wall at Cardiff Castle, another of Bute’s properties, restored by Lord Bute in the 1890’s.

The rest of the castle (found during Bute’s excavations but then back filled with rubble from the restoration of the palace) is hidden under the grass and trees of the Oak lawn. You can see the earthworks and some of the rubble from the old castle in the picture below.

The ruins of the 13th Century castle just about visible below the Oak Lawn.

The ruins of the 13th Century castle just about visible below the Oak Lawn.

Bute summarized his findings from his excavations in an article published in The Scottish Review in 1892. The article was entitled “David, Duke of Rothesay” but also included mention of Bute’s own excavations at Falkland Palace:

“I was naturally anxious to find any remains of this tower, which had totally disappeared. In excavating the garden to the north of the standing portions of the Palace, we found the remains of the original enclosing wall, and the north-east angle and part of a round tower over 50 feet in diameter, retaining a small portion of the ornamental string course, which shows it to be of about the 13th century. In its centre is the well, sunk in the rock. The plan of the part of this building it is possible to surmise with a high degree of probability, from the parallel buildings which remain elsewhere in more perfect condition at Bothwell Castle and elsewhere. This great tower with its high pointed roof must have been the main feature of the early group of buildings, and a prominent feature in the landscape for many miles round. Its great side implies truly noble rooms.”

This summary, although informative about what Bute interests, tells us very little about what he actually found during digging at Falkland. At other sites, including Rothesay Castle or St Blane’s (on the Isle of Bute) and Cardiff Castle, lists were made of the objects found. However, as Lord Bute was only the Keeper of Falkland Palace, he did not own any of the artifacts and items which he excavated. Hence, as it appears no list of any objects found was ever made, what actually happened to any excavated material is hard to trace.

13th Century Well-Tower

13th century well-tower

Bute’s archaeological excavations at the palace are fascinating and it is a shame more is not known about them. Yet, Falkland Palace is just one of around 60 restoration and excavation projects Bute worked on over his lifetime. It is possible that more information about the excavations at Falkland will come to light when other sites are also investigated. For now, however, we should enjoy the remains of Bute’s excavations and the restored well-tower, and be thankful that he at least left some record of this archaeological work at the palace. Such records were not common practice in the 19th century. On a sunny day, the well-tower and ruins below the Oak Lawn are well worth exploring!

 

 

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Application of the Ethyl Silicate.

Roundel Conservation


The roundels at Falkland Palace are part of James V’s alterations and

One of the roundels being prepared, ready for conservation.

One of the roundels being prepared, ready for conservation.

building work, completed in 1541. James had spent time at the French court (as well as having two French wives) and he employed French masons to work on the palace. He was hoping to recreate some of the splendor of the French court here in Scotland, and he employed the French master masons Moses Martin and Nicolas Roy to create the glorious roundels you see at the palace today. The roundels are also significant as it is rare to have five carvings and portraits of females. Although the roundels of the South Range are currently hidden behind scaffolding whilst they undergo conservation, you can still see their companions on the ruined East Range.

The palace at the end of last year before the scaffolding was erected and work began.

The palace at the end of last year before the scaffolding was erected and work began.

All the roundels are made of sandstone and appear to have been build face-bedded into the building (rather than naturally-bedded). This means that the surface layers of the stone have deteriorated over time, in a process similar to the peeling of layers from an onion. Unfortunately, the surfaces of four of the heads have already been completely lost. However, the aim of the current conservation (part of our Year of Conservation at the palace) is to consolidate the roundels and prevent further loss and deterioration.

Roundel before conservation showing signs of decay through age and acid rain damage.

Roundel before conservation showing signs of decay through age and acid rain damage.

The first phase of conservation of the carved stone roundels on the South Range was from 7th-10th April. On the first day, the condition of the roundels was recorded  and over the next few days some previous filler was removed. Below are some examples of the recording techniques used to document the stone (all the pictures were taken on the first day before any work began).

Conservators record of the Margaret Tudor roundel.

Conservators record of the Margaret Tudor roundel.

30 times magnified image of an insect infestation in the sandstone of one of the roundels.

30 times magnified image of an insect infestation in the sandstone of one of the roundels.

30 times magnified photograph of the actual surface of the sandstone.

30 times magnified photograph of the actual surface of the sandstone.

The roundels were then sprayed with Ethyl Silicate, a substance which helps to strengthen the stone. From 13th-29th April the roundels were then completely covered in order to protect them from the rain and sunshine. This gave the Ethyl Silicate time to set.

Application of the Ethyl Silicate.

Application of the Ethyl Silicate.

Today, 30th April, the roundels have been uncovered. The stones are now much stronger and the next stage, lasting until 15th May, can begin. Old filler, which has weathered, will be removed and a lime-based grout will be used to fill in air pockets and voids. For the outer wreath shaped decoration, where stone has already been lost, T-shaped ceramic supports will be added, as well as thin stainless steal rods where necessary.

Removal of old filler.

Removal of old filler.

If you visit Falkland Palace over the coming weeks, you will probably see the conservators on site working on the final stage of conservation. The finished work will be unveiled in November. This process will help to ensure that the roundels are preserved for future generations.

 

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The cement which holds the windows in place being very carefully removed, ready to lift the window free!

History and Conservation of the Stained Glass


James VI and Anne of Denmark

James VI and Anne of Denmark

All of our stained glass windows at Falkland are heraldic and late 19th century. They were commissioned by John Patrick Crichton- Stuart, the Third Marquess of Bute. The Chapel and Tapestry Gallery windows were commissioned in 1893 and installed in 1894, with the windows in the office and private apartments (currently hidden behind our scaffolding) installed a little later in 1897. Bute also renovated the rest of the palace (look out for the carved window shutters and door in the Keeper’s Dressing room of his children and a portrait of himself) and completely rebuilt the Cross-House.

Most of the windows in the Chapel and Tapestry Gallery are in pairs of husband and wife; James IV appear alongside Margaret Tudor, James V appears next to his second wife Mary of Lorraine and so on. However, poor Magdalene of France (James V’s first wife) is all by herself in the Ante-Chapel, and the Dauphin of France, Francis II (Mary Queen of Scots first husband) is isolated in the Vestry. Equally, look out for some very lonely people in the windows of the stairwell just beyond the Tapestry Gallery. Lord Bute has included the arms of David, Duke of Rothesay (who mysteriously died at the Falkland in 1402, possibly at the hands of his uncle, Robert Stuart) and the lovely Isabel Countess of Fife, who died childless and passed the 13th century Castle (the ruins of which can be seen in the gardens today) to her brother-in-law, also Robert Stuart.

The Chapel. The stained glass look glorious on a sunny day and creates the most beautiful patterns on the chapel floor.

The Chapel. The stained glass look glorious on a sunny day and creates the most beautiful patterns on the chapel floor.

Sketch by H.W Lonsdale for window of Mary Queen of Scots and Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley. Image courtesy of National Trust for Scotland Archive.

Sketch by H.W Lonsdale for window of Mary Queen of Scots and Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley. Image courtesy of National Trust for Scotland Archive.

The cartoons and sketches for the windows were drawn up by Horatio Walter Lonsdale, however, the idea behind their design came from Lord Bute. The windows copy a manuscript known as the Lindsay Armorial, published in 1542. It is a register of all the heraldic arms and shields of the aristocratic families in Scotland, as well as members of the Royal family. Sir David Lindsay was also the court poet for James IV and James V, and would have stayed at Falkland when the Royal Court was based at the palace, so the choice of his armorial is especially fitting.

Equally, Lord Bute was very keen to make sure the windows were historically accurate. When you visit the chapel, look at the wall directly opposite the windows and you will notice that Bute has copied some of the 17th century wall paintings (look just above the tapestries), which depict windows with diamond-shaped glass. The plain glass in the windows in the Chapel and Tapestry is all diamond-shaped to copy these wall paintings. At Bute’s other homes, such as Castell Coch or Cardiff Castle in Wales, the plain glass behind the figures or shields is far more complex, often with patterned geometric shapes. Hence, at Falkland it looks as if Lord Bute has chosen to follow the diamond-shapes (known as quarry glass) for a particular reason.

The cement which holds the windows in place being very carefully removed, ready to lift the window free!

The cement which holds the windows in place being very carefully removed, ready to lift the window free!

However, if you have visited the palace recently will have notice that some of our stained glass is missing. The panels are currently in Glasgow undergoing conservation work. The windows were surveyed last year and it was decided that a little tender-love-and-care was needed. Some of the windows were deformed and bulging inwards or outwards. This is caused by the lead

Royal badge of James V in the office (currently hidden behind all our scaffolding). You can just about make out that the window is bulging inwards and has caused some of the glass to fracture.

Royal badge of James V in the office (currently hidden behind all our scaffolding). You can just about make out that the window is bulging inwards and has caused some of the glass to fracture.

between the window panes stretching and putting stress on the glass, causing fractures. However, this happens naturally and gradually over time. A few windows had these cracks within the glass panes and will be mended with a glass resin (you will hardly notice it when re-installed!), which works like a very strong glue to hold the broken glass together.

The windows in the chapel need minor resin repairs, which will be performed with the windows still in place. If you are lucky you might get to see some conservation in action on one of your visits to the palace! All of the windows will also be cleaned as, like your windows at home, they end to get a bit grubby over time.

The Palace hidden behind scaffolding. We now have some information boards and signs up telling you about the conservation to make it a bit more interesting.

The Palace hidden behind scaffolding. We now have some information boards and signs up telling you about the conservation to make it a bit more interesting.

As scaffolding was needed to access the glass, the we decided to have a full Year of Conservation (the stained glass will not be re-installed until November) and work on the historic stone roundels on the exterior of the palace at the same time. Inside, the painted ceilings will also be restored. The Royal Commission for Ancient and Historic Monuments of Scotland is also going to carry out a survey of the palace over the summer, as the scaffolding means easier access to those usually hard to reach places. We will be posting more information as the year progresses, letting you know what happens and talking to the conservators. Equally, keep an eye out for conservation talks and family workshops.

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Falkland Village

A Vistor’s Guide to Falkland


Falkland is a small village nestled between the Lomond hills in North East Fife and whether you are visiting for just one day or more there is so much to be enjoyed within the village and its surrounding countryside. Steeped in history the village holds the honor of being a Royal Burgh and is home to the beautiful Renaissance period Falkland Palace, when strolling through the cobbled, winding streets you will see the memory of this prestigious past etched into every building. If you are looking for a genuine experience of a small Scottish village you will struggle to find better than Falkland, where the local community prides itself on retaining a strong sense of identity. So read on and find out a little more about the exciting delights that Falkland has in store for you!

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The Red Squirrel Trail

Here in Falkland we are surrounded by nature. When walking on this pleasant trail, located only a short five minute walk from the village, you will be surrounded by the peaceful sound of birdsong echoing through the trees. You might catch a glimpse of the eponymous red squirrel or its grey cousin, or even sight one of the many deer families that roam the estate.

Within the boundaries of the Falkland Estate the squirrel trail is maintained by the Falkland Centre for Stewardship. By following the rubbing markers you can find out about the story of the red squirrels that reside within the woods. A collaboration between the Centre and local residents this trail is not only a pleasant walk but an education on the plight of the Red Squirrel in Scotland as it faces the challenge of competition from its grey cousin.IMG_3265
Maspie DenIMG_3282
A favourite of Falkland this hidden gem is a must see when visiting the village. The trail begins a short distance from the village within the grounds of the Falkland Estate. From here you follow the signposted path through tunnels and a winding trail that hugs the river all the way up the gorge where you will be treated to many delightful sights, accompanied all the while by the soothing sound of trickling water. At the end of this somewhat testing walk you will reach a spot of particular beauty. We don’t want to spoil the surprise, but we can assure you it is well worth the trek!
Maspie Den

Trails, Trails and more Trails!East Lomond
Whether you like a short stroll or a tougher trek we have it all here at Falkland! You can set off from the village and follow the many paths through wonderfully peaceful forest or pack your wind proofs and waterproofs (this is Scotland after all) and tackle East or West Lomond. You could walk for days and still not cover all the trails we have here!

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A slightly snowy Falkland Hill

Coffee & Crafts
After all the exertion of a day’s walking there is nothing better than a nice cup of coffee to relax with and in the village there are many places to choose from to sit back and enjoy a wee treat or two. Along with our cosy cafes  and  we have a thriving community of craft and gift shops where you can pick up a little memento or gift for that special someone. Here in Falkland our shops pride themselves on their individuality and you won’t find two of same things. Whether you are looking for locally crafted goods or just a postcard the gift shops in Falkland will be able to cater to your needs.

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Places to Eat and Stay
For such a small place Falkland is home to a fine selection of places to eat, drink and relax. From quality pub food to something a little more adventurous there is a little to suit the tastes of everyone. We can assure you that you won’t go hungry on your visit to Falkland! There is also a hotel, a self catering apartments and a holiday flat for you to stay in if you find that one day is not enough!

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Falkland Palace & Gardens
No list of our charming hometown would be complete without a mention of the Palace and Gardens. The current building was constructed between 1501 and 1540 by the Scottish Kings James IV and his son James V who both frequented Falkland regularly, the latter being laid to rest here in 1542. The Palace is one of the finest examples of Renaissance architecture that you will find in Scotland. Restored and looked after by the National Trust for Scotland in 1954 the building retains plenty of its historic splendour for you to enjoy. You can learn all about the history of the building on a self-guided tour of the interior and afterwards relax with a stroll through the expansive gardens where you will find much of interest. For instance we can boast to be the proud home of the oldest tennis court in Britain!

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Throughout the course of the year we also have a great range of events from Easter to Christmas and everything in between! You can find out more about all the fun goings on we have in store here.

 

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Orchard

Maintaining the Orchard


Work around the palace never ends, especially for our resident gardeners who are always kept busy none more so than in the Orchard. Our apple trees require a lot of maintenance throughout the year to keep them nice and in order. It’s necessary to ‘train’ the trees by applying ropes to the branches so that they grow to our gardener’s desires.

A fledgling's growth  being 'trained'

                  A fledgling’s growth being ‘trained’

The fruit that we harvest from our orchard is used in our annual Autumn fruit pressing events. We work to produce our own apple juice and invite local school children along to learn about this exciting process. It’s delightful work with a tasty and fresh drink at the end.

Collecting apples for our pressing workshop

Collecting apples for our pressing workshop

All of this hard work goes towards maintaining our Orchard in its beautiful state to be enjoyed by our visitors every year especially during the Summer time when our flowers come in to full bloom.

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                         The Orchard basking in the Summer sun

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Stained Glass Window Conservation Begins


Our Year of Conservation is well under way. First up are our beautiful stained glass windows. The process of removing the panels began this week. It’s a delicate job with these precious works of art and every care is taken to ensure they are kept unscathed. They are due to be cleaned up and restored before being returned back to us even more stunning than before. We are looking forward to seeing them sparkling new!

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The panels before removal looking in need of a good clean!

Removal of stained glass

One by one, each panel is carefully detached and stored

Easy now! The glass safely stored in the van on its way to being cleaned up

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Falkland Palace and Gardens Year of Conservation


2015 will be a year of conservation at Falkland Palace and Gardens with lots of exciting projects with conservation work taking place on some of our stunning stained glass windows, painted ceilings and stone roundels (similar to the Stirling Heads).

You can keep up to do date with all the happenings here as we chat to the conservators, give you lots of photo updates as well as information on talks and family workshops.

CeilingRoundlesstained glass

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2015: Falkland Palace Year of Conservation


2015 will be a year of conservation at Falkland Palace and Gardens with lots of exciting projects coming up over the course of the year. Conservation will be taking place on some of our stunning stained glass windows, painted ceilings and stone roundels (similar to the Stirling Heads).
You can keep up to date with all the happenings here as we chat to the conservators, give you lots of photo updates as well as more information on talks and family workshops.

 

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Henry and Gail

Conservation of the Mystic Marriage Completed


After several months of conservation work on The Mystic Marriage of Saint Catherine of Alexandria with Saint Apollonia is now completed and looking better than ever.

The painting has gone through various stages of cleaning, consolidating, conserving, careful moving St Appolonia's faceand wrapping to now be seen in it’s original glory.

Throughout this project visitors to the Palace have been able to see conservation work in action in the Chapel Royal and ask questions which had visitors coming back again and again to see how the work was progressing.

489 visitors from all over the world also left comments in our book:

“Excellent idea to be able to see expertise at work on site. Well done and thank you”

“Very impressive-very well explained”

“Fascinating and inspiring to learn that such restoration skills still exist in the 21st century!”

“Friendly and knowledgeable guide, thank you!”

“I’ll be back”

“Awesome visit loved it here can’t wait to come back!”

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The painting was first seen hung in it’s original place at the end of the Tapestry Gallery at our Christmas Weekend, surrounded by Christmas trees which was truly magical.

Wendy, Geri, Aisha and the rest of the team at Falkland Palace and Gardens would like to say a big thank you to everyone who made this project possible; Henry Matthews, Gail Egan, Julie Bon, Alistair Smith, Jane Batty, T&S and the volunteers at the Palace.

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Varnish

Day 109- The End is in Sight


The team are nearing the end of the painting conservation project after months of pain staking work.

Recently Gail and Henry have been filling in cracks in the wooden panel with plaster and painting over the plaster to bring the painting back to it’s former, unified glory.

After a coat of varnish they will assess the paint work as the varnish makes the details easier to see.

The varnish layer is then left to dry for a few days and in a weeks time the painting will finally be ready to be wrapped up once more and moved into the Tapestry Gallery to climatize before re-hanging.

Varnish

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Mary head

Day 45- Whole Again


The project is now in it’s 6th week and the team are entering the next phase of conservation.

The painting was recently turned on it’s face and Gail and Henry have been working on the woodworm damage on the back of the painting, which they have now completed.

Painting turned

The painting is now face up and visitors can see up close the cracks that have occurred in the wooden panel over the last 500 years.

Gail and Henry are filling these cracks with a special plaster just below the surface of the painting so as not to lose any of the original paintwork.

Plaster

Some of the edges of the painting have also been filled with the plaster as the woodworm damage has been particularly savage along the grain here.

Now that the painting is cleaned and one solid, smooth surface a hint of how magnificent this painting will look once the project is completed is starting to show.

The next stage will be to sit the painting upright against it’s special designed supports and to work on the re-touching of the plaster work.

Apolonia

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Morgan Sports Car Club 10th anniversary


Today 24 classic Morgan cars from the Morgan Sports Car Club parked up at Falkland Palace to celebrate the club’s 10th anniversary.

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These magnificent cars in this ancient setting was very evocative and a welcome addition to the visitors experience, as well as giving the staff an excuse to get out the office and visit the lovely gardens!

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After much debating no one could decide which was their favourite, they were all stunning though this blue beauty caught the attention of our Learning Officer, who said it was ‘pure braw’.

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Outlander comes to Falkland


Diana Gabaldon’s series, Outlander has been taken on by Starz to create a TV series that has everyone holding their breath.

The story which traces Claire Beachum’s journey as she travels back in time from the 1940s to 1700s after touching a stone in a stone circle in Inverness.

The National Trust for Scotland Team at Falkland Palace were delighted when Starz decided to film in Falkland Village, where the Palace sits proudly on the high street. We were shocked to find how similar Falkland resembled 1940s Inverness, complete with a fountain in the square (1940s Inverness on the left, Falkland Village 2014 on the right)

InvernessThe Bruce Fountain, Outlander, Falkland

Starz transformed the village of Falkland and took it back in time by painting shop fronts, moving street furniture and even setting up wind and rain machines (real rain doesn’t show up in films, believe us, it was raining!).

Shop

The village of Falkland waits patiently for the release of Outlander in Scotland. We leave you with a photograph of Falkland Village in 1940. If you have visited the village you will probably agree with the Starz team, it hasn’t changed much in all those years. It is a true time capsule and a place that will now link with the magic of Outlander forever.

1940

 

 

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Back

Day 22- Structural Work


Work has begun on the back of The Mystic Marriage this week after it was was carefully moved by professional art handlers T&S yesterday.

The thick wooden panel has a woodworm problem which conservators Henry and Gail are now addressing by injecting synthetic resin and micro balloons into the holes they have left.

Inject

This will not only kill off the pests but also add structural strength to the panel.

Edge

Henry and Gail said “We are very pleased with the progress we have made so far and the overwhelming interest  visitors have in the project. We are enjoying engaging with the public and explaining what we are doing”.

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Day 11- Varnish No More


Conservators Gail and Henry have been working hard to remove 500 years of layered varnishes and over paint to The Mystic Marriage. This rare Brini painting (1570) has been on show to the public for nearly two weeks in the Chapel Royal, as it has been undergoing some much needed conservation work.

Visitors, staff and the local media have greatly enjoyed watching the painting come to life through this unusual conservation project.

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Painstaking cleaning using cotton buds and organic solvents has revealed the exquisite original colours and paintwork, as well as highlighting the plaster repair work that has been carried out over the last half century, to fill in cracks in the wood.

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Now that the painting has been cleaned the next phase of treatment will be structural repair work to the wooden panel. This will involve lying the painting horizontally on it’s specially designed support boards and also tackling the wood worm problem.

This beautiful painting is finally getting the TLC it desperately needs and we are thrilled to be able to share this conservation project directly with the public, which is a first for the NTS.

To see the next stages of this fascinating project, keep checking back to this blog or visit our facebook http://on.fb.me/171AsJC and twitter http://bit.ly/1vkZmiO pages.

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Day 3- Paint Analysis


Over the last three days specialist conservators Gail and Henry have been carefully removing layers of discoloured varnish and dirt to reveal the true colours of the painting.

Both Henry and Gail believe that understanding the composition of the painting structure will greatly help them in deciding the most appropriate treatment to be carried out on the picture.

What was thought to be pale green turns out to be beautiful powder blue. What was once a dirty orange is bright gold.

Extra detail lost under the centuries of varnish is being revealed, in amazing colour such as the tiny face on the front of ST Appolonia’s dress and the delicate veil on her hair.

Technical analysis of the paint layers by Glasgow University Department of Technical Art History has identified pigments commonly used in the 15th and 16th centuries, as we had hoped to find.

Element Chart

200x UV

 

SamplePotential for further investigation into the paints used and the wood on which the subject is painted.

Visitors have been enthralled by being able to see the conservation work in action:

“Wonderful to see such an amazing process” Susan Walker

“A painstaking venture but will be stunning once finished” C. R from Kinross

Property Manager, Wendy Purvis said: “I’ve been spell bound by the process which has revealed the original paint. How fascinating it is to watch conservators at work and learn about the process as it happens live. This is the sort of thing that would normally happen behind closed doors but to see it every day is a real privilege.”

Project Manager, Julie Bon added “It has been exciting to be involved in this unique project. There’s been a lot of hard work put into the preparation and it’s great to see the painting and the conservation work in action in full view of the visitors.”

Come and see Gail and Henry at work in the Chapel Royal at 4pm on the 4th of August. Photos and interviews will be available with conservators Gail and Henry, Wendy Purvis, Falkland Palace Property Manager and Julie Bon, Trust Conservator and project manager.

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St Appolonia's face

Day 1- Cleaning the Painting


Work began on removing 500 years of varnish, retouching paint and dirt today by Henry and Gail.

Visitors and staff were astounded by the obvious difference in colour and tones that can already be seen.

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We had a pleasant surprise when we realised that the cream sleeve of St Catherine was in fact a beautiful baby pink!

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The parts of the painting that have already been cleaned are starting to look as fresh as the day they were painted, incredible!

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Let the work begin!


Spotted in the Chapel Royal: The Mystic Marriage has emerged from its packaging! With the painting unwrapped and the studio space installed, the much-anticipated conservation work can finally begin.

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The Mystic Marriage revealed.

As of next Monday, Henry and Gail will be hard at work in the Chapel Royal. Come on over if you’re interested in seeing conservation in action! Until then, you can check out the lovely interpretation set up around the studio space, which will let you know a bit more about the painting and the ongoing process.

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The studio space awaits Henry and Gail’s arrival.

 

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All set!


Thanks to Alistair and Mark’s hard work, the platform is now complete and The Mystic Marriage has been moved to its temporary home in the Chapel Royal.

Thus far the painting is proving to be a rather reclusive resident, as it is still under wraps and will remain so until it has acclimatised to its new surroundings. Best keep an eye out, however, for the painting will be revealed sometime within the next few weeks—we hope you are as excited as we are!

In the meantime, take a wee peek at the shiny new space as pictured below, and be sure to drop by the Chapel Royal throughout the process to watch it all happen in person.

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The painting awaits conservation in the Chapel Royal

 

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Preparing for the Painting


Alistair and Mark have been busy making the platform that the painting will be on while it is getting work done in the Chapel Royal (no nose jobs for Catharine Henry!)

This space will ensure that the painting will have enough room while allowing the public to see what is going on.

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The platform takes shape

Thankfully the local congregation are 100% behind the project and don’t mind losing a 20 chairs for a few months!

The staff have been wondering what the boys will do with all that wood once the project is completed, decking anyone?

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Mark observing his work

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Paint Sampling and UV lights


After the doors of Falkland Palace were closed the project team flew into action!

A back board was made for the painting to help support it and make it easier to move into the Chapel Royal from the Tapestry Gallery.

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The painting is very large (over 2x2m) on solid wood, with old metal brackets on the back the painting was also extremely heavy and required the help of the T&S team.

The protective conservation covering was taken off to allow Henry and Gail to take paint samples. This will give them a better idea of what the paint contains chemically and how best to treat it.

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They also had a look at the painting with a UV light. This enabled them to see the different layers of paint and retouching over the last 400 years, fascinating!

In the end it took the team 6 hours to make the board, unwarp the painting, attach the painting to the board, take paint samples, do a UV check and wrap up the painting again, phew!

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Meet the Project Team


I bet you are wondering, who are these crazy people who will be taking on this huge conservation project!

  • Henry and Gail- the conservationists who will be working on the painting, from Egan, Matthews and Rose in Dundee.
  • Julie Bon- NTS Conservator for the East
  • Alastair Smith- NTS Curator
  • Jane Beattie- NTS Interpretation Project Manager
  • Wendy Purvis- Falkland Palace Property Manager
  • Geri Clark- Falkland Palace Senior Property Assistant
  • Aisha Al-Sadie- Falkland Palace Learning Officer

We are all very excited to be working on this project and putting our different skills and expertise to make the most of this exciting and unusual project.

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The Mystic Marriage Conservation Project Begins


Today we have moved the The Mystic Marriage off the wall where it has been hung for a number of years.

Conservationists Henry and Gail had a good look at the painting to see what work will need to be done.Image

Like most painting conservation projects this one was planned to take place in the conservation studio, but the painting is too big to get out the Palace! So we have decided to do the work on site, how exciting! This is a very rare occurrence and certainly no one in the team ever remembers happening at all in the National Trust for Scotland.

The painting is now wrapped in conservation grade wrapping and left it to acclimatise in the Tapestry Gallery.

It will eventually be moved into the Chapel Royal onto a custom made platform to begin conservation work.

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