Edinburgh World Heritage - News Article


Geddes dragons return to their lair

A set of ornamental dragons with links to Patrick Geddes have been restored to their former glory.

Jul 8, 2013

The four dragons decorate Wardrop’s Court in the Lawnmarket and date to the 1890s At that time, Geddes was trying to encourage the regeneration of the Old Town, by bringing university students and tutors to live in the community. Two of the dragons were carved by Geddes’ 16 year old son Arthur, guided by the sculptor Alec Miller, who was with the Guild of Handicrafts, a key part of the Arts and Crafts movement.

The dragons were removed last year and taken to the City of Edinburgh Council’s Museum Collection Centre for restoration work. Edinburgh World Heritage awarded a grant towards the work, along with donations from the Brownlee Old Town Trust and Claire Geddes, daughter of Arthur Geddes and grand daughter of the famous town planner. (right: Claire Geddes with a dragon carved by her father.)

Close examination revealed the different layers of paint applied through the years.  This showed that the dragons were originally a blue colour, with gilding on areas of carved detail such as on the head, feathered wings, teeth, and claws.

The loose and flaking paint was removed and loose parts reattached to the carvings. Specialist wood carver John McRitchie has replaced all the missing features with new limewood. This has included missing teeth, parts of the tails, feathers off the wings, and the tips of the 'combs' on the dragons head. A joiner has also been taken on by John to be trained in conservation, funded through the Heritage Craft Association. In addition, two volunteer conservators, James Muldoon and Georgina Vanhof, have been helping out with the project, painting and gilding the dragons.

Fiona Rankin, World Heritage Projects Manager for Edinburgh World Heritage said: “This project has not only restored these historically important dragons, but also provided a great opportunity for trainee conservators to gain some valuable experience. Their restoration maintains the link between the Lawnmarket and Patrick Geddes, and follows his tradition of encouraging conservation.”

Rosemary Mann of the The Brownlee Old Town Trust, said: “The Trust is delighted to see the dragon brackets returned to their lair in Wardop's Court following their restoration.  These are very distinguished dragons, and are a direct link with Patrick Geddes whose vision and initiative resulted in the Lawnmarket being restored as a desirable place to live, work and visit.  The Brownlee Old Town Trust is pleased to have been involved in the restoration through its grant towards the cost of gold leaf and in support of the student conservators who worked to restore the dragons to their original splendour.”

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