Edinburgh World Heritage - News Article


New challenge for masons helps keep traditional skills alive

EWH funded work at 25 Learmonth Terrace is offering a unique opportunity for masons to develop specialist skills.

Oct 8, 2013

The elaborate late-Victorian townhouse was designed in 1891 by Leith architect James Simpson to house the eclectic fine art and antiques collection of wine and whisky merchant Arthur Sanderson.

EWH have contributed a repayable grant of £290,381 towards restoration of the building’s complex and ornate exterior, to repair extensive damage to the stonework caused by weathering and by inappropriate work carried out in the 1960s.

Architect for the Learmonth Terrace project George Morrison said: “The contractor states that in the last 25 years of business they have not had a project requiring stone carving work in such detail. The stone masons are truly enjoying and benefiting from the opportunity to use and develop their skills.”

Stone masons from Forbes Davidson & Co. were challenged not only with repairing detailed carvings but in many cases reconstructing entire sections of the decorative scheme. The Corinthian sandstone capitals on the façade have now been reconstructed in line with the style and proportions of the architecture after all original detail was smoothed over with cement during the 1960s.

Left: A new scolled bracket at Learmonth Terrace, carved by hand. Photographer Kevin Maclean.

Exceptional care has been taken to preserve the existing stonework while seamlessly replacing damaged architectural features including several balusters and a highly decorative frieze. Other skilled work has included carving and installing two large scrolled brackets and reforming dormer windows.

Maintaining and developing traditional skills such as masonry is crucially important for the upkeep of Scotland’s traditional buildings, which account for around 20% of Scotland’s housing stock. It was recently estimated that 75% of Scotland’s traditionally buildings are in need of repair, and yet there are currently only around 500 masons in Scotland. Projects such as Learmonth Terrace are key to sustaining and increasing that skilled work force.

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