Edinburgh World Heritage - News Article


Charles II restored for a second time

Edinburgh’s oldest statue has been carefully removed for conservation.

Oct 24, 2010

The statue of Charles II in Parliament Square, Edinburgh, is the oldest equestrian lead statue in the UK. Dating back to 1685, some now attribute it as the work of the famous seventeenth century sculptor Grinling Gibbons.

The conservation work is part on the on-going Twelve Monument Restoration Project, a joint initiative of Edinburgh World Heritage and the City of Edinburgh Council. The work to the Charles II statue is also being funded with generous contributions from the Scottish Court Service, the High Constables of Edinburgh, the Faculty of Advocates, the WS Society, the Old Town Association and many other private donors.

The lead statue is supported by an internal framework, made of oak and mild steel. Over time this has deteriorated, putting stress on the statue and causing cracks in the lead.

Adam Wilkinson, Director of Edinburgh World Heritage said: “The statue of Charles II is utterly beguiling, far from the pomposity of his father’s statue in Trafalgar Square in London. Statuary is one of the aspects of the World Heritage Site that is easily forgotten, yet which plays an important part in creating the drama of some of our public spaces."

The statue was transported to the Rochester studio of Hall Conservation Ltd for specialist conservation work.

The statue will be carefully taken apart and rebuilt, supported by a new internal stainless steel frame. The lead will be cleaned and missing parts such as his sword and scabbard replaced, modelled on a similar statue at Windsor Castle.

The conservation work is expected to take six months, with the statue returned to its former glory in spring 2011.

Statue Timeline

•    16 Apr 1685 - erected by the Provost, Magistrates and Council in Parliament Close at a cost of £2,584 Scots. The bill emanated from Rotterdam and some attribute the design to Grinling Gibbons. The statue depicts Charles II as a laurelled Roman General.

•    1689 - Latin inscription penned by William Clerk (advocate) who later sued for payment!

•    1732, 1785, 1817 - minor repairs and in 1786 ‘three coats of strong paint’ were applied, apparently white and at a cost of three guineas. The condition of the horse was not helped by the tradition of young Edinburgh lads climbing up on it to nail garlands to it annually on June 4 to mark the birthday of George III.

•    1835 2nd Restoration - After removal from Parliament Square in 1824 ‘in a state of decay’ horse and rider languished in the yard of Calton Jail for 11 years. In 1835, following repairs costing £30 6s 6 1/2d, Charles was placed upon a new plinth of Craigleith stone which included two inscriptions from the original pedestal.

•    1843 - Magistrates had the statue painted white.

•    1922 - Some repairs undertaken with the statue suspended from a scaffold.

•    1952 3rd Restoration - Following removal from Parliament Square in 1949, storage at Russell Road yard for two years, and repairs at a Lambeth foundry in 1951, Charles was yet again restored to Parliament Square in February 1952.

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