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Scott Monument
Princes Street, Edinburgh, UK
associated engineer
Not known
date  15th August 1840 - August 1844
era  Victorian  |  category  Monument, historical  |  reference  NT254739
Built as a memorial to Sir Walter Scott (1771-1832), and the largest monument commemorating a writer in the country, the Scott Monument is in the Gothic style and takes the form of four ornate arching columns supporting a central spire.
The monument is constructed in Binny sandstone from West Lothian, and is 61.1m high and 15.2m square. Its 15.8m deep foundation is excavated into bedrock, partly to support the structure and partly to safeguard it against the Caledonian Railway Company's tunnelling works only 2.6m from the foundation.
Inside, the structure has four storeys connected by a spiral staircase, with 360 degree views from each level — and 287 steps to the top. There is a museum about Scott and his monument on Level 1.
At ground level, a twice life-size statue of Scott seated on a raised dais sits in the open space at the centre of the monument. It was carved from a single 30 tonne block of white Carrara marble. The vaulted ceiling above the statue is supported on pilasters adorned with images of 16 Scottish poets, while 64 niches display models of Scott's literary characters.
The design of the monument was the subject of a competition (prize 50 guineas), won by accomplished draughtsman George Meikle Kemp under a pseudonym. It cost more than £16,000 to build and was funded mostly by public subscriptions. Although Kemp supervised the works initially, he drowned on 6th March 1844 and so did not see his masterpiece completed — it opened in August 1844 under the supervision of William Bonnar. The foundation stone was laid by the Right Honourable Sir James Forrest on 15th August 1840, Scott’s birthday. The day was made a public holiday in Edinburgh.
Some restoration was carried out in the early 1990s. The cost of further remedial works led to a discussion about whether to sell the monument in 1996. It is now administered by the Culture & Sport division of the City of Edinburgh Council.
In 1998-9, the monument was closed for structural restoration funded by the City of Edinburgh Council, the Heritage Lottery Fund and Historic Scotland. The original quarry was re-opened to supply replacement stone for the works.
Over the years, the original pale sandstone and white marble had darkened to sooty black as a result of air pollution. Now Scott's statue is again white and the new stonework is the original light colour. It was decided not to clean all the sandstone, to prevent further damage.
The Grade A listed monument is open to the paying public all year.
Architect: George Meikle Kemp
Contracto: David Lind
Sculpture of Scott: Sir John Steell
Research: ECPK
bibliography
www.edinburgh.gov.uk
www.edinburgharchitecture.co.uk
Location

Scott Monument