Scott Monument

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The Scott Monument Edinburgh Scott Monument.jpg
The Scott Monument
Statuary detail Scott Monument, Princes Street, Edinburgh Statuary detail Scott Monument, Princes Street, Edinburgh.jpg
Statuary detail Scott Monument, Princes Street, Edinburgh

The Scott Monument is a Victorian Gothic monument to Scottish author Sir Walter Scott. It is the second largest monument to a writer in the world after the José Martí monument in Havana. [1] It stands in Princes Street Gardens in Edinburgh, opposite the Jenners department store on Princes Street and near Edinburgh Waverley Railway Station, which is named after Scott's Waverley novels.


Design and concept

The tower is 200 feet 6 inches (61.11 m) high and has viewing platforms reached by a series of spiral staircases giving panoramic views of central Edinburgh and its surroundings. The highest platform is reached by a total of 287 steps. [2] It is built from Binny sandstone quarried near Ecclesmachan in West Lothian.

It is placed on axis with South St. David Street, the main street leading off St. Andrew Square to Princes Street, and is a focal point within that vista, its scale being large enough to screen the Old Town behind. Its location appears more random when seen from the south side and Princes Street Gardens, but it dominates the eastern section of the gardens through its scale and elevated position.


Scott's Monument as it appeared when nearly finished in October 1844 Sir Walter Scott's Monument, Edinburgh; as it appeared when nearly finished, in October 1844.jpg
Scott's Monument as it appeared when nearly finished in October 1844
Masons working on the Monument, photographed by Hill & Adamson in the early 1840s Masons at work on the Scott Monument, c.1841-44.jpg
Masons working on the Monument, photographed by Hill & Adamson in the early 1840s
The Sir Walter Scott statue designed by John Steell, located inside the Scott Monument Sir Walter Scott statue at Scott Monument.jpg
The Sir Walter Scott statue designed by John Steell, located inside the Scott Monument

Following Scott's death in 1832, a competition was held to design a monument to him. An unlikely entrant went under the pseudonym "John Morvo", the medieval architect of Melrose Abbey. Morvo was in fact George Meikle Kemp, 45 year-old joiner, draftsman, and self-taught architect. He had feared that his lack of architectural qualifications and reputation would disqualify him, but his design was popular with the competition's judges, and they awarded him the contract to construct the monument in 1838.

John Steell was commissioned to design a monumental statue of Scott to rest in the centre space within the tower's four columns. It is made from white Carrara marble and shows Scott seated, resting from writing one of his works with a quill pen, his dog Maida by his side. The monument carries 64 figures of characters from Scott's novels, sculpted by Scots sculptors including Alexander Handyside Ritchie, John Rhind, William Birnie Rhind, William Brodie, William Grant Stevenson, David Watson Stevenson, John Hutchison, George Anderson Lawson, Thomas Stuart Burnett, William Shirreffs, Andrew Currie, George Clark Stanton, Peter Slater, Amelia Robertson Hill (who also made the statue of David Livingstone immediately east of the monument), and the otherwise unknown Katherine Anne Fraser Tytler. [3] [4]

The stone masons and the Scott monument

The erection of the Scott monument came at a high cost to the stone masons involved, especially to the 'hewing masons' who were responsible for preparing the blocks, with their carvings and statues. This work was done in closed sheds, so that large quantities of fine dust were a continual part of their working environment. Things were not so bad for the 'building masons' who worked in the open, placing the already prepared blocks of stone. Because of the hardness of the stone from the Binnie quarry, near Uphall to the west of Edinburgh, used for the monument and other local buildings, Edinburgh masons were especially vulnerable to phthisis, the term used at the time for silico-tuberculosis. One contemporary observer says that the monument "killed twenty three of the finest hewers in Edinburgh." [5] :741–52 Another mentions "one half of the whole number of masons employed... dead of phhisis." [6] :25–52 [7]

Foundation Stone

The foundation stone was laid on 15 August 1840 by Sir James Forrest of Comiston in his capacity as Lord Provost and as Grand Master Mason of Scotland. [8] Construction began in 1841 following permission by Parliament's Monument to Sir Walter Scott Act and ran for nearly four years. It was completed in the autumn of 1844, with Kemp's son placing the finial in August of the year. The total cost was just over £16,154. [9] The monument was inaugurated on 15 August 1846, but George Meikle Kemp was absent. He had fallen into the Union Canal while walking home from the site and drowned on the foggy evening of 6 March 1844.

Statues and locations

There are 68 statues on the monument, not counting Scott and his dog, and 64 are visible from the ground. Four figures are placed above the final viewing gallery and are only visible by telephoto or from the viewing gallery (at a distorted angle). In addition, eight kneeling Druid figures support the final viewing gallery. There are 32 unfilled niches at higher level.

Sixteen heads of Scottish poets and writers appear on the lower faces, at the top of the lower pilasters. The heads represent, counter-clockwise from the northwest: James Hogg, Robert Burns, Robert Fergusson, Allan Ramsay, George Buchanan, Sir David Lindsay, Robert Tannahill, Lord Byron, Tobias Smollett, James Beattie, James Thomson, John Home, Mary, Queen of Scots, King James I of Scotland, King James V of Scotland, and William Drummond of Hawthornden.

(S) represents a small figure

Location [10] Figure [10] [11] Scott Novel associated [11] Sculptor [10]
North-East Buttress, lower tier, eastJock Dumbie, The Laird O’ Dumbiedykes The Heart of Midlothian William Brodie
North-East Buttress, lower tier, north-eastJeanie Deans The Heart of Midlothian William Brodie
North-East Buttress, lower tier, northFlora MacIvor Waverley John Hutchison
North Face, lower tierRavenswood (S) The Bride of Lammermoor John Rhind
North Face, lower tierLucy Ashton (S) The Bride of Lammermoor John Rhind
North Face, lower tierCaleb Balderstone (S) The Bride of Lammermoor William Grant Stevenson
North Face, central figure over archCharles Edward Stewart (Bonnie Prince Charlie) Waverley and Redgauntlet Alexander Handyside Ritchie
North Face, lower tierMadge Wildfire (S) The Heart of Midlothian William Brodie
North Face, lower tierDavie Deans (S) The Heart of Midlothian Thomas Stuart Burnett
North Face, lower tierEffie Deans (S) The Heart of Midlothian Thomas Stuart Burnett
North-West Buttress, lower tier, northLouise, The Glee Maiden, playing a mandolin The Fair Maid of Perth John Hutchison
North-West Buttress, lower tier, north-westHal O’ The Wynd The Fair Maid of Perth John Hutchison
North-West Buttress, lower tier, westEdith of Lorn The Lord of the Isles William Brodie
West Face, lower tier George Buchanan (S)Buchanan is a true historical figure referenced in many Scott novels John Rhind
West Face, lower tierJulia Mannering (S) Guy Mannering George Webster
West Face, lower tierDirk Hatteraick (S) Guy Mannering William Birnie Rhind
West Face, central figure over archThe Harp O’ The North The Lay of the Last Minstrel James Ritchie
West Face, lower tierRose Bradwardine (S)WaverleyD. Buchanan
West Face, lower tierDougal Cratur (S)Rob Roy Charles McBride
West Face, lower tierCatharine Glover, The Fair Maid of Perth (S)The Fair Maid of Perth David Watson Stevenson
South-West Buttress, lower tier, westMinna TroilThe Pirate Amelia Robertson Hill
South-West Buttress, lower tier, south-west George Heriot (holding a model of George Heriot’s School) The Fortunes of Nigel Peter Slater
South-West Buttress, lower tier, southBaillie Nicol Jarvie Rob Roy George Anderson Lawson
South Face, lower tierPeter Peebles (S) Redgauntlet William Grant Stevenson
South Face, lower tierConstance (S) Marmion (poem) Katherine Anne Fraser Tytler
South Face, lower tierWayland Smith (S) Kenilworth J.S. Gibson
South Face, central figure over archEllen Douglas, The Lady of the Lake The Lady of the Lake (poem) Peter Slater
South Face, lower tierGurth the Swineherd, with a pig at his feet (S) Ivanhoe William Shirreffs
South Face, lower tier Queen Elizabeth I (S), originally holding an orb and sceptre Kenilworth William Walker
South Face, lower tier Claverhouse (S) Old Mortality William Birnie Rhind
South-East Buttress, lower tier, southRebecca Ivanhoe George Clark Stanton
South-East Buttress, lower tier, south-eastDiana Vernon Rob Roy George Anderson Lawson
South-East Buttress, lower tier, east Mary, Queen of Scots The Abbot David Watson Stevenson
East Face, lower tierDugald Dalgetty (S) A Legend of Montrose John Rhind
East Face, lower tierThe Abbess (S) Marmion (poem) William Grant Stevenson
East Face, lower tier James Graham, 1st Marquess of Montrose (S) A Legend of Montrose David Watson Stevenson
East Face, central figure over archMeg Merrilees, the gypsy (originally holding a green bough of copper, now missing) Guy Mannering Alexander Handyside Ritchie
East Face, lower tierRichie Moniplies, a well-dressed servant (S) The Fortunes of Nigel John Rhind
East Face, lower tierThe Lady of Avenel (S) The Monastery and The Abbot Thomas Stuart Burnett
East Face, lower tierSir Piercie Shafton (S) The Monastery George Clark Stanton
North-East Buttress, upper tier eastOld Mortality (Robert Paterson) leaning on a walking stick Old Mortality Andrew Currie
North-East Buttress, upper tier, north-east Robert the Bruce The Lord of the Isles (poem) George Anderson Lawson
North-East Buttress, upper tier, north Edie Ochiltree The Antiquary George Anderson Lawson
North Face, upper tier, left of window King Charles I Mentioned in several Scott novels David Watson Stevenson
North Face, upper tier, right of window John Knox, holding an open Bible towards the streetMentioned in several Scott novels John Rhind
North-West Buttress, upper tier, north Robert Dudley, 1st Earl of Leicester Kenilworth William Brodie
North-West Buttress, upper tier, north-westAmy Robsart Kenilworth William Brodie
North-West Buttress, upper tier, westBaron Bradwardine Waverley John Hutchison
West Face, upper tier, left of windowHelen MacGregor holding a sword and targe Rob Roy William Brodie
West Face, upper tier, right of window Rob Roy MacGregor Rob Roy John Rhind
South-West Buttress, upper tier, westMagnus TroilThe Pirate Amelia Robertson Hill
South-West Buttress, upper tier, south-westKing James VI The Fortunes of Nigel David Watson Stevenson
South-West Buttress, upper tier, southHalbert Glendinning The Monastery and The Abbot David Watson Stevenson
South Face, upper tier, left of windowBalfour of Burley Old Mortality William Birnie Rhind
South Face, upper tier, right of window Oliver Cromwell Woodstock William Brodie
South-East Buttress, upper tier, south Saladin The Talisman George Clark Stanton
South-East Buttress, upper tier, south-east Friar Tuck Ivanhoe George Clark Stanton
South-East Buttress, upper tier, east Richard the Lionheart Ivanhoe, The Talisman and The Betrothed Amelia Robertson Hill
East Face, upper tier, left of window Ivanhoe, in chainmail and plumed helmet, visor dropped, holding a heavy lance Ivanhoe John Rhind
East Face, upper tier, right of windowBrian de Bois-Guilbert, Knight Templar Ivanhoe William Birnie Rhind
Head of North-East Buttress, attaching main spireWamba the Jester Ivanhoe unknown
Head of North-West Buttress, attaching main spireCrusader Tales of the Crusaders unknown
Head of South-West Buttress, attaching main spire The Abbot, holding a staff and rosary (nose missing) The Abbot unknown
Head of South-East Buttress, attaching main spireNun clasping a crossAppear in several Scott novelsunknown
Pinnacle, above upper gallery, northMeg DodsSt Ronan’s Wellunknown
Pinnacle, above upper gallery, west Dominie Sampson (fingers restored 1999) Guy Mannering unknown
Pinnacle, above upper gallery, southMause Headrigg Old Mortality unknown
Pinnacle, above upper gallery, eastDandie Dinmont with his terrier at his feet Guy Mannering unknown

Modern administration

In the early 1990s it was proposed that the stonework should be cleaned. There were views for and against cleaning and a scientific/geological investigation, including cleaning trials on samples of stone, was carried out. It was decided not to clean the stone due to the damage it would sustain. A restoration programme was undertaken involving replacing old repairs and damaged areas with Binny stone for which purpose the original quarry was re-opened. [12] The fresh stonework contrasts with the smoke-darkened original.

The overall cost of the restoration was £2.36 million and was funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund, Historic Scotland and the City of Edinburgh Council. [13]

The monument is now administered by the Culture and Sport division of the City of Edinburgh Council (See External Links for visitor information) who in 2016 installed a new LED lighting system. The design of the lights was "intended to highlight the monument’s architectural features with a soft warm glow" and were first illuminated on 21 September 2016. [14]

A panorama of Edinburgh, seen from the Scott Monument Edinburgh from Scott Monument.jpg
A panorama of Edinburgh, seen from the Scott Monument

The monument is featured prominently in the 2012 film Cloud Atlas , as a location which the character Robert Frobisher frequents.[ citation needed ]

The artist Alan Reed has said that the monument always reminds him of a Gothic version of one of the Thunderbirds. [15]

See also

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  8. Notes of The Grampian Club 1900
  9. "The Scott Monument: Introduction" . Retrieved 26 June 2018.
  10. 1 2 3 "The Scott Monument" (PDF). Public Monuments and Sculpture Association. 9 June 2011. Retrieved 27 July 2018.
  11. 1 2 "Characters from Scott's Novels". The Scott Monument. Retrieved 27 July 2018.
  12. "The Monument" . Retrieved 31 January 2012.
  13. As stated on an information panel in the monument
  14. "Floodlights planned to light up Scott Monument". Edinburgh Evening News . 21 September 2016. Retrieved 27 July 2018.
  15. "Princes Street Gardens". Alan Reed.

Coordinates: 55°57′8.7″N3°11′35.8″W / 55.952417°N 3.193278°W / 55.952417; -3.193278