King’s Gate Re-opens December 1st
29th November, 2018
Early in 2018, a delivery truck drove into and damaged Dalkeith Country Park’s iconic King’s Gate. Built in 1851, the gates and the entrance they guard are steeped in history. The gateway and its gates were inspired by the 16th century Flemish gates of London’s Holland Park. So to restore them was not an average job for Stewart Inkster, director of Stonemasons Edinburgh.
What was your reaction when you saw the damage done to the gates? It’s always sad to see something so ionic as the King’s Gates being damaged. When you think of the workmanship and skill that went into creating such a beautiful piece. I’m from Dalkeith so I was particularly saddened.
The gates were built in 1851 – what are the challenges when asked to restore something like that? The King’s Gates Dalkeith were built by the 5th Duke of Buccleuch to celebrate the visit of King George IV to Scotland in 1822. The King had headed to Scotland for his one and 20 daft days tour when he was escaping an England that looked like it might follow the French lead into a revolution. It was the first visit of a reigning monarch to Scotland in nearly two centuries, the last being by King Charles I for his Scottish coronation in 1633.
What have been the challenges? The main challenge was in the safe removal of the priceless Coade Stone urns and rebuilding them. The Coade Stone mix is lost in time so there would be no way to replace them making them priceless. With this in mind it can bring a sense of concern as well as pride at taking on this responsibility.
Has the task been straightforward or have there been unforeseen challenges along the way? The re-build of the stone work was straight forward, however the archway had a hidden fish tail design in the stone work. Therefore removing this and reattaching was tricky. One of the main challenges was re-building the stone work to ensure that we matched the original spacing. Normally stone is built with around a 5mm spacing whereas a 2mm spacing was utilised. That meant a key attention to detail was required as there was such a small margin for error. The biggest challenge overall was the removal and the re-building of the urns.
Is there an element of pride in bringing such iconic constructions back to their former glory? Yes absolutely, stonemasonry is one of those jobs that gives you great satisfaction in the knowing that this will be up for 100 years or so. That gives you a sense of pride. I especially feel privileged when asked to work on such iconic historic buildings and monuments such as this. Knowing that I am playing a key part in restoring our history for future generations to come.
You’ve called this job a once in a lifetime job – can you elaborate on that a bit and tell us why it’s such a special one? Nowadays to build something like this it would cost so much money therefore the opportunity to build is not there. I may never get the opportunity again, which is a shame that the same care and attention to finer detail is lost in our modern buildings today. Our historic stone buildings and monuments were built to last. With a bit of care and attention they are still standing and will continue to stand for years to come. On the other hand many buildings nowadays will not be here in even 50 years.
Edinburgh Stonemasons specialises in the conservation and restoration of stone buildings and structures.