Raising the roof

Linlithgow Palace
Linlithgow Palace

PLANS to re-roof the 15th century Linlithgow Palace are back on the table as the ancient ruin has gained worldwide recognition after hosting a Chanel fashion show last December.

This week Historic Scotland confirmed they were revisiting the idea, after the fashion house’s Metiers D’Art show took the Palace by storm.

A Historic Scotland spokesperson said: “The Metiers D’Art showcased Linlithgow Palace and the town to a global audience. Following on from this hugely successful event we, along with a range of organisations, have begun to assess the wider long term strategy for Linlithgow and the Palace. This will involve exploring numerous options, their viability and the possible economic, social and cultural benefits they could create.

“Re-roofing is one of many options being discussed as part of the local working group.’’

If a roof was created, it would be the first time the landmark has been covered since 1746, when it was gutted by fire after the 1745 Jacobite rebellion. Plans to re-roof the Palace have surfaced in every generation, such as in 1964 when St Michael’s Parish Church gained it’s new spire, and it was an idea championed by past Provost Jimmy McGinley in the 1990s.

In 1996, Historic Scotland commissioned a study to examine re-roofing the Palace, but plans were rejected over concerns that the original structure would be damaged.

Local architect Thom Pollock came up with plans at that time for a temporary roof to meet the agency’s concerns.

He said: “I came up with plan for a temporary roof structure that would be removable, to shelter performances and events. We did not come up with a permanent structure idea as this was something Historic Scotland were not keen on as it could cause damage to the stonework.

“It would be excellent to have the Palace re-roofed, and to have accommodation that could be used for events.”

Re-roofing plans have tended to focus on the North Range of the Palace as it is not known what the roof that once covered the Great Hall looked like.

But costs for re-roofing the Great Hall, the chapel and north wing of the Palace, creating conference facilities and short stay accommodation, have been estimated at £6-10 million.

Linlithgow MSP Fiona Hyslop said: “We would need considerable upfront funding at a time when the UK Government has slashed the capital budget for the Scottish Government, however we need to prepare now for when funds can become available. That’s why I am convening meetings between Historic Scotland and groups in the town to look at a long term strategy to maximise the potential of the Palace.”

Alan Brown of local group Transition Linlithgow said: “As it stands the Palace and Peel are wasted assets. Historic Scotland need to do a lot more, and the town needs to encourage and support them to put on more events and to restore the Palace.”

The present Palace building was begun in 1424 for King James I and completed over the next two centuries. James V was born here in 1512, followed by Mary, Queen of Scots in 1542. The Palace was occupied during 1650–59 by Oliver Cromwell, but was gutted by fire in 1746 after occupation by the Duke of Cumberland’s soldiers, remaining roofless ever since.

BIRD’S EYE VIEW: Photographer Gordon McBrearty captures one of the popular Scotch Hop dances, looking down from the ramparts of the Palace.