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Traquair mural restoration launched on film

31 July 2007

The legacy of one of Scotland’s most admired artists is assured as her work forms the centrepiece of new traditional skills training.

Phoebe Anna Traquair was a leading contributor to the Arts and Crafts Movement and the multi-million pound restoration of her murals attracted interest from around the world.

Now the details of the complex conservation project is available in a new book and two DVDs produced by the Mansfield Traquair Trust and Historic Scotland.

Ingval Maxwell, Historic Scotland director of technical conservation, research and education, said: “The Traquair murals are beautiful and many different crafts skills were needed to restore them to their original glory. It provided an extraordinary opportunity for a number of our trainees and apprentices.

“The experience and knowledge that we took away from the restoration can be used in other projects and is fascinating, not just as a practical guide, but as an insight into the intricacies of the work of this incredible artist. This is the first time that the agency has made its research available on film and hopefully the different formats will give people an even better impression of how remarkable these paintings are.”

The Mansfield Traquair Trust was formed in 1993 to  find a viable use for the former Catholic Apostolic Church in Edinburgh. Funding for the murals project came from Historic Scotland, the Heritage Lottery Fund and City of Edinburgh Council.

The conservation work was carried out in 2002-03 and now the building is home to the headquarters to the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations.

Notes for editors

  • The Mansfield Traquair Centre is the former Catholic Apostolic Church in Mansfield Place on the edge of Edinburgh’s historic New Town.  The building, completed in 1885, was designed by the prominent 19th century architect Sir Robert Rowand Anderson.  Its most outstanding feature is an extensive scheme of magnificent mural decoration painted over eight years by Phoebe Anna Traquair.  This has led the Church to be known as ‘Edinburgh’s Sistine Chapel’. Phoebe Traquair employed a technique revolutionary at the time of an oil mixed with turpentine and wax on a zinc white ground.

  • Traquair, the leading artist of the Arts and Crafts movement in Scotland, worked in a wide range of media which, in addition to mural decoration, included easel painting, embroidery, manuscript illumination, book cover tooling and enamelling.  During the 1890s and 1900s she exhibited in Chicago, London, Turin and St Louis, and it was her decoration of the Mansfield Place Church which helped confirm this international recognition.

  • After the Church ceased to be a place of worship in 1958, it fell into disrepair and through the years, severe damage resulted to both the fabric of the building and to Traquair’s remarkable murals.  In 1993 increasing public concern over the deterioration of the church and the murals led to the establishment of the Mansfield Traquair Trust and the development of a multi-million pound renovation scheme.

  • With funding from The Heritage Lottery Fund, Historic Scotland, and donations from a wide range of organisations and private donors, the renovation of the building was completed in 2002.  A major project to restore the murals began the following year, undertaken as a result of a partnership of Historic Scotland and the Mansfield Traquair Trust.  

  • Mansfield Church is category A-listed in recognition of its national importance. A copy of the list description and images of the murals are available from Lesley Brown.

  • Historic Scotland is responsible for keeping and updating the nation’s list of buildings and structures that warrant legal protection due to their architectural or historic importance. Historic Scotland is an executive agency of the Scottish Government.

For further information

Lesley Brown
Communications and Media Officer
Communications and Media
0131 668 8603 or 07788 923873