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Contractor appointed for Stirling Palace restoration project

2 September 2008

Historic Scotland has appointed leading Scottish contractor Morris & Spottiswood for its ambitious project to conserve the Royal Palace at Stirling Castle and to present it in its Renaissance glory.

The go-ahead for the Stirling Palace Project, and the culmination of many years of conservation and restoration work at Stirling Castle, was announced in June 2008.  £12 million is being invested by Historic Scotland including funding of £3 million granted by the Scottish Government.  

Following the appointment of Morris & Spottiswood, works will commence on-site on 2nd September.  Scheduled for completion in 2011, the Stirling Palace Project involves the conservation and refurbishment of the Royal Lodgings to present them as they might have appeared in the heyday of Scotland’s Stewart court. The apartments will be furnished in the style of the mid 16th century, and extensive historical and archaeological research has been undertaken to ensure the interior decoration, as well as the materials and craftsmanship used, are as authentic as possible.

The contract won by Morris & Spottiswood, which is worth £4.8 million, comprises three key sections of works.  Section I, the main Palace contract, will be completed in January 2010.  It covers conservation, refurbishment and maintenance works to all areas of the Palace and the Old Chapel, including the Palace Vaults where there will be an interpretative display on the court of James V. It also includes the creation of a Renaissance Gallery on the upper floors of the Palace which will house the original Stirling Heads, a rare group of intricately carved oak ceiling medallions depicting kings, queens, courtiers and mythological creatures.  Section 2 of the contract comprises 12 works in the King’s Old Building, entailing refurbishment of toilet facilities and installation of services. Section 3 covers site attendance on the fitting out, painting and furnishing of the Palace and Gallery.

Morris & Spottiswood Business Unit Head, Tony Ward, said: “We are delighted to have been appointed principal contractor for this key stage of the Stirling Palace Project. This is a site of great historical importance and therefore a very prestigious project to be involved in.  In addition, there are several challenges which make it a very interesting project.  We are investigating, for example, using a helicopter for movement of the materials because the entrance to the castle doesn’t allow for large heavy vehicles or cranes.  All the steelworks therefore need to be connected and constructed on site and the scaffolding will need to be specially designed because of the crag-top location of the castle.”

Chris Watkins, head of Historic Scotland’s major projects team, said: “We have already completed a great deal of important conservation and interpretation work at Stirling Castle and this last phase, to present the interior of James V’s magnificent Palace as it might have appeared in the mid 16th century, is the most ambitious.  We will not only be conserving the Palace as a monument of international importance but also presenting and interpreting the Royal Lodgings, the life of the Royal Court and the superb Renaissance carvings.  The rich history of the period will be brought to life by costumed interpreters helping to increase the appeal of Scotland’s finest Renaissance Palace and encouraging more people to visit both the castle and city of Stirling.”



  • Stirling Castle is one of Scotland’s grandest castles due to its imposing position and impressive architecture. From the castle’s ramparts, visitors can take in views over two of Scotland’s most important battle sites – Stirling Bridge (1297) and Bannockburn (1314). The castle is at the head of Stirling’s historic old town, off M9 junction 9 or 10. Tel: 01786 450000. Admission: Adult £8.50; Child £4.25; Concessions £6.50 (includes admission to Argyll’s Lodging).

  • The Stirling Castle Project has seen major conservation work over many years to preserve the castle as a major national and international monument. Both the castle and its palace fell into disrepair in the 17th century but refitting for military use ensured that some parts remained in good condition as the army often covered up, rather than removed, original features. The castle ceased being a military depot in 1964. It later became a paid-for visitor attraction but many of the buildings were largely bare and there was little in the way of exhibits or information. In 1991 Historic Scotland put forward proposals for a multi-phase project to turn the castle into a world-class visitor attraction. Achievements to date include the: return of the Great Hall to how it appeared in the days of the Stewart kings and queens; new shop and ticketing facilities; provision of education rooms; addition of the tapestry studio; return of the Great Kitchens to how they might have been in the Middle Ages; refurbishment of the Chapel Royal; creation of a modern café; conservation and maintenance of all areas of the castle.

  • The Royal Palace at Stirling is one of the most prominent buildings within the castle walls. With magnificent facades, it is quadrangular in design with a central courtyard. The palace’s designer was probably one of several French master masons in James V’s employment and the building is of outstanding interest as an example of royal planning and the increasingly sophisticated protocol of courtly life. Recent years have seen parts of the palace closed for a major programme of archaeological research – the largest of its kind on a building in Scotland. At present the royal lodgings, on the ground floor, have been stripped of cementicious plaster to conserve the historic fabric and exposed the underlying archaeology of the building. The first floor is largely unused at present. Its fittings are much as they were when the army departed and, in some cases, date back to the 18th century. The interior will be kept intact when this area is transformed into the Renaissance Gallery. The vaults contain exhibits about life at Stirling’s royal court and these will be upgraded.

  • The Stirling Palace Project highlights include the:- conservation of the Queen’s Outer Hall, Queen’s Inner Hall and Queen’s Bed Chamber so they are fully decorated and furnished in mid-16th century style;- re-presentation of the King’s Outer Hall, King’s Inner Hall and King’s Bed Chamber as splendidly decorated, but unfurnished lodgings – as it is believed they were after the death of James V; - costumed interpreters who will help bring the past of the palace to life for visitors;- creation of a Renaissance Gallery on the upper floor of the palace, where the original Stirling Heads will be displayed;- displays and exhibits in the Renaissance Gallery allowing visitors to find out about Scotland’s place in Renaissance Europe and the story behind the splendid stone statuary on the outside of the palace; - updating of exhibitions about the lives of courtiers, including jesters and musicians, in the palace vaults; - modernisation of the introductory display, telling the story of Stirling Castle throughout the ages, in the Queen Anne casemates.

  • Historic Scotland cares for over 345 heritage properties and sites from the Highlands and Islands to the Borders. Ranging from prehistoric dwellings to medieval castles, and from cathedrals to industrial buildings, these include some of the leading tourism attractions in the country. Some of the most popular are Edinburgh, Stirling and Urquhart Castles, Skara Brae, and the Border Abbeys. For further details visit: Historic Scotland’s Mission is: to safeguard Scotland’s historic environment and to promote its understanding and enjoyment.

  • Morris & Spottiswood Ltd is a leading provider of fit out, refurbishment and maintenance services to the public authority, retail, banking, commercial, education and healthcare sectors across Scotland and North West England.  Established in 1925, the company is Britain’s third largest shopfitter. Morris & Spottiswood is also a leading regional provider of new build, refurbishment and maintenance services to the affordable housing sector.

For further information

Rebecca Hamilton
Marketing and Media Manager
Marketing and Media
0131 668 8685 / 07788 923871