Lews Castle, Morning Room (Stornoway, Outer Hebrides) – revealing, conserving and restoring Victorian murals scheme
Lews Castle was built in the 1840s as the country seat for Sir James Matheson with his fortune made from the Chinese opium trade. In 1918 the castle was bought by industrialist Lord Leverhulme, who gifted it to the people of Stornoway parish in 1923. However, Lews Castle gradually fell into disrepair and had been unoccupied since the late 1990s.
As part of development plans to renovate the castle as a hotel, museum and cultural centre, Western Isles Council (Comhairle nan Eilean Siar) commissioned Scottish Wall Paintings Conservators to uncover, conserve and restore the remains of an elaborate Victorian murals scheme in the Morning Room.
Much of the overpaint was fairly loosely bound, therefore it was possible to reveal the wallpainting mechanically using a scalpel blade.
The paint surface was then spot cleaned where required, and small holes and cracks were filled.
Only one wall of the scheme had survived under later overpaint layers, and large sections of the decoration on this wall had been entirely lost. Through a combination of archival research and working out the design from what survived, there was sufficient information to effectively reconstruct losses to reintegrate the decoration.