A collection of drawings, manuscripts and engravings relating to the Chapel has been conserved and digitised by staff at Historic Environment Scotland (HES) and has now gone on display for the first time.
The collection, assembled by prominent architectural publisher and antiquarian John Britton (1771-1857), reveals contemporary thoughts from the likes of architects William Burn and George Meikle Kemp about the restoration and history of the Chapel. By the 19th Century, the Chapel had fallen into picturesque disrepair and the 3rd Earl of Rosslyn ordered external repairs, overseen by Edinburgh architect William Burn, with the restoration of the interior beginning in 1861 under architect David Bryce. This restoration became the source of disagreement and debate, revealed in HES’s newly acquired collection, which includes evidence of correspondence between artist David Roberts and John Britton. The papers also contain the views of Britton’s circle of correspondents including George Meikle Kemp, architect of the Scott Monument, and Sir Walter Scott himself, highlighting how passionately architects and artists alike felt about the building, and the regard in which Rosslyn Chapel was held.
The acquisition of this album was made possible with a grant from Friends of the National Libraries and the support and advice of the Rosslyn Chapel Trust.
The album has been digitised and can be viewed on Canmore – https://canmore.org.uk/collection/2574975
To celebrate its acquisition and conservation, the album has gone on display for the first time in an exhibition about the fashion for antiquarianism in Scotland and the lure of Rosslyn Chapel, from the founding of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, to the mass publication of souvenir guides for tourists. The exhibition, at HES Archives in Edinburgh, is open until October 2024. For opening times and more information, please follow this link – HES exhibition
Veronica Fraser, Acquisitions and Loans Manager at HES said: ‘This collection holds particular importance as it relates to one of Scotland’s most renowned and architecturally fascinating historic buildings and demonstrates how it invoked so much inspiration and strength of feeling in the past and continues to intrigue people from around the world to this day. HES are delighted to be able to make this wealth of information available to researchers and members of the public and we are grateful to the generosity of the Friends of the National Libraries and the support of the Rosslyn Chapel Trust to bring this material into our archives and provide people with the opportunity to find out more about this exciting chapter in the Chapel’s story.”
Ian Gardner, Director of Rosslyn Chapel Trust, said: ‘It’s wonderful that this important collection of papers relating to Rosslyn Chapel is now in the safe care of Historic Environment Scotland and is available for public consultation. Since it was founded in 1446, the Chapel has attracted, intrigued and inspired debate amongst artists, writers and visitors, as clearly shown in this collection, and it continues to do so today.’
Read more about how the collection was conserved on Historic Environment Scotland’s website – Rosslyn Gem Preserved – Historic Environment Scotland Blog