The Scott Monument is a Victorian Gothic monument to Scottish author Sir Walter Scott. It is the largest monument to a writer in the world. It stands in Princes Street Gardens in Edinburgh, opposite the Jenners department store on Princes Street and near to Edinburgh Waverley Railway Station, which is named for one of Scott's novels.
The tower is 200 feet 6 inches (61.11 m) high, and has a series of viewing platforms reached by a series of narrow spiral staircases giving panoramic views of central Edinburgh and its surroundings. The highest platform is reached by a total of 287 steps (those who climb the steps can obtain a certificate commemorating their achievement). It is built from Binny sandstone quarried near Ecclesmachan in West Lothian. Bill Bryson has described it as looking like a "gothic rocket ship".
Following Scott's death in 1832, a competition was held to design a monument to him. An unlikely entrant went under the pseudonym "John Morvo", the name of the medieval architect of Melrose Abbey. Morvo was in fact George Meikle Kemp, forty-five-year-old joiner, draftsman, and self-taught architect. Kemp had feared his lack of architectural qualifications and reputation would disqualify him, but his design (similar to an unsuccessful one he had earlier submitted for Glasgow Cathedral) was popular with the competition's judges, and in 1838 Kemp was awarded the contract to construct the monument.
John Steell was commissioned to design a monumental statue of Scott to rest in the space between the tower's four columns. Steell's statue, made from white Carrara marble, shows Scott seated, resting from writing one of his works with a quill pen and his dog Maida by his side. The monument carries 64 figures (carried out in three phases) of characters from Scott's novels by a variety of Scots sculptors including, Alexander Handyside Ritchie, John Rhind, William Birnie Rhind, William Brodie, William Grant Stevenson, David Watson Stevenson, George Anderson Lawson and the only female representative Amelia Robertson Hill (who also made the statue of David Livingstone immediately east of the monument).
The foundation stone was laid on the 15th of August 1840. Following permission by an Act of Parliament (the Monument to Sir Walter Scott Act 1841 (4 & 5 Vict.) C A P. XV.), construction began in 1841 and ran for nearly four years. The tower was completed in the autumn of 1844, with Kemp's son placing the finial in August of the year. The total cost was £16,154/7/11. When the monument was inaugurated on the 15th of August 1846, George Meikle Kemp himself was absent; walking home from the site on the foggy evening of the 6th of March 1844, Kemp had fallen into the Union Canal and drowned.
In the early 1990s it was proposed that the stonework should be cleaned. There were views for and against cleaning and a scientific/geological investigation, including cleaning trials on samples of stone, was carried out. It was decided not to clean the stone due to the damage it would sustain. A restoration programme was undertaken involving replacing old repairs and damaged areas with Binny stone for which purpose the original quarry was re-opened. The fresh stonework contrasts with the smoke-darkened original.
The monument is now administered by the Culture and Sport division of the City of Edinburgh Council. (See External Links for visitor information.)
In Popular Culture
The monument is featured prominently in the movie Cloud Atlas, as a location which the character Robert Frobisher frequents.
- Bill Bryson, Notes from a Small Island Ch. 25
- Buildings of Scotland:Edinburgh by Gifford McWilliam and Walker
- As stated on an information panel in the monument
- "The Monument". Retrieved 2012-01-31.
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- Visitor Information, including hours of operation and admission fee
- Information from The City of Edinburgh Council
- History of the monument
- Biography of George M. Kemp
- Text of memorial plaque buried beneath the Monument