Edinburgh Waverley mosaic to be restored after damage

Historic Italian-style Victorian mosaic flooring in Edinburgh's Waverley Station. Picture: Andrew O'Brien
Historic Italian-style Victorian mosaic flooring in Edinburgh's Waverley Station. Picture: Andrew O'Brien
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VICTORIAN mosaic flooring which adorns a former station dining room is to be returned to its former glory after the hall suffered “horrific” damage under British Rail.

Restoration of the historic Italian-style decoration at Waverley Station in Edinburgh will be completed under a joint project by the Railway Heritage Trust and Virgin Trains East Coast.

Sadly, society went through a period when the glories of Victorian architecture were treated with scorn, or neglect, and British Rail’s alterations to the former dining room came into this category

Andy Savage

Passengers will be able to see the intricate design which was hidden for decades while the room was used by rail staff.

Situated on the south-east corner of the station’s main building, it is now a reception area for Virgin’s services.

The £25,000 project will finish work started in a £150,000 scheme involving the trust and East Coast Trains, Virgin’s predecessor, which it succeeded in March.

That came after the train operator embarked on an expansion of its previously cramped reception area, which revealed the Victorian features.

The trust said: “British Rail had, in one of its more brutalist moments, installed a train crew booking-on point in this room, with no sympathy to either its history or architectural features.

“It installed a false ceiling, in itself no great problem, but the hacking of the original plasterwork to pass services through the void created, and the number of air and cable ducts in that space, was horrific.

“To add insult to injury, the wonderful mosaic floor was covered by a layer of bitumen to permit the laying of a lino floor.”

Trust executive director Andy Savage said: “Sadly, society went through a period when the glories of Victorian architecture were treated with scorn, or neglect, and British Rail’s alterations to the former dining room came into this category.

“The features were all left in situ, but modern flooring and ceilings hid them and damaged them. East Coast Trains approached us last year when they found what they had, and we were able to fund a partial restoration of the room, at a cost of £150,000.

“Despite this, much of the historic ambience of the room is still hidden, but East Coast made sure it was not further damaged in the alterations.

“Although we were able to expose the ceiling and mosaic in the new public area, the available finances were not enough to do any repairs to the mosaic, and some areas had to be left with mortar in place of the missing tiles.

Ann Glen, author of Edinburgh Waverley: A Novel Railway Station, said the dining room was built as part of a major expansion of the station in the 1890s to cope with the opening of new lines, such as across the Forth Bridge to Fife.

She said: “In ‘fin de siècle’ style, the mosaic floor may have been the work of Italian tradesmen who specialised in this craft.

“The booking hall was also given lavish treatment with mosaic floors, but when the station was ‘modernised’ for the Commonwealth Games in 1970, these were removed.”

Jennifer Mearns, Scotland station manager for Virgin Trains, said: “We were amazed when we first saw the mosaic design hidden under the concrete flooring. It’s been exciting to work with Network Rail and Rail Heritage Trust to provide a reception area for our customers and people worthy of the Victorian architects who first designed the room.”