Stonemason praised for high quality restoration work at historic Edinburgh landmark

Restoring Edinburgh’s built heritage is no mean feat, with many of the crucial cutting expertise needed to mimic elaborate architectural details feared lost to the past.

But one woman is fast carving out a name for herself with her high quality work and proving the noble and ancient art of stonemasonry is alive and well.

As conservation work gathers pace on one of the city’s most important public buildings, West Register House, the spotlight is being shone on some of the complex stonework repairs that have been carried out.

The work, which has been part-funded by Edinburgh World Heritage, has involved the conservation of prominent sandstone roundels on the west of the building, which is home to the National Records of Scotland, and situated in Charlotte Square in the heart of the city’s New Town.

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    One of these roundels, a key architectural feature of the landmark Georgian edifice, was deemed by heritage experts as beyond repair and has been replaced with a new piece carved by stonemason Josephine Crossland, 35, from Berwickshire firm Hutton Stone.

    Speaking to the Evening News, Ms Crossland said Hutton Stone experts opted to use sandstone from Hazeldean Quarry near Berwick-Upon-Tweed as it most closely matched the original stone from Edinburgh’s legendary Craigleith Quarry.

    "Working as part of a team of highly skilled workers playing their part in the restoration of West Register House has been a real highlight in my career as a stone carver so far,” said Josephine.

    “Thanks to the Craft Fellowship Scheme, funded by Historic Environment Scotland, I was lucky enough to train in stone carving at Hutton Stone in the Scottish Borders with artist Michelle de Bruin. This was an invaluable experience for me as I was taught the skills of carving and working stone by hand, using many of the tools and techniques which would have been used by the original stone masons building West Register House.

    Stonemason Josephine Crossland has been praised for her work in replicating one of the historic roundel features at West Register House.

    “Hutton Stone was also able to quarry Hazeldean sandstone to closely match the original Craigleith sandstone used to build West Register House and many other historic buildings in Edinburgh.

    “Michelle and I still work together in our carving workshop at Hutton Stone working on a wide range projects from architectural restoration carving to memorials and letter carving.”

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    The Edinburgh World Heritage charity, which funded 61,000, primarily for the stonework repairs, through the Conservation Funding Programme, supported by Historic Environment Scotland, also provided technical advice following years of experience in conserving many of Edinburgh’s most historic buildings.

    West Register House sits in the heart of Edinburgh's New Town.

    Pouring praise on Ms Crossland’s skill in replicating one of the roundels, Christina Sinclair, Director of Edinburgh World Heritage, said: “Throughout the pandemic, we have focused on ensuring that crucial conservation work to Edinburgh’s historic buildings continues.

    "We are delighted with the high quality of work carried out at West Register House by the team, and congratulate Jo on the high quality of her work to the roundels.”

    Paul Lowe, Chief Executive of the National Records of Scotland, added: “I am delighted that National Records Scotland have successfully delivered this major programme of repairs to our iconic West Register House building.

    "I am very grateful for the dedication of our Estates team, the consultants and the experts we have worked with, including skilled stonemasons and their painstaking work."

    Conservation charity Edinburgh World Heritage has contributed more than £60,000 towards stonework repairs on the iconic building.

    “I would also like to thank our neighbours in Charlotte Square and the wider New Town for their cooperation and patience as we have delivered these major works. We are extremely happy to return this building to its former glory and for it to once again take its rightful place on the Edinburgh city skyline.”

    Originally named St George’s Church, West Register House was designed by the esteemed architect Robert Adam in 1791 and later reinterpreted by Robert Reid in the early 19th century.

    Occupying a large plot on the western side of what is popularly viewed as Edinburgh’s grandest Georgian square, the Category A listed building houses government records, digital preservation and public records teams, as well as significant archive stores of the National Records of Scotland.

    Last September the ongoing restoration at West Register House reached a significant milestone with the removal of scaffolding revealing the building’s restored gold leaf cross, which sits atop its iconic copper dome, a prominent feature of Edinburgh’s skyline.

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