The story of Sir William Wallace is to be told “better than ever before” as part of a major £1 million refurbishment of the National Wallace Monument to mark its 150th anniversary.
Stirling District Tourism (SDT), the charity that runs the iconic landmark, today released new visuals showing how its three exhibition galleries will be “completely transformed”.
A £500,000 is being invested by SDT in transforming the interiors while a further £515,000 will be spent by Stirling Council on essential exterior conservation including urgent restoration of the famous statue of Wallace by 19th century Edinburgh sculptor David Watson Stephenson.
The state-of-the-art refurbishments, managed by Edinburgh-based design consultants Studioarc, have been designed to tell the story of Scotland’s national hero better than it has ever been told before and to appeal to the diverse visitors that the Monument attracts from across the world.
Focus will be given to the story of the Battle of Stirling Bridge, where Wallace’s army famously defeated English forces in 1297. A detailed reconstruction has been created with expert guidance to show visitors how Stirling would have looked at the time of the historic battle.
Wallace’s pivotal role in the Wars of Independence will also be told through a powerful animation created by Glasgow-based ISO.
The Monument’s Hall of Heroes will be updated with the addition of two new busts depicting Scottish heroines Mary Slessor and Maggie Keswick Jencks - the first women to be included alongside great Scots including Robert the Bruce and Robert Burns.
Other elements will be introduced specifically to engage children in history, including a superheroes quiz and a “making arms” interactive shield design activity.
The Monument will close next Monday to accommodate the work, and reopen in late April or early May with the promise of a “brand-new visitor experience”.
SDT Chair, Zillah Jamieson said: “This investment is so important as it helps to ensure that The National Wallace Monument remains an exciting and relevant tourist destination for visitors across Scotland and internationally, as well as ensuring that Wallace’s legacy is preserved for years to come.
“The new exhibition displays make great use of the space inside the Monument, and they will create an enhanced experience for all of our visitors. It is thanks to the positive increase in visitor numbers over the last four years that we are able to upgrade the interior displays and improve the overall visitor experience.”
Lyndsey Bowditch, Director at Studioarc Design Consultants added: “We are delighted to be working with Stirling District Tourism on the major refurbishment of The National Wallace Monument. This has provided us with the opportunity to engage with experts across a diverse range of fields to ensure that the story of Sir William Wallace is told in a powerful new way.”
Work on the exterior includes the £260,000 restoration of the giant bronze statue of Wallace, which is being temporarily removed from its usual residence on a corbel in the south-west corner of the Monument for the first time since its installation 132 years ago.
The statue, which has been described as “probably the most exposed bronze statue in the country”, requires urgent conservation after a report revealed its internal frame and thinner parts of the bronze surface had suffered from deterioration.
Other work already completed includes the upgrading and replacement of the Monument’s floodlights, including colour-enhanced lighting options, at a cost of £88,000.
The National Wallace Monument first opened in 1869 as a tribute to 13th century freedom fighter Sir William Wallace.
Designed by Glasgow architect John Thomas Rochead, it was constructed at a cost of £18,000 on the Abbey Craig overlooking the site of the Battle of Stirling Bridge, where Wallace and co-commander Andrew de Moray defeated an English army in 1297.
The Monument is now one of Scotland’s most popular landmarks, with more than 140,000 tourists each year, thousands of whom climb the 246 spiral steps to the open air crown on top.