THE earliest monument erected in honour of Robert Burns could be closed to the public for the first time in almost 200 years due to extensive water damage.
Urgent repairs need to be carried out to safeguard the monument, an attraction at the Bard’s birthplace in Alloway, Ayrshire, the National Trust for Scotland has warned.
It has issued a plea to its members to help bankroll work on the memorial’s elaborate carved stonework, which is said to need around £265,000 worth of repairs.
Conservation experts at the trust say it is at “increasing risk” of suffering permanent damage, including the loss of key architectural details.
Funds of £3,247 to pay for the erection of the memorial in 1823 were raised by public subscription, with more than 700 donors recognised in the local press.
The Grecian-style temple overlooks the Brig o’ Doon, the bridge featured in Burns’s poem Tam o’ Shanter. It was designed by Thomas Hamilton, best known for the Royal High School in Edinburgh.
The Trust, which opened a visitor centre at the site in 2010, has drawn up a rescue plan for the memorial.
But Dr David Hopes, director of the Robert Burns Birthplace Museum, which includes the site of the memorial, has told Trust members it will suffer “irreversible damage” unless the water penetration is stopped soon.
A spokeswoman for the Trust said: “The issues with the monument are a combination of age and weather. It is quite exposed to wind and rain.
“We’ve been checking its condition and figuring out what work needs to be carried out. Our plan is to carry out sensitive conservation work which will include cleaning the stonework and making repairs as necessary, including replacing mortar where required.”
In his letter, Dr Hopes said: “Robert Burns’s poetry, songs and sense of spirit and pride have become synonymous with Scotland.
“As the world’s first monument to Burns, it has huge historical, architectural, cultural and visual significance.
“But the monument’s future is now under threat. If this water penetration is not stopped soon, irreversible damage will be done and the monument will have to close.”