Pub revives historic 'grotesque' ceiling

A CEILING painted more than 400 years ago has been recreated in an East Lothian pub near to its original site.

The historic 16th century artwork, the earliest example of a Renaissance painted ceiling in Scotland, was uncovered in 1962 when Prestongrange House was renovated.

But the painted boards were moved soon afterwards from the site, which is now occupied by the Royal Musselburgh golf club, to the council chamber in Merchiston Tower at Napier University for preservation.

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Gordon Prestoungrange, the 14th Baron of Prestoungrange, decided to reproduce the "grotesque" artwork on the ceiling at the Prestoungrange Gothenburg Tavern on the baronial land in Prestonpans last year.

His ancestor, the first baron, commissioned the original ceiling in 1581.

The style of painting "in the grotto style" or "grotesque", is a bizarre clash of human, animal and plant forms combined in ways contradicting nature.

The pub is situated only a kilometre away from the original ceiling site at Prestongrange House on the land of the Prestoungrange Barony estate.

The present baron, who bought the pub in 2001, wanted to return it to the Gothenburg principles on which it was founded in 1908.

Based on ideas of the City Fathers of Gothenburg in Sweden, the pub’s ethic was to encourage the working population to avoid alcoholic excess.

Only a five per cent profit goes to the pub’s investors, while the rest of the cash made from food and drink sales is ploughed into the Prestongrange Arts Festival, which holds events throughout the year.

A major restoration project on the pub, which reopened last week after a six-year closure, prompted the baron to recreate the "lost" ceiling - but with a modern twist.

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Adele Conn, marketing manager of the Gothenburg Tavern, said the risque images on the original painting had been "cleaned up" for a modern audience, replacing bawdy pictures with more sedate portraits.

Craigmillar-born artist Andrew Crummy was chosen to design and create the new ceiling.

The internationally recognised painter today described the work as an honour.

"When I was commissioned to paint a contemporary version of the old Prestongrange ceiling, I interpreted it in a modern way," the 44-year-old artist said.

"I wanted to tell the story of the local community and so I incorporated modern tales of people and places in the area into the artwork.

"I have been all around the world to paint murals but this was really great because it was in Edinburgh."

As well as using key elements from the original ceiling, the new version includes images of people and places linked with the town’s history up to the present day.

Pictures of the first and 14th barons are included, as are portraits of the craftsmen who worked on last year’s restoration of the pub, and East Lothian Provost Pat O’Brien, who assisted the preservation of the venue in the 1980s.

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"I am absolutely delighted that Gordon Prestoungrange has come through with the cash to recreate the ceiling painting," said Mr O’Brien.

"You only have to look at the results to see what a high quality job has been done at the pub."

Ms Conn said the Baron wanted to recreate the ceiling because of its links with his baronial estate. "Because it was in Prestongrange House and it’s got really strong ties with Prestongrange and the baron’s baronial land, he wanted to reproduce it there," she said.

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