Historic Scotland Insists Graffiti has to go at Kelburn Castle is a myth
**Please note Historic Scotland has contacted us about the inaccuracies of this story please see their comment below **
Kelburn Castle in Ayrshire, the ancient family seat of the Boyle clan is famous for having the most controversial artistic additions to any historic building in the country. A group of Brazilian graffiti artists were let loose on the long suffering castle under the strict condition that the art work would be removed within three years.
It is now five months after the castle’s owners should have obliterated the graffiti, Historic Scotland has stepped in. The government’s heritage agency has ordered the removal of the colourful artwork adorning the walls of the 13th-century pile.
The owner Lord Glasgow, Chief of Clan Boyle, states that a fire at the castle which destroyed part of the roof – and the continuing financial crisis being faced has delayed its removal.
Historic Scotland, which has a legal duty to protect ancient buildings, has had a series of meetings with the Boyles over the issue, but so far they have been inconclusive.
The organisation’s principal inspector for Glasgow and the south west, Ranald MacInnes, said the castle is one of the most important buildings in the country, and that graffiti must not become a permanent feature.
He said: “In heritage terms, this is a building of great local and national importance. The three-year time limit was put on the artwork for this reason.
“We believe that the graffiti was actually a very good idea. The rendering it was put on was having to be removed anyway, and this was a modern way to enhance the appearance of the castle until that time.
“In historical terms, buildings have always been adorned in decorative ways which were modern for their own times, so there was no reason to object to the graffiti.
“However, there needs to be a proper strategy for its removal and the removal of the harling underneath.”
The local authority, which granted consent for the graffiti in 2007, confirmed that the permission expired in May.
A spokeswoman for North Ayrshire Council said: “We are aware that the consent has expired but it is now up to the applicant to apply to extend that particular consent.”
The Brazilian artists invited to decorate the castle, known as the Sao Paulo Crew, painted graffiti on the walls and turrets of the south side of the building, near Largs.
Lord and Lady Glasgow’s daughter, Alice Boyle, said she and her brother David came up with the idea. At the time Boyle said: “We thought we should use the opportunity to brighten up the castle walls. We will give them artistic licence – they can do what they like. Their work is amazing and it’s very colourful.”
About 1,500 cans of spray paint were used in The Graffiti Project, which cost an estimated £20,000. Surreal art scenes depicting Brazilian urban culture against the backdrop of the castle in rural Scotland was completed in May, 2007.
Kelburn has been in the Boyle family for more than 800 years and is thought to be the oldest castle in Scotland to have been continuously inhabited by the same family.
However, the aristocratic clan have been involved in a series of mishaps in recent years.
A BBC documentary broadcast in 2007, Crisis at the Castle, highlighted the family’s financial difficulties. Lord Glasgow hit out at the filmmakers, saying they had edited the programme to make his family look “ridiculous, old-fashioned, dysfunctional and incompetent”.
Then last February, the family were hit with a fresh crisis when a large fire destroyed part of the roof of the castle.
Lord Glasgow has been forced to raise an estimated £2 million to repair the damage, as well as other structural problems.
His son, David Boyle, Viscount Kelburn, admitted times were tough at the castle, but he has been organising high profile events, such as a recent summer festival and regular car boot sales, to raise cash.
He also staged a Brazilian festival at the castle last month, to celebrate the graffiti and the castle’s South American link. A spokeswoman for the estate said: “The graffiti has proven extremely popular but we don’t know exactly when it will be removed.”
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