Dalkeith Palace model goes on show

A MODEL built nearly 200 years ago for a proposed redevelopment of Dalkeith Palace has gone on display at Biggar & Upper Clydesdale Museum.

George Meikle Kemp, who went on to design the Scott Monument in Edinburgh, spent two years building the model for architect William Burn, which he completed in 1838.

Burn wanted to replace Dalkeith Palace – which was finished in 1711 – with Jacobean-style building, but his plans were too ambitious for the 5th Duke of Buccleuch.

The model went on display in the palace’s vestibule for 60 years before languishing in its basement.

Following eight years of restoration, it went back on show at the palace and at the Duke of Buccleuch’s Bowhill House near Selkirk between 2001 and 2003, before being returned to storage.

Lanarkshire cabinetmaker Patrick Baxter has spent the past two months preparing the model, which is up to 80cm high in places and two metres wide.

The model will remain on display at the museum until 3 September.

Biggar Museum curator Elaine Edwards said the Dalkeith model is a fitting reminder of Kemp’s many talents.

“It demonstrates his painstaking eye for detail, his love of gothic flourishes and his ability to see a momentous challenge through to its completion,” she said.

“Biggar and Upper Clydesdale should be very proud of George Meikle Kemp so we’re delighted that his magnificent handiwork can be enjoyed once more.”

Kemp drowned in the Union Canal, aged 48, just six months before the Scott Monument opened.

Morven Leese, the architect’s great-great-great niece, has written a book about her illustrious, largely-forgotten forebear, and now plans to visit the Biggar exhibition.

“An Edinburgh town councillor described Kemp as ‘perhaps one of the cleverest men in the country as well as one of the most modest’,” explained the London-based author.

“Despite his talents, he never became a part of the established architectural profession and his untimely death meant the vast potential of this self-taught shepherd’s son was never fully realised.

“How lovely it is to think he’s being honoured now.”

Read more news and reviews on Scottish Field’s culture pages.

Plus, don’t miss author Alexander McCall Smith’s column in the May issue of Scottish Field magazine.