Wednesday, 27 March 2013

Old Postcards of Balintore Castle

I am indebted to the prodigiously multi-talented Duncan Tattersall of the marvellous blog Ruination Scotland for these scans of old postcards of Balintore Castle. Believe me, that it is a total delight to view how things used to be, and see parts of the castle that are no longer intact or indeed that have gone missing.

There has been a frightful aliasing accident with the photogravure of the second image, which I will sort presently, suffice to say it didn't look like this when Duncan gave it to me. Oh yes, do click on the images as they have been scanned in very good quality.

old postcard: south-west view

old postcard: south-east view

old postcard: north-west view

Déjà Gnu

I recently watched "Skyfall":the latest film in the James Bond franchise. I was delighted that Mr. Bond's back story was flushed out in its full Scottish Baronial glory, as he seeks refuge in his family's highland estate called "Skyfall". The architecture of his ancestral pile is an unconvincing blend of the mediaeval and the Victorian, yet holds much of the gaunt charm that attracted me to Balintore.

Flanking the entrance to "Skyfall" are a pair of gateposts featuring finely modelled stags: one such is shown below. 

Skyfall stag gatepost

Hmmm, somewhere I had seen that stag before. When I had visited the ruined Poltalloch House (also designed by William Burn the architect of Balintore), I had driven through a set of similar gateposts for Duntrune Castle which was also on the same estate. I remember being struck at the time how cinematic both Duntrune and its gateposts were, and that it could not get any more quintessentially Scottish than this.

Internet research then revealed that the producers of the film had selected Duntrune to play the part of Skyfall, but at the last moment things fell apart, and they had constructed their own rather different version of Skyfall on a heath in Surrey. However, the producers has obviously been enamored of the stags and had copied them. 

Duntrune stag gateposts

Well, stantant rather than couchant, but that's Hollywood for you. Bond is, after all, an action hero!

Thursday, 14 March 2013

Inserted !

A short blog entry to celebrate the replacement of a drawing room sash window on the east elevation. This may look a deceptively simple operation, but actually involved much time, much money, and a number of firsts for the restoration project. This window is the first that has been "restored" rather than built from scratch. So while the starting point was an extremely unprepossessing object with a rotten bottom, there was enough existing fabric to justify the effort and follow good conservation practice here. The problem was convincing the window firm of this! :-) I was unable to persuade them on my own, but my architect is made of sterner stuff. At the end of the day, the company did a fantastic job, and even they admitted they did not think they could pull it off which is why they had wanted to start from scratch. The conservation does come in cheaper than a new window, by the way. 

The window is also the first of the largest windows in the castle to be installed. The photos do not give an impression of quite how large or quite how heavy these principal floor windows are. Removal and insertion of these sashes are major operations in themselves. My wish is that now we have established the principle, subsequent large windows will go in more quickly, and hope-against-hope more cheaply.

newly inserted sash window : outside view

newly inserted sash window : inside view

And it is with a somewhat wistful eye that I see the window is framing a slightly snowy scene as the icy-fingers of winter gradually retreat. Winter has taken rather too many curtain calls this year, and I am waiting for it to finally depart the stage for a full-on, hands-on Summer restoration season.