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English Heritage press release 172/4/98
16 April 1998

ALBERT MEMORIAL: COUNTDOWN TO UNVEILING

Scaffolding starts to come down in May after 8 years

In May, English Heritage will start unbolting the 35,000 fittings on the 140,000 feet of scaffolding surrounding the Albert Memorial in Kensington Gardens, London. Hidden from view for eight years, the monument will, over a period of four months, gradually be exposed from the top down to public view, tier upon tier of newly restored gold leaf, Venetian mosaic, glass 'jewels' and neo-Gothic Victorian statuary reaching 200 feet into the air.

Later in the year, English Heritage, who have spent four years restoring Sir Gilbert Scott's famous monument, will unveil the statue of Prince Albert, Queen Victoria's beloved Consort, who died in 1861, aged 42. For the first time since 1915, when it was blackened to prevent marauding Zeppelins using_it as a target, the monumental statue will emerge a gleaming, golden tribute to Prince Albert.

English Heritage began the restoration of the Albert Memorial in October 1994 and the project will be completed at the end of 1998, a year ahead of schedule and 2.8 million under budget - the final cost will be 11.2 million.

Sir Jocelyn Stevens, Chairman of English Heritage, who intervened to save the Memorial in 1994, believes people will be thrilled by the restored Albert Memorial. "They will have forgotten what a gloriously extrovert piece of public sculpture and Victorian craftsmanship it is," he says.

Sir Jocelyn stepped in to save the Memorial in 1994 after it had suffered years of decay. The monument was officially declared unsafe in 1983 when a piece of lead fell to the ground but nothing was done to rescue it. "Unbelievably, there was even a plan at one stage to pull down the Memorial," Sir Jocelyn says.

From Lachlan Cranswick's Personal Homepage in Melbourne, Australia

During restoration, virtually the entire upper half of the monument was dismantled and last summer English Heritage began to reassemble the spire. The lead which covered the iron core, which a failure in design allowed to rust, is now stable involving the removal and replacement of over 100 tons of lead.

The statue of Prince Albert, two-and-a-half times larger than life size, has been re-gilded with a double coating of protective gold leaf - 675 twenty-page books of 24 carat gold leaf were used, costing 50,000. The statue shows Prince Albert seated and holding a catalogue of the Great Exhibition of 1851, one of his greatest public achievements.

The orb and cross have been re-gilded and given new ornamentation following a chequered history. The original 1872 version was shot down by anti-aircraft fire during the Second World War and not replaced until 1955. Unfortunately, the new 1950s version was placed some five feet lower and the cross no longer faced the Albert Hall opposite but had been placed at an angle of 90 degrees to the original. The 1950s version also omitted the glass 'jewels' that decorated the original. Now, complete with new 'jewels', is has been re-positioned at the correct angle.

The upper levels are a visual feast. The Venetian mosaics, four allegorical scenes representing Architecture, Painting, Sculpture and Poetry, have been repaired. Ten years ago, tiny frost- damaged pieces of mosaic pelted passers by. Today, with help from the Chief Mosaicist at St. Mark's in Venice, Cavaliere Giovanni Cucco, each lost piece has been replaced. Cavaliere Cucco examined the mosaics with the aid of a tuning fork and a stethoscope to establish the

levels of water penetration behind them. Fortunately, far less had to be replaced than was originally feared. Glass in 130 colours was sourced from Italy to replace missing pieces.

Eight-foot high gilded angels now raise their arms heavenwards from the spire. The angels were re-gilded at a workshop in Gloucestershire, along with the statues of the Christian and Moral Virtues from half-way up the Memorial which are also now back in place.

High above ground, Albert's personal cypher 'A' appears on every tile. Ornate stonework - turrets, miniature spires, mythical animals - has acquired the pale sheen of newly cleaned century-old gilding. From afar, the Memorial will shimmer like the medieval reliquary Scott intended.

Between now and the end of 1998, English Heritage will complete the restoration including the repair of the famous Parnassus Frieze at the base of the Memorial. The 169 statues represent those who were considered at the time to be the world's greatest artistic geniuses from Beethoven and Bach to Leonard da Vinci, Rembrandt, Shakespeare and Dante. (Ends)


For photographs and further information please contact Debra Isaac or Annabel Benoit, English Heritage Public Affairs, on 0171 973 3250. Interviews with craftsman can be arranged by appointment.

Notes to editors

1. Work on the Albert Memorial can be viewed until 8th May. The scaffolding is scheduled to start to come down on 11 May.

2. The Albert Memorial was completed in 1872. The statue of Prince Albert was unveiled four years later in 1876. The original cost of the Albert Memorial was around 150,000.

3. The restoration will cost 11.2 million. The Department of Culture, Media and Sport has given 8.2 million and English Heritage has given a further 2 million. The remainder is being raised through private donations by The Albert Memorial Trust, the Patron of which is HRH The Prince of Wales.

4. Some 250,000 is still needed. The Trust is inviting donors to 'adopt' one of the nearly 200 statues on the Memorial. For 1,000, a donor can adopt one of the 169 figures on the Parnassus Frieze of those considered by the Victorians to be the world's artistic geniuses. For 25,000 donors can adopt one of the four groups of statues representing the Continents. For details ring Nigel Talbot Rice, The Albert Memorial Trust. 0171 973 3799.

Supermarket codes track monument's £14m journey

Report: Maev Kennedy

Supermarket technology has solved the problem of keeping track of thousands of pieces of the Albert Memorial, as the monument is dismantled in a £14million conserv ation project so complex that demolition was seriously considered.

The Albert Memorial before it was put under wraps.

The Guardian, Tuesday April 25, 1995.