Sir Walter Scott Monument

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The Scott Monument is a victorian gothic monument to Scottish author Sir Walter Scott. It stands in Princes Street Gardens in Edinburgh, opposite the Jenners department store on Princes Street and near to Waverley Station. The tower is 200.5 feet or 61.1 metres tall, and the small viewing deck near the top — which gives a panoramic view of central Edinburgh and its surroundings — is reached by a narrow spiral staircase with 287 steps. It is built from Binnie shale quarried in nearby Livingston; the oil which continues to leech from its matrix has helped to glue the notoriously filthy atmosphere of victorian Edinburgh (then nicknamed "Auld Reekie" — old smokey) to the tower, leaving it an unintended sooty-black colour. It is often noted for looking like a 'gothic missile'.

Following Scott's death in 1832, a competition was held to design a monument to him. An unlikely entrant went under the pseudonym "John Morvo", the name of the medieval architect of Melrose Abbey. Morvo was in fact George Meikle Kemp, forty-five year old joiner, draftsman, and self-taught architect. Kemp had feared his lack of architectural qualifications and reputation would disqualify him, but his design (which was similar to an unsuccessful one he had earlier submitted for the design of Glasgow Cathedral) was popular with the competition's judges, and in 1838 Kemp was awarded the contract to construct the monument.

John Steell was commissioned to design a monumental statue of Scott to rest in the space between the tower's four columns. Steell's statue, made from white Carrara marble, shows Scott seated, resting from writing one of his works with a quill pen.

Following an Act of Parliament (1841 (4 & 5 Vict.) C A P. XV.) permitting it, construction began in 1841 and ran for nearly four years. The tower was completed in the autumn of 1844, with Kemp's son placing the finial in August of the year. When the monument was inaugurated on the 15th of August, George Meikle Kemp himself was absent; walking home from the site on the foggy evening of the 6th of March that year, Kemp had fallen into the Union Canal and drowned.

The Scott Monument from below
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The Scott Monument from below

In the 1990s, the monument was closed periodically for restoration work; in the early 1990s it was covered in scaffolding for several years, and it was also closed for additional work in 1998.

The monument is now administered by the museums department of Edinburgh City Council, although the cost of restoration led to discussions in 1996 about selling the landmark to private interests.
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