Thirlestane Castle Restorations
When Captain Gerald Maitland-Carew inherited the castle in 1972 from his maternal grandmother, the Countess of Lauderdale, he was faced with carrying out repairs on an enormous scale. There were no less than forty major outbreaks of dry rot and the central tower was found to be leaning backwards. The restoration was quite beyond the means of the family.
After prolonged efforts, Captain Maitland-Carew secured substantial grant aid through the Historic Buildings Council. In 1984, to safeguard the future of the castle, he gifted the main part of the castle to a charitable trust set up for its preservation. This enabled the National Heritage Memorial Fund to endow further funds. Thus, a great treasure was saved for the nation.
The extent of the work required to restore Thirlestane Castle to its former spendour was truly daunting. After many years of neglect, the vast central tower was in imminent danger of collapse and the building was edging ever closer to becoming a ruin. Thus, when work commenced, the first priority was to secure the fabric, which was a huge and expensive undertaking in itself. The repair of the central tower required the insertion of steel support beams and the drilling of the walls to take steel tension cables. The crumbling stonework of the 16th century keep below, which had been built of very small stones re-used from earlier fortifications, had to be reconstructed also.
The restoration work at Thirlestane required the skills of a dedicated team of specialists and craftsmen. The structural repairs called for engineers, the restoration of stonework for stonemasons, and the work on the plaster ceilings was executed by skilled craftsmen from Peebles, who made replacements to the damaged areas using the same techniques as were used when they were first made. Chimneys were rebuilt, reinforcements inserted, roofs, windows and leadwork repaired. A complete redecoration of the principal rooms was undertaken. Thirlestane as it stands today is a tribute to Captain Maitland-Carew's determination to see the castle restored, and to all those many people who have loyally devoted their time and skills.
To the casual eye, it might seem that there is nothing more to do, that the job of restoring Thirlestane is done. In fact, like many old buildings, the castle will always require constant maintenance to keep it in good repair. There will always be ways of improving the castle, its contents, the Border Country Life Exhibitions, the grounds and policies ... ideas which the present owners aim to bring to fruition to create an ever better experience for visitors.