A set of ornamental dragons with links to Patrick Geddes were restored to their former glory in 2012.
The four dragons decorate Wardrop’s Court in the Lawnmarket and date to the 1890s. At that time, Geddes was trying to encourage the regeneration of the Old Town, by bringing university students and tutors to live in the community. Two of the dragons were carved by Geddes’ 16 year old son Arthur, guided by the sculptor Alec Miller, who was with the Guild of Handicrafts, a key part of the Arts and Crafts movement.
The project was awarded a grant towards the work from Edinburgh World Heritage’s Conservation Funding Programme, which is funded by Historic Environment Scotland. Alongside this were donations from the Brownlee Old Town Trust and Claire Geddes, daughter of Arthur Geddes and grand daughter of the famous town planner.
Close examination revealed the different layers of paint applied through the years. This showed that the dragons were originally a blue colour, with gilding on areas of carved detail such as on the head, feathered wings, teeth, and claws.
The flaking paint was removed and loose parts reattached to the carvings. Specialist wood carver John McRitchie replaced all the missing features with new limewood. This included missing teeth, parts of the tails, feathers off the wings, and the tips of the ‘combs’ on the dragons’ heads. In addition, two volunteer conservators, James Muldoon and Georgina Vanhof, have been helping out with the project, painting and gilding the dragons.