Understanding the fabric of Palace life

Dr Sally Rush’s work with Historic Scotland has transformed academic and curatorial understanding of how Stirling Castle Palace looked and how material culture is displayed and interpreted, and has enhanced popular understanding of life at the court of James V. 

Stirling Castle Palace is Britain’s most structurally complete Renaissance royal palace and an outstanding example of Scottish Renaissance architecture. Built by James V, the palace sits within the walls of the 12th-century Stirling Castle, and due to the site’s occupation and use as a British army barracks and recruiting depot (1800-1964), it was an empty shell. Research carried out by Dr Sally Rush, Senior Lecturer in History of Art at the University of Glasgow enabled six key apartments in the Palace to be furnished and decorated as they would have been when the palace was first constructed (c.1538), and directed the replication of the Stirling Heads, a series of carved oak roundels which were installed in the ceiling of King’s Chamber.

Visitor numbers increased by 17% and annual revenue by £1M in the year after the Palace reopened.

Stirling Castle Palace was built to showcase the political success of James V’s two French marriages, but the interior decoration and furnishings had been completely lost following the Castle site’s 18th century conversion to military use. The necessary primary sources for the furnishing of James V’s palaces survived but had never been fully analysed until Dr Rush’s careful cross-referencing of inventories and accounts revealed details of provenance, acquisition, manufacture and material quality.

The £12 million restoration of the Palace, which opened in June 2011, has secured Stirling Castle’s position as a prime educational and tourist attraction ­– voted UK’s top heritage attraction in 2012 by Which? and one of Europe’s top 40 ‘amazing experiences’ in 2013 by Lonely Planet

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