1957 - Castle ceiling
Rossend Castle in 1957
In 1957, Ancient Monuments staff of the then Ministry of Works who were working on a painted ceiling in Mary Somerville's house (in Somerville Street) were alerted to the fact that a painted ceiling had been found in Rossend Castle. Permission was given by the Burgh Council for the remainder of the plaster ceiling to be removed to reveal the concealed painted ceiling in all its glory. A team was therefore despatched to record and, eventually, to remove this ceiling and place if for storage in the National Museum, Edinburgh, where it remains to this day.
Main hall of the castle in 1957
The inital damage to the ceiling
Intruders had broken into the derelict castle, dropped a large stone through the roof, and broke through a plaster ceiling exposing painted woodwork beneath. On investigation, two painted ceilings were actually discovered, one flat, open-beam and almost intact, the other having been barrel-vaulted or coved. The flat ceiling was virtually intact, painted with a series of symbolic emblems and other decorations. The latter survived only as pieces of painted board, split and re-used as lath to support a later plaster ceiling. Sufficient was recovered, however, to show it had been painted with coats of arms within a formal pattern. The open-beam ceiling bore the initials SRM, presumably either Sir Robert Melville of Murdocairnie or his son, Sir Robert Melville of Burntisland. This implies that the ceiling was painted some time between 1581 and 1621.
A portion of the uncovered painted ceiling
Detail of the uncovered painted ceiling
The painted open-beam ceiling was in the first floor hall. In 1928 the walls of this room had been panelled, but all such panelling had been removed by 1957. The beams divided the ceiling into twelve sections, mounted 12 feet six inches above floor level, and the room was a rectangle measuring approximately 29 feet by 17 feet. The pictorial elements of the ceiling include emblems, animals, birds, armour, agricultural implements, musical instruments and various Renaissance-type decorations.
Musical instruments and animals
Heraldic device, initials and animal
I have no idea at the moment whether this is actually on display at the National Museum of Scotland, or merely in storage. But at least it has been preserved for posterity. Photographs courtesy of PSAS 104.