'Historic' Griffin statues locked up for 70 years to return home

The stone sculptures once stood at either side of the entrance to Muirhouse Mansion in Edinburgh.

‘Historic’ Griffin statues from Muirhouse Mansion locked up for 70 years to return to Edinburgh home LDRS

Gothic statues salvaged from a historic Edinburgh estate will take pride of place in a new council housing development set to get spades in the ground next year.

After spending 70 years in lock-up, two Griffin stone sculptures which once stood at either side of the entrance to Muirhouse Mansion will be restored and returned to the area.

Plans for 142 affordable homes to be built on land just south of the A-listed tudor mansion were approved by councillors earlier this year. The project forms part of the council’s regeneration of Granton Waterfront.

The 19th century Griffins which previously surmounted ten-feet high gate posts on Marine Drive will be relocated on site for “historic interpretation” the council said, in an effort to “safeguard the interests of archaeological heritage”.

The 19th century Griffins previously surmounted ten-feet high gate posts on Marine Drive.LDRS

John Lawson, an archaeologist for the city council, said bringing the “historically important” statues back would “provide a connection” between the new development and Muirhouse House, the estate’s 17th century manor which was situated closer to where the new homes will be than the newer Mansion.

As part work to demolish and remove the ruins of Muirhouse House in the 1950s, the imposing half-eagle, half-lion sculptures were removed from the estate’s gates and have remained in council storage ever since.

An affordable housing scheme comprising a mix of social housing and mid-market rent properties at 14 Muirhouse Parkway – the site of Silverlea Care Home until it was bulldozed in 2017 – was given the go ahead earlier this year.

Planners requested detailed proposals for where the Griffins will be located in the new housing estate before work begins in 2023.

They said: “The two salvaged stone Griffin gate pier finials that once existed on the site and which the council have title to and are presently storing, shall be reinstated on the site.”

The statues will be restored and returned to the site. LDRS

Mr Lawson said: “The new development has given as a welcome opportunity to place back the two 19th century stone Griffin’s removed for safe keeping by the Council in the 1950’s.

“These impressive statues, which originally stood either side of the main gate, are historically important and will provide a connection between the new development and the demolished Muirhouse Mansion built in 1832.”

The planning sub-committee gave the plans unanimous backing on August 10, despite local residents’ raising concerns at the meeting about the impact on local wildlife, trees and development on the green belt.

Planning officers justified the controversial move to build on protected green belt land however, arguing the site was of “unkept” and often targeted by fly-tippers.

They added there was “public benefit” in delivering more affordable housing in line with the council’s targets.