They say the cement render, applied in the early 1960s, has created a build-up of moisture which is causing the original stonework beneath it to rot.
The Earl of Glasgow, Patrick Boyle, who owns the castle and the 4000 acre estate in which it sits, has given the go-ahead for the removal of the painting as part of a £2.4million investment project to capitalise on Kelburn’s success as one of Scotland’s most attractive tourist destinations.
The timing of the removal has yet to be finalised by the project management team but is expected to be within the next year.
As well as including major restoration work on the castle, the project will involve the addition of a caravan park, an indoor pavilion and several new attractions for the country centre.
Boyle, whose family has occupied the castle for 800 years, said he was devastated that the mural will have to come down but that his priority was maintaining the fabric of the building
The painting was completed by a group of Brazilian graffiti artists commissioned by the Earl’s son and daughter, in 2007 at a cost of £20,000.
“No-one could have imagined how popular the mural has become. It has generated global media coverage and visitors from all over the world have come to Kelburn to see for themselves how spectacular it is,” said Boyle.
“But we had to decide what it best for the building and, sadly, that means the mural has to go. Unfortunately this season is likely to be its last so we would encourage anyone who hasn’t seen it already, or who wants to see it one last time, to come along.”
North Ayrshire Council agreed to suspend strict guidelines drawn up by Historic Scotland on what is permitted for historic buildings, on the understanding that the mural, which took 1500 cans of enamel auto spray paint to complete, was a temporary feature, pending refurbishment work on the castle.
Last year it was named as one of the world’s top 10 examples of street art by Tristan Manco, the designer and author and, as its popularity spread around the world, Boyle wrote to Historic Scotland asking whether it might be allowed to remain indefinitely.
The agency said it would consider a temporary stay of execution for the mural to allow a full technical and cultural case to be prepared for its retention, adding: “Although we recognise the value of the mural…we need to consider the conservation of Kelburn and our preference will be for the solution which is best for the building.”
Following an inspection carried out earlier this year, building engineers discovered problems that required urgent attention. The main issue is that the roughcast coating on which the mural is painted is made from Portland cement, a strong binding agent which has the effect of sealing the stonework underneath.
“The roughcast was applied in the early 1960s at a time when the method of using lime had been discarded,” said Ronald Alexander, a design consultant who is project managing renovation work on the castle.
“One of the problems of Portland cement is that it’s a very rigid material which has no potential to expand or contract. The effect has been that the walls are not able to breathe which they must to allow moisture to escape.
“Because the moisture can’t escape externally the only way for it to go is internally, which causes plaster damage and is partly responsible for outbreaks of dry rot.”
Alexander added: “The render will have to be replaced with a new lime-based coating which will allow the walls to breathe again. It’s difficult to say what state the original stonework will be in beneath the render. There will, inevitably, be some areas of stonework which have gone quite soft and which need patching.”
Kelburn sits in the firth of Clyde and is one of Scotland most popular tourist attractions, whose facilities include its renowned Secret Forest, an adventure course, a falconry centre, an animal park, miles of woodland walks and one of Scotland’s biggest stables.
The castle has been home to the Boyle family since the 13th Century and the Earls of Glasgow since the 18th Century.
The investment programme will provide additional facilities for day visitors to the country centre and stables as well as accommodating more party bookings, corporate events and weddings.
It has been funded by the sale of 18 acres of land at the rear of the neighbouring village of Fairley to Dawn, a developer which has plans to build 12 houses.
The housing plans were approved by North Ayrshire Council with the provision that revenue raised by the sale is reinvested in Kelburn. A trust, whose members include two local councillors, is responsible for overseeing the investment plan.
Notes to Editors:
• Kelburn Estate’s attractions include a secret forest with a Chinese garden, a gingerbread house, a stone grotto, and a 35ft pagoda, an adventure course, a falconry facility, a pet sanctuary and one of the west of Scotland’s biggest riding centres.
• During school holidays it runs daily family fun events with seasonal themes and there are ranger guided walks and environmental themed events, provided with funding from Scottish Natural Heritage.
• It runs a number of annual events including a Brazilian festival, a boutique music festival and a Viking day and a Country Show.
• It operates educational services, hosting trips from parties of pupils from primary, secondary and special schools.
• For more information go to: http://www.kelburnestate.com