Hollywood star helps heat up Rosslyn Chapel

by Suzanne Bargon

Rosslyn Chapel, 15th Century listed building

Hollywood actor Tom Hanks is helping to fund a £9.5 million conservation project at Rosslyn Chapel, a 15th Century medieval listed building in Midlothian.

The A-List actor, who shot part of the 2005 box office hit The Da Vinci Code at the Chapel, has made a generous donation towards the restoration project and said: “My fondness for dear Rosslyn Chapel, that dear little piece of history. Few locations in film are so delightful and few destinations live up to their billing but Rosslyn Chapel was all one could imagine and hope for.”

The Chapel, a stunning 4 star visitor attraction, shot to worldwide fame after its appearance in the film and now attracts up to 135,000 visitors per year.

The previous heating system in the Chapel was inadequate and there was nothing to stop condensation causing dampness and with the threat of potential degradation of the building, a system needed to be designed for the future preservation and to eliminate the deterioration of the stonework.

The Rosslyn Chapel Trust decided that a biomass boiler would be the best system to fit with the requirements of the building.

The Trust was awarded a Community and Renewable Energy Scheme (CARES) grant of  £102,253 through Community Energy Scotland.

A spokesperson at Community Energy Scotland said: “The biomass boiler works by burning woodchip to heat water which then heats the Chapel. The woodchip is stored in a separate building close to the chapel.

“The problem in the Chapel was that there has been a lot of water ingression into the building which compromises the stonework and makes it crumble.  Heat is required to reduce this along with clever insulation techniques to prevent heat escaping and water entering while still allowing the character of the building to be preserved.”

The historic monument is restricted in locations and due to the nature of the site a separate boiler house was to be erected underground.

Previously the temperature was below freezing and once the biomass boiler system has been completed in the New Year the Chapel will be constantly heated to around 12 – 14 degrees.

Rosslyn Chapel works are underway

Colin Glynne-Percy, director of the Rosslyn Chapel Trust said: “An economical and sustainable heating system is central to the long term conservation strategy for the Chapel, eliminating the current temperature fluctuations and the damaging effects of condensation on the stonework. This will also improve the temperature for visitors and the tour guides. In the winter months the Chapel was so cold that when hymns are sung you can see everyone’s breath. We are delighted with the support from CARES and also the heritage lottery fund and historic Scotland who are helping fund the project.”

Anne-Marie Hunter, a 42 year-old travel consultant,visited the Chapel for a christening said: “The Chapel was so cold when we were there. We would have been as well sitting outside! It is great that the new heating system will help the restoration of the Chapel as well as make future visitors feel more comfortable.”