Buckingham Palace crumbling
Buckingham Palace is appealing to the Government to cover a massive shortfall in the maintenance funds available to them. Millions of pounds are needed to stop the Royal Palaces from crumbling. Over the past 15 years, the funding provided by the government for the maintenance of the Royal Palaces has decreased dramatically in real terms. This has resulted in the eastern side of the Buckingham Palace quadrangle beginning to crumble, the roof of the Picture Gallery leaking, the State Apartments needing redecoration and the ceiling of the Victoria and Albert Mausoleum falling down, just to name a few problems.
The eastern facade of the quadrangle was created in 1847 by Edward Blore to provide accommodation for Queen Victoria's growing family. Not only was it an architectural disaster, looking more like a train station than a Palace and closing off John Nash's magnificent entrance portico, but it was built from Caen stone. This deteriorated very quickly in the smoggy London air and within a few years had to be painted to stop the facade from crumbling. In 1913, the eastern front was refaced in Portland stone which wears very well in London. The eastern side of the quadrangle was not refaced and the 19 layers of paint are now beginning to crack, resulting in the facade falling to the ground at an ever increasing rate. Last year, a piece of the facade narrowly missed the Princess Royal's car and during a science exhibition at the Palace pieces of the centre arch collapsed. However, this problem will cost £3million to fix and would take five years.
It is not just Buckingham Palace that is collapsing, the Victoria and Albert Mausoleum at Windsor is also starting to crumble with pieces of the highly decorated ceiling starting to fall off. This project has been indefinitely delayed as it will cost around £2million.
Much more attention needs to be paid to the roofs at both Windsor Castle and Buckingham Palace. At Buckingham Palace, the nearly 100 year old glass roof of the picture gallery is starting to leak. Water stains have been seen on the silk of the walls of the picture gallery which means it's not just getting through the roof, but also the glass ceiling of the Picture Gallery. Ironically, the previous ceiling of the Picture Gallery was removed and replaced with the more modern and ugly roof in 1914 because it was leaking! The cost of fixing the roof is estimated at £1.8million.
The rest of the roofing at Buckingham Palace is now over 120 years old and is in need of replacement. At Windsor Castle, the roofs of the Upper Ward need replacement, but are being patched at present. One cannot over emphasise the disaster that would occur if a major leak occurred. At the Picture Gallery in Buckingham Palace in particular are some of the most valuable paintings in the world.
Of more concern to visitors of the Palace, the State Apartments are in desperate need of redecoration and this has also been postponed indefinitely, even though the cost is only £600,000 per year. Walking through the State Apartments in their current condition is slightly depressing with the rooms desperately needing to be regilded in order to return them to the glorious richness of effect originally intended. This effect can be seen clearly at Windsor Castle where the rooms which were destroyed by fire in 1992 are an exceptional tribute to the talent of the workmen involved and the vision of King George IV.
The Palace is requesting an increase in funding of £1million per year, so they can try and clear this major backlog of maintenance which has developed because of very careful management by the Queen's financial team who have tried to live within an impossible budget.
For more information on this story, including a video, please see http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/6250432.stm
The virtual tour of Buckingham Palace from palacevirtualtours.com allows you to explore the rooms and artwork discussed in this article. You can see the new and the old ceiling of the Picture Gallery and learn more about the quadrangle and its history. An evaluation version of the tour is available for free download.