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Kelburn Castle: A delightful contrast between a 13th-century Scottish castle and 21st-century urban Brazilian graffiti

David Goran

Dating from the 13th century and still lived in by the present Earl of Glasgow and his family, Kelburn Castle is a large house near Fairlie, North Ayrshire, Scotland, and is thought to be one of the oldest castles in Scotland to have been continuously occupied by the same family.

Kelburn Castle in 1994. By wfmillar/CC BY-SA 2.0

Kelburn Castle in 1994. By wfmillar/CC BY-SA 2.0

The oldest castle in Scotland to have been continuously inhabited by the same family. By Alex Slaven/Flickr/CC BY 2.0

The oldest castle in Scotland to have been continuously inhabited by the same family. By Alex Slaven/Flickr/CC BY 2.0

Originally built in the thirteenth century (the original keep forms the core of the house), the castle was remodelled in the sixteenth century. This replaced an earlier structure, and may incorporate parts of the earlier masonry its eastern part. In 1703, the Parliament of Scotland created the title of “Earl of Glasgow” for the then-owner David Boyle, who was one of the commissioners who negotiated the Treaty of Union uniting England and Scotland into Great Britain. He began the new north-west wing of the house, which was completed in 1722. Later, George Boyle, 6th Earl of Glasgow (1825–1890), added the north-east wing in 1880. Since then the Kelburn Castle has been the home of a long line of Earls the family has produced.

Original structure dates from before the 13th century. By I, Supergolden/CC BY-SA 3.0

Originally built in the 13th century. By I, Supergolden/CC BY-SA 3.0

In 2007, the 10th and current Earl of Glasgow, Patrick Robin Archibald Boyle, was told that he needed to remove a cement render that had been added to the building in the 1950s, to avoid further damage to the stonework. At the suggestion of his children, Lord Glasgow invited four Brazilian graffiti artists to paint the large section of the castle that will eventually be replaced.

A group of four Brazilian street artists was invited to decorate the walls with their unique style of graffiti art. By Chris Townsend/CC BY-SA 2.0

A group of four Brazilian street artists was invited to decorate the walls with their unique style of graffiti art. By Chris Townsend/CC BY-SA 2.0

“The Graffiti Project”, in 2007, involved covering the castle with a large collaborative artwork created by a team of four Brazilian graffiti artists (from the São Paulo Crew): Nina and Nunca, and twin brothers Gustavo and Octavio Pandolfo. The work of the Brazilian artists received huge media attention, drawing many tourists from around the world.

A contrast between 16th-century building in the woods of Scotland and 21st-century urban Brazilian graffiti. 1- By Lirazelf/CC BY-SA 4.0 2- By Will Lord/Flickr/CC BY-SA 2.0

A contrast between 16th-century building in the woods of Scotland and 21st-century urban Brazilian graffiti. 1- By Lirazelf/CC BY-SA 4.0 2- By Will Lord/Flickr/CC BY-SA 2.0

This is a view of the castle from beside the Children's Garden. By Lairich Rig/CC BY-SA 2.0

This is a view of the castle from beside the Children’s Garden. By Lairich Rig/CC BY-SA 2.0

In September 2010 it was reported that Historic Scotland was putting pressure on Lord Glasgow to remove the graffiti, although this was later denied by both parties. In August 2011 it was reported that the Earl had formally written to Historic Scotland asking permission to keep the graffiti as a permanent feature. One year later, the agency made an inspection of the castle and discovered that the cement was severely damaging the original castle walls, and urged the Earl to remove the graffiti.

the graffiti is expected to stay on the estate for at least a further while until the estate can raise the funds to have the concrete refaced. 1-By SeaDave/Flickr/CC BY 2.0 2- By CoburnProjects/CC BY-SA 4.0

The graffiti is expected to stay on the estate for at least a further while until the estate can raise the funds to have the concrete refaced. 1-By SeaDave/Flickr/CC BY 2.0 2- By CoburnProjects/CC BY-SA 4.0

As of 2015, with no updates either from the media or from the castle owners, the current status of the graffiti is unknown.