Exquisite castle ceiling looking for a roof to put over its head

Author: By Louise Jury, Arts Correspondent

An exquisite painted ceiling that provides a rare reminder of the vast wealth once held by the jute barons of Dundee is threatened with destruction unless a new home can be found within the next six weeks.

The ceiling, which measures about 30ft by 16ft (9m by 5m), has been held in storage for nearly 20 years, since it was found in the ruins of a castle, most of which had been demolished decades earlier.

A public campaign and support from the National Heritage Memorial Fund raised more than £12,000 in 1984 to save the dining room ceiling of Carbet Castle, which was once home to the Grimond family, of which the former Liberal Party leader Joe Grimond was a member.

It was painted in 1871 by the Parisian artist Charles Frechou, who is also understood to have worked on the Paris Opera House. But its size and the need for restoration has meant it has languished in crates ever since – with its future now imperilled by the imminent demolition of its current storage space at Dundee University.

Jack Searle, of the Dundee Civic Trust, which led the original rescue campaign, said: “It’s the last-chance saloon. We’re not a big organisation, so this is quite tricky. But he said he hoped someone would come forward with the space to store – and ideally display – the slice of local history.

Much of the fortune of Dundee was built on its jute mills and textile industries. Its jute barons once vied with each other to build elaborate houses, and Carbet Castle was one of the grandest, although few remain.

Ralph Henderson, a retired art lecturer, said it was a disappointment that a proper home for the ceiling had never been found, despite many efforts. “It would be an even greater shame if the ceiling were now lost because of a lack of storage space for the heavy crates,” he said. It’s absolutely incredibly beautiful, really gorgeous. Everyone in the town was so enthusiastic about it when it was found. Local firms were giving between £1 and £200 to save it and, when that happens in Dundee, you know it’s something.”

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