The Jawbone Arch

Update March 2017

Last week the pathway at the site of the Jawbone Arch in the Meadows was re-surfaced. The jawbones themselves are still undergoing conservation work, which is taking longer than previous estimates anticipated: this delay has led to the ongoing closure of the pathway and we are aware of the inconvenience this has caused to Meadows users. As the conservation processes are still underway, the pathway has been resurfaced and reopened for normal use. Once the conservation works are completed, the pathway will be closed for a short period while the reinstallation takes place.

[Note: The conservation of whale jawbones is a complex and unusual task, which requires specialist conservation experts to develop and implement the best approach. The project has taken longer than initial studies anticipated, due to a number of factors including the complexity of conserving ‘organic’ whalebone, and the going into liquidation of a specialist conservation company which was working on the project. Once restored, the Jawbone Arch will return to the Meadows, and this important Edinburgh landmark will be in place for people to enjoy for another hundred years.]

Update, November 2016

Read the latest update from the City of Edinburgh Council and Edinburgh World Heritage.

News. October 2016

The site for the refurbished jawbones was prepared in July, but it looks as if it will be January 2017 before the jawbones are erected again. We have been told by the Council "Latest information we received from the Edinburgh World Heritage Trust is there have been some further unforeseen delays and the latest timetable we have had for installation is now the end of December, but would envisage with the festive period more likely to be January" This means the Melville Drive end of Jawbone walk will stay closed. Apparently it is not safe to open for public use until the jawbones have been put back in place.

Preparations for the Jawbones The Zetland and Fair Isle knitters at The International Exhibition in 1886. Photograph courtesy of The Shetland Museum. The Up Helly Aa Jarl Squad at the Jawbones. Photo by Heidi Pearson

The Jawbone Arch has become a well-loved Edinburgh landmark, but recent investigations have shown that restoration work is needed. The bones have been removed for detailed examination, before specialist conservation can take place. The City of Edinburgh Council, Edinburgh World Heritage, the Friends of the Meadows and Bruntsfield Links and local resident Heidi Pearson (a Shetlander) are collaborating on an appeal to raise £60,000 to ensure the arch is preserved for future generations. The Up Helly Aa Jarl Squad from Shetland were visiting Edinburgh to take part in the Hogmanay events and kindly gave their time to help promote the appeal. A Facebook page has been created to help raise awareness for the project, in addition Summerhall TV have produced a video interviewing Heidi about her involvement with the appeal and the recent support shown by the Viking's visit to the Jawbone Arch. There are several ways to donate towards the project: Online: ( You can give by credit or debit card and if you are a taxpayer your tax can be reclaimed. Cheque: Please send to Edinburgh World Heritage, 5 Bakehouse Close, 146 Canongate, Edinburgh, EH8 8DD. Please mark the envelope 'Jawbone'. The appeal is also on Facebook – Save the Jawbone Arch ( or you can use the Edinburgh World Heritage website here.

Shetland grant for Jawbones

Edinburgh World Heritage report that Shetland Amenity Trust has contributed to the Jawbones Restoration appeal. Read the report.

Report 15/7/15

One of our members recently visited the conservation workshop where the Jawbones are being restored. Here is his report about what is being done.

Report, 1/12/14

PROGRESS REPORT ON JAWBONE ARCH PROJECT from the World Heritage Site Project Manager, 1st December 2014.

We managed to meet up with the conservator in October and we were taken out to where the bones are being stored. They have dried out very well and are now completely dry without any new fungal growth on the surface. The bones survived the dismantling and transportation process better than expected by the contractor and the only real problem was the two ends of bones that broke because they had been so damaged by being embedded on wet concrete footings. The contractor is confident that these broken ends can be reattached and missing areas (old repairs) infilled.

The next stage will involve removal of the tissue paper wrapping the bones and a thorough inspection of each bone to calculate what percentage of each needs to be repaired. The contractor is talking of using Nanolime technology and has some recent results from a similar project elsewhere. We think this sounds like the route to take but will of course need to know more about the materials being proposed.

We then plan to have a new metal structure designed to carry the loading from the bones and winds, so that the arch will be much better supported than before when it is re-erected.

We now have enough funds to instruct the next phase in the restoration while we carry on fundraising for the last £8,800. If we can raise this we hope to have the arch back home by the summer.