What to see this week: Lewis chess­men

Country Life Every Week - - Athena -

These pieces of exquisitely carved wal­rus ivory be­long to the fa­mous set of Lewis chess­men dug up in 1831 from the sands of Uig on the west coast of Lewis. Prob­a­bly made in Nor­way in the 12th cen­tury, there are 93 pieces, 11 of which are owned by the Na­tional Mu­se­ums of Scot­land ( NMS) and 82 by the Bri­tish Mu­seum ( BM). The BM has now re­turned six to Lewis on longterm loan as a star at­trac­tion of the new Mu­seum nan Eilean, which opened last month on the site of the for­mer palm court and conservatories of Lews Cas­tle, a Tu­dor Gothic pile built above Stornoway har­bour in 1847– 51 and given to the peo­ple of Lewis by Lord Lev­er­hulme in 1923.

The cas­tle has been res­cued from near dere­lic­tion in a £19 mil­lion re­de­vel­op­ment that has con­verted the ground floor into an events venue, cafe and shop and will see the up­per floors open next year. The mu­seum, housed in a new build­ing by Mal­colm Fraser, fo­cuses on the her­itage of the Is­lands and has also put newly on dis­play ob­jects re­turned by the NMS that have never been seen in pub­lic be­fore.

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