Graham to work on Stornoway's Lews Castle project

Lews Castle Lews Castle was constructed in 1847 for James Matheson, who made his fortune from the opium trade

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A contractor has been appointed to the second phase of work on the Lews Castle Museum and Archive Centre.

The Glasgow division of Graham Construction will convert the interior of the historic property and build a new extension.

The first phase of work ran into difficulty when contractor Patton went into administration.

Comhairle nan Eilean Siar appointed local firm Neil MacKay and Co to complete the contract.

The former stately home in Stornoway, on Lewis, has been shut for almost 25 years.

About £14m is to be spent in total on restoring and converting the building.

Amphibious bi-planes

The new museum will use Gaelic as its first language, and depict island life.

Permanent displays will include six of the world famous 12th Century Lewis Chessmen ivory chess pieces.

The site will also offer four-star hotel accommodation.

Lews Castle was constructed in 1847 for James Matheson, who made his fortune from the opium trade.

Opium exported from China and India was often mixed with tobacco by smokers.

William Lever, whose family business went on to become food and household products brand Unilever, owned the castle from 1918 to 1923.

He installed central heating, electric lighting and internal telephones, and extended the ballroom to accommodate his parties.

During World War II it served as a naval hospital and accommodation for the crew of 700 Naval Air Squadron who operated a detachment of amphibious bi-planes from a slipway in the castle grounds.

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