The Lewis Chessmen are one of the most fascinating and oldest chess sets in the world. They are currently housed in the British Museum. But, now at least six of these famous chess pieces would return to the find a permanent home at the new Museum and Archive at Lews Castle when it opens in 2014 after a £13.5m revamp project.
Scotland Western Isles MP MacNeil has called for the return of all the 82 pieces. Some 11 pieces are housed in the National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh. Former culture minister in Scotland Linda Fabiani had visited London to make a public case for the return of the complete set of the Lewis Chessmen back to Scotland. But, the appeal was turned down as it could trigger further such demands for the return of precious antiques and artefacts.
History has it that some of the British Museum artefact’s are mired in controversy as they were supposedly won in war. However, the Lewis Chessmen were bought for a price of 80 guineas from an Edinburgh dealer, who had himself bought the chessmen for £30. The British Museum has not yet announced which six pieces would be returning to Scotland.
The arrangement of the return of the Lewis Chessmen is part of a formal pact between the British Museum and the Scottish Comhairle nan Eilean Siar (Western Isles Council). The Lewis Chessmen would be on display in a new gallery which is also being set up in partnership with the British Museum.
More than 1,20,000 visitors had come to see the Lewis Chessmen during a touring exhibition in Scotland. The Lewis Chessmen include a total of 90 pieces and were excavated from a sand dune in the region of Uig. The Lewis Chessmen are the most famous and expensive chess set in the world.
Some experts believe the intricately carved pieces to be of Scandinavian origin – others that they could have been made in Scotland by a master craftsman influenced by Viking art. Most historians believe they were probably made in Norway in around 1200AD, and were originally bound for Ireland. Lewis was once part of the Norse Kingdom of Mann and the Isles between 1079 and 1266.
Published with permission from Chess Magazine B&W.