The Mingary Castle restoration blog was written by Jon Haylett, who lives in the local village of Kilchoan. Now that restoration is almost complete Holly and Chris Bull will take over to report on bringing the Castle back to life.
Thursday, 29 August 2013
Wighton Jagger Shaw Architects, project engineer Brian Smith, and archaeologist Tom Addyman, the extent of the repairs that will be needed, the repairs schedule, and Brian's scheme for reinforcement of the structure. As Francis put it, it will be a day of negotiating, during which everyone will be working towards what is best for this wonderful castle.
Ashley Thompson put it, on most of the jobs he's done involving historic buildings, he could scoop out the mortar with a finger. Try that on Mingary and all you get is a sore finger. The mortar is 700 years old and still absolutely solid.
The secret, so John-Paul says, is in the 'ingredients', which are part lime, part shell sand, and part a gravel of whinstone - that's the igneous rock dolerite - which react together to give the mix its strength. The remarkable condition of the mortar means that much less rebuilding has to happen - which is good news for tomorrow's discussions with Historic Scotland.
Tuesday, 27 August 2013
The lower walkway is now complete on all sides except the northern, and the men are now working on an upper level which....
Stephen's is a tremendously exciting find because, as with the blackened gate stones which were found in the moat, it can be traced back to a particular event in Mingary Castle's history. Since this wall faces out to sea, the cannon that fired it must have been aboard a ship. It's possible that this dates to the siege of 1644 when one of the ships investing the castle, a Dutch vessel, sank just off the castle. The wreck has been thoroughly investigated - see the Wessex Archaeology report here - and Historic Scotland, in their report on thr weck site, had the following to say about it:
Historic Scotland report, a .pdf file, is here.
Sunday, 25 August 2013
A castle has to be able to withstand both direct assault and siege. While Mingary looks formidable, it had sufficient weaknesses to be successfully attacked by the Royalist Alasdair MacColla MacDonald in 1644 who, as described in the earlier post, here, managed to subdue the garrison surprisingly quickly by assaulting, and burning down the gate. But the account makes it clear that the defenders were already in trouble: "....the continual thundering of muskate and cannon did so shake the rock as thair wall [well] went dry...."
Further evidence for the weakness of the water supply also comes from an account of the subsequent siege of the Royalist forces which then held Mingary. The Coventanting general, David Leslie, invested the castle for seven weeks. An account from the time described how the only water available was from rainwater which gathered in the wall-head.
Ashley Thompson, shows the rocks that form the causeway sitting on the rubble infill of the moat.
Many thanks to John-Paul Ashley for the photograph,
and to Flying Scotscam for the aerial picture of the castle.
Thursday, 22 August 2013
The scaffolding is now advancing across the north wall of the castle. It's across the wall at the eastern end of the moat (see left of above picture) and the workmen are currently fixing it across the steel walkway which leads from the car park to the castle entrance. By tomorrow we'll be able to step off the walkway on to the boarding that runs round the castle wall - or, rather we'll be able to in theory, as we won't be allowed out until they have a handrail in position.
John added that work was going well on the scaffolding, and he hoped to have the job on the outer walls finished in about three weeks' time, though there was more to do after that on the inside of the castle.
Addyman Archaeology finally excavated his way through to the point that would reveal the secret of the well. Everyone was fairly sure that the well wasn't a well at all, more a cistern into which water from the moat seeped - but now we can see that this is the case. The clay-filled wall helped to dam back a puddle of water, allowing it to pass through the hole that's now visible into the castle.
Tuesday, 20 August 2013
Ashley Thompson, I was taken out onto it for the first time, but only along this short section of walkway. The whole of the wall should be safely accessible by the end of August or early September, enabling visiting officers from Historic Scotland to take a close look at both the outside of the castle and the tops of the battlements.
Friday, 16 August 2013
The week has seen a run of superb finds, both in the castle itself and during the excavation of the moat. Undoubtably the most beautiful was made by Phil Masters of Ashley Thompson. Phil - seen here on the battlements - seems to turn his hand to almost anything, but this week he's spent much of his time working some four metres down in the castle well where he's shovelling 'manure' into buckets which are brought to the surface. Even though it's pitch dark down there, and he's working with a head torch, Phil has a sharp eye for artefacts.
This picture shows all Ricky's finds from one, quite short afternoon session. While some of the objects are recent, two may be parts of another cannonball, there are several nails and an intriguing length of chain, while both the objects in the bottom left hand corner are lead, the smaller possibly being another, but very distorted musket ball.
To the left of the cannonball are two musket balls.
|Photo: Ricky Clark|
|Photo: Ricky Clark|
The Museum of London has a comprehensive collection of pictures of 17th to 19th century wine bottles, here, in which there are several that look like this one, but we'll have to wait for a definitive identification until Tom Addyman of Addyman Archaeology has had a look at it.
Wednesday, 14 August 2013
When I asked archaeologist Kenny Macfadyen, who is overseeing the work, why the well was full of first-class compost, he said that it was quite likely that it was well-rotted human excrement. He had seen other sites where the well, after it had fallen out of use, had been converted into a convenience. Certainly, using it would have been preferable to the open-air garderobes on a wet and windy day.
Tuesday, 13 August 2013
The top picture shows the only excavation done in the moat as of the end of last week, at the eastern end.
Addyman Archaeology over the weekend. He proved that the left two-thirds of this causeway is relatively recent, built to replace the original drawbridge and founded on the rubble and earth that had collected in the moat - so it's not surprising there's a crack running down it due to subsidence. The drawbridge itself came down to rest on the wall at the right of the picture.
The exact arrangement that allowed this to happen isn't clear yet. Kenny is hoping to excavate the area in the next couple of days.