Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Inverness' Cromwellian Fort

I bet 99% of people driving along Lotland Street in Inverness seeing this grassy bank behind Roy Homes' car park think it's just a bund enclosing the oil tanks behind.

But in fact what they're looking at (if they notice it all) is a Scheduled Ancient Monument because this is all that remains of the ramparts of a fort built in the 1650s on the orders of Oliver Cromwell.

Like the fort at Fort William I wrote about a couple of years ago (can it be that long ago?), I'd no idea there was anything left to see of the fort at Inverness. But if it's not very well known to the general public (despite local clues such as this part of the town being called "Citadel"), it's well known to the conservation authorities as disclosed by the veritable forest of hatchings and markings over the map of Inverness in this area on the PASTMAP website (registration necessary but it's free).

The red bit is the grassy mound which is scheduled as an Ancient Monument

The historical context of the fort at Inverness is the same as the one at Fort William. Everyone's heard of the English Civil War in the 1640s when Parliament took up arms against King Charles I. The gripe was the king's high handed attitude to levying taxes. What's less well known is there was a also parallel civil war in Scotland in which the king's enemies - called the Covenanters - had a gripe about his religious policies. The long and short is that Oliver Cromwell got fed up with all of them, closed down Parliament, executed the king (1649) and invaded and conquered Scotland (1651). In Scotland, the clans had been particularly active on behalf of Charles so Cromwell decreed a fort at Inverness, a key location for control of the Highlands. (Note, incidentally, that Cromwellian forts didn't have names like William, Augustus, George etc. In the 17th century, Fort William was called simply Inverlochy.) 

Rotated 90 degrees clockwise to get it "north up". Note how the main entrance appears to have been a bridge from a gate-house on the opposite side of the River Ness.

Construction of the fort at Inverness began under the direction of Major-General Deane in May 1652 but it wasn't completed until 1658, having cost £80,000. It was built with stone from Inverness' Greyfriars and St Mary’s churches and the medieval priories of Beauly and Kinross. It also incorporated timber from neighbouring Strathglass as well as oak imported from England. Within the ramparts were a church, magazine, stores and accommodation for a thousand men.

Despite all this, the Inverness fort was demolished soon after the restoration of King Charles II in 1660, just two years after it had been completed. But it has nonetheless left its footprint, fading gradually as Inverness developed round about it but still just visible to the present day. There's a wealth of further information about the fort at Highland Council's Historic Environment Record here. Note particularly the 2001 report which contains a series of historical maps of Inverness showing the fort. One of them is the Ordnance Survey 1870 25 inch map below:-

Another of the old maps referenced in the report is John Home's 1774 map of Inverness which you can see in detail at the excellent Am Baile website.

The star shaped pattern of the fort was still visible in an aerial photo taken in 1950 which you can see on the National Libraries of Scotland website:-

And the footprint is still just visible on today's Google Earth with the land to the east and north (which was a grass aerodrome in the 1930s) now totally built over. On the GE extract below, the red X is the location of the rampart which is the grassy bank in the photo at the top.

Though never likely to qualify as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the vestigial remains of Inverness' Cromwellian fort are a good example of fascinating history to be found amongst the most mundane of surroundings. And in fact the fort is just a part of a bigger story inasmuch that history proved it was premature to have dismantled it in the 1660s. Only 30 years later, Inverness found itself once again in the cockpit of warfare over deposed Stuart monarchs in the shape of the Jacobite risings. This led to the town being re-fortified in the 18th century on the site of its medieval castle where the sheriff court now stands - this was the original Fort George (complimenting Fort William and Fort Augustus). It was blown up by the Jacobites in 1746 shortly before they were finally defeated at the Battle of Culloden and this led to the present Fort George being built 10 miles east. (I typed the last two sentences without checking my facts and I feel more postings on this subject coming on once I have ...)

I leave you with a final picture of the only other remaining vestige of the Cromwellian fort at Inverness - the clock tower on the not uncoincidentally named Cromwell Street. (It's immediately west (left) of the upside down Olympic pattern of oil tanks in the GE photo above.)

I gather there's some doubt about whether the clock tower was an original part of the 17th century fort (see for e.g. here and here) but it's a lot older than the oil tanks. I wonder if archaeologists will be puzzling over them when sifting the layers of civilisation 1,000 years from now ...

Monday, April 2, 2012

Croggan Pier

I've been published! Well not quite but I do have my name in print in a book that's just been published, namely, Alistair Deayton's West Highland Piers

Top - MacBrayne's cruise steamer King George V (1936-74) at Fort William; bottom - the Corran Ferry
My contribution was two from my postcard collection, namely, the north terminus of Kylesku ferry (page 85):-

... and the north terminus of the old Bonawe Ferry across Loch Etive (page 92):-

I like piers. They're places where you can watch boats and sometimes even get on one which is always a good thing.  If not, then you're often surrounded by water on three sides and can pretend you're on a boat. You can also go fishing. When I was young, I remember being invited to go "beach fishing" and thinking, "What's that all about - surely you can only go fishing from a pier?" As a child (late 60s, early 70s), we were more likely to say "Can we go to the pier?" than to the beach.

Armadale on Skye - a pier which ticks a lot of boxes
In the introduction to his book, Alistair makes the point that piers used to be a vital part of the transport infrastructure because, before the advent of the internal combustion engine and decent roads in the first few decades of the 20th century, many remote areas, even on the mainland, depended on delivery of goods by sea. This was summed up by an article I once read in the online archive of "the Scotsman" about transport problems to Gairloch in Wester Ross in (I think) the 1930s. The locals were campaigning, not for improvements to the road from Inverness, as you'd expect nowadays, but for improvements to the pier so that cargo steamers would not be prevented so often from calling due to low tide.

MacBrayne's cargo steamer SS Claymore (1881-1931) at Gairloch Pier
But unless they happened to coincide with a railhead, a fishing port (as at Gairloch) or a modern car ferry terminal (e.g. Uig on Skye), the majority of these piers were abandoned in the mid 20th century as the transport of goods was moved to the roads. Only a few of the rest have survived, often on islands now served by car ferries operating to slipways (e.g. Jura, Lismore & Gigha) where the old style pier has been retained in case of a load which can't come on the back of a vehicle. This load of electricity poles to replace ones felled in the December storms of 2011 was touch and go for getting to Lismore on the back of truck via a slipway:-

Anyway, one of my favourite abandoned "local piers" (although it's not in Alistair's book because I'm guessing there's a sequel to come called "Western Isles Piers") is the one at Croggan on the south shore of Loch Spelve in Mull.


 In such a very remote location, the pier seems incongruously imposing. There are just a handful of crofts at Croggan (now, of course, mostly holiday houses) although it was no doubt designed also to serve the needs of the village of Lochbuie a mile or two to the west which is too exposed to the prevailing south westerly winds to allow reliably regular calls by steamers.

Photo credit ceeyefaitch
Croggan - picture credit Graham Maxwell
I don't know anything about the history of the pier at Croggan, when or in what circumstances it was built. But with both having a little stone building at the pier head and concrete supports for the bridge out to the berthing head, Croggan looks very similar to the abandoned pier at Black Mill Bay on the island of Luing just across the Firth of Lorne from Mull. I'd guess they were both built around the same time as part of an early 20th century programme of providing remote communities in this part of Argyll with piers.

Black Mill Bay, Luing

The ship in the postcard view of Black Mill Bay pier above is MacBrayne's cargo steamer, SS Handa. She was sold out the fleet in 1917 which I think helps date Croggan Pier to before that year.

EDIT - also just noticed that the pier is marked on the 1897 edition of the Ordnance 6 inch map.

Anyway, this is all by way of a very long introduction to a series of photos of Croggan Pier in use which I was fasconated to see on the Ships of Calmac forum. They were taken by forum member Craig McDowall's grandfather who grew up in Croggan (his grandmother from Lochbuie although they all now live in the north of Mull) and with Craig's permission I reproduce them here and let them speak for themselves:-



In the first three pictures above, the ship is MacBrayne's MV Lochshiel. Built in 1929, she carried cargo from Glasgow, round the Mull of Kintyre (significant because previous ships on the route went through the Crinan Canal) to points on the Sound of Jura, Firth of Lorne, Loch Linnhe, Sound of Mull and as far north as Loch Sunart (including Glencripesdale). The Lochshiel was sold for scrap in 1952 when she was replaced by a later, post WW2 generation of cargo boats. It's one of these at the pier in the fourth photo above, I think the Loch Carron (1951).

I don't know exactly when Croggan Pier closed for business, but in Duckworth & Langmuir's "West Highland Steamers", I read that, from July 1953, "further road transport and cargo trans-shipment  was introduced so that Glasgow goods for Luing, Lismore and Croggan were conveyed via Oban." I don't know how that would have worked in practice, though - were goods for Croggan off-loaded at Oban, transferred there to the Mull mail steamer, then off-loaded again at Salen (the first pier on Mull up the Sound of Mull before Craignure Pier was built in 1963) and eventually taken by lorry to Croggan and Lochbuie? If so, I'm not sure how that fits with the fact that D&L tell us in the next sentence that goods for Bunessan and Fionnphort, further west on Mull, were to be conveyed by road from the cargo steamer at Tobermory. Anyway, I'm guessing the changes in 1953 spelt the end for Croggan Pier (and Black Mill Bay on Luing). Cargo services to the Western Isles finally ended in 1976 with all the islands by then being linked by ro-ro ferries.

Picture credit tobers