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, 27 June 2013
Mingary Castle Excavation: Progress Update
The archaeologists have been very fortunate with Ardnamurchan's weather over the last few weeks, but it was bound to break at some point - which was today. As a result, it isn't only those still paddling around in the moat who are up to their ankles in mud. Despite the rain, the place was a hive of activity this morning.
The two amateur archaeologists are cleaning cobbles in the main courtyard, and it's been rewarding work. Just to the right of where Dale Meegan is working there's evidence of what may be a mediaeval drain. The cobbles seem to slope down towards it, and holes can be seen between the cobbles which open into an underground space. This may be a drain which runs away from the photographer under the larger, flat rocks - mediaeval manhole covers? Further, as can be seen in the top picture, which looks in exactly the opposite direction, Tom Addyman is standing at a point where he thinks he may have found a lateral drain which runs from the west, kitchen range into the main drain.
The amateurs have found a wealth of small artefacts, of which this piece of pottery, about 20mm across, found by Dale, is rather pretty. Tom identified it as Whieldon ware, produced by Thomas Whieldon in the Staffordshire Potteries during the mid-eighteenth century.
Ross Cameron has been working in the northern of the two rooms in the west range, a room which was probably a kitchen. His most exciting find is what he's kneeling on - the foundations of a substantial wall which, because it's bonded in to the main castle wall, is very early. It runs away from the west wall at right angles. Once he's lifted the slabs which formed part of the kitchen floor, he'll be able to see more clearly what purpose it might have served.
In the other, southern room of the west range, Dave Henderson has been working in an area which was full of cobble stones. Since much of the cobbled area in the courtyard has been destroyed, they may have come from there - but who removed them and piled them here, and why?
Both rooms in the east range are now completely clear. This is the northern of the two and shows that its walls were built directly on the rock foundation, that it had a suspended floor, and that it was plastered.
The main range has also been cleared. This is the eastern of the three rooms, the one where the cannonball was found, and it has been excavated down to bedrock. The depth of material that has been removed is evident from the muddy 'high tide' line. This view looks across it to the wall which separates off the 'well'; the four square holes in the masonry are a bit of a mystery.
This is the middle room, the one that housed the staircase. In the right, bottom corner, a board covers the stone drain that Ross was working on.
The next stage is for the builders to erect scaffolding in all three rooms. They've started the job in the western of the rooms. Once up, the scaffolding will enable the archaeologists to survey the walls and the builders to then start work on the tops of the main range walls, where the mortar is most corroded.