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.

Friday, 8 November 2013

The Window Problem

Formal application for a change of use of Mingary Castle, from a ruin to a dwelling house, has been with Highland Council, the local authority, for some weeks.  The Council visited the site on Tuesday and carried out a tour of inspection.  A decision is imminent.

Meanwhile, discussions continue between the Trust's architect, Francis Shaw of Shaw and Jagger, and Historic Scotland.  Francis was kind enough to give me some of his valuable time on Tuesday to describe the complexity of some of the decisions that have to be made before work can progress.  For a start, agreement had to be reached on the date that the restoration will reflect, and this will be the last time the castle was in use, some time in the 1770/80s.  The last known refurbishment of the north range (shown in the photo below, before work began) took place some around 1700, and there is no indication that any major works were carried out between then and 1770/80, so the designs need to reflect the styles of the years around 1700.

Once this was established, the form of a huge range of features has to be agreed - and a good example of the problems faced is the windows in the north range.

The windows today are gaping holes.  There are no surviving pictures to show what they were like and, to complicate matters, the design of windows was changing very quickly in the late 17th and early 18th centuries.  Prior to 1696, because the technology didn't exist to make large panes of glass, the norm was for many, small windows.  In that year, the government brought in a window tax based on the number of windows in a building, in three bands: 0-10, 10-20, and more than 20 - the north tange would have been in the middle band.  While a window tax wasn't applied in Scotland until 1748, Scotland's position in the forefront of Classical design, and the changing technology which allowed bigger sheets of glass to be formed, would have influenced the decisions made at Mingary.

If the refurbishment took place between 1696 and about 1720, then it would have been carried out by the Campbells, who had received the castle from the Duke of Argyll.  They are likely to have put in cross casement windows - the sketch gives some idea of what they would have looked like - with leaded lights.

Had the work been done a little later, the then owner, Sir Archibald Murray of Stanhope, would probably have used sash windows with thick glazing bars, both upper and lower window being divided into perhaps 16 panes.

If these are the considerations when making decisions about the windows, there must be hundreds more about other design features in this building - and the other two buildings, which are not of the same age and had very different uses.  The example of the windows gives an insight into the difficulties faced when restoring an historic building like Mingary Castle.

Many thanks to Francis Shaw for his help.

1 comment:

  1. This situation sounds like a real pane!!
    Or is it a frame up!!