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.

Tuesday, 18 February 2014

Mysteries of the Battlements

I joined archaeologist Kenny Macfadyen on the battlements this morning in weather which was a huge improvement on yesterday's, in which he was working almost all day in very miserable rain.

Kenny continues on the painstaking task of drawing the battlements and, in the process, trying to make sense of the changes that have been made to them over the 700 years of Mingary's existence.  Major restructuring of the battlements has happened at least three times and possibly many more, the last at the beginning of the eighteenth century - and all of them are complicated by damaged caused during attacks on the castle.

Kenny doesn't believe that, when the castle was originally built, the walls were as high as they are today.  His survey suggests that they were a good two metres lower, something which can be distinguished most clearly on the outside of the east wall.

If some features of the battlements can be interpreted, he's struggling with others.  A good example of this is the neat, square holes set into the base of the parapet.  These probably housed the ends of wooden beams.  The beams are unlikely to have stretched right across the courtyard to form a roof, so they may have supported some sort of wooden walk-way - though one immediately wonders why they aren't at the same level, so the walkway would have been very uneven; and, in any case, what was the need for a walk-way when the stone top of the wall would have provided plenty of space for movement?

These holes stretch all the way round the battlements at fairly regular intervals - here we're looking across at the inside of the east wall.  Another possibility is that they supported a wooden roof structure which was built up to cover the battlements and provide the defenders with protection from falling arrows.

Whatever it was, the structure pre-dated the laying of paving slabs all along the top of the battlements.  Sadly, many of these flagstones have been lost.  They don't appear to be a local stone, so they are another example of a building material which was brought in, probably by ship.  The ones shown here are cut by one of the kitchen chimneys.

John-Paul Ashley's men have also been hard at work on the pointing on the walls of the courtyard.  This picture looks into the east range which, in the plans, is incorporated with the north range into the main dwelling house.  None of this stonework will be visible as it'll be plastered over.

J-P's men have also been making progress on the biofuel plant.  For a moment the slots left in the breeze block walls reminded me of the holes on the battlements, but I was assured by H that they were left so he could join in two diagonal walls which would take the weight of the hopper into which the wood chippings would be delivered.

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