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.
Wednesday, 5 February 2014
The Castle Chapel
After Monday's gale, today's visit to the castle was a joy, and the first thing I did was to walk round the scaffolding in the sunshine. Just below the point where this picture was taken, some of John-Paul Ashley's men were working on clearing the last of the vegetation from the base of the castle walls, a job that would have been impossible on Monday.
The main purpose of the visit was to talk to archaeologist Andrew Morrison, a Canadian from Vancouver Island, who is carrying out the last of the excavation work. All that remains is for Kenny Macfadyen to complete his beautifully detailed drawings next week, and for Addyman Archaeology to prepare their report.
Andrew was on his knees in the intramural chamber, working in the entrance at its east end, where he has discovered a step down to what was probably a mortar floor. He described how the room could not have been a later addition, that it must have been built as an integral part of the castle's north wall, so it dates back to some time in the period 1265 to 1295.
He showed me clear evidence that the ceiling was formed of trunks of trees about 30cm in diameter which had been split lengthways, laid with the flat side down, and then filled above with mortared rocks. Pieces of wood - see picture - and the cylindrical outline of where the logs used to lie, are preserved in the ceiling.
At the far end of the room the floor was wooden. The 'bench' which I described in Monday's post is a primary feature - that is, it was built at the same time as the room. Archaeologists are by profession cautious people, and it took considerable discussion before Andrew would finally admit that the builders wouldn't have wasted their time on a bench, or a bed, or anything that wasn't important, and that the only thing he could think of which would fit the evidence is an altar. In fact, the only argument against this explanation is that it stands at the west end of the room, whereas most churches have their altar at the east end.
The picture I now have of this room is that it was entered from the east end through a wooden door with carved sandstone coins. One would have stepped down into a narrow room with a plaster floor, plastered walls, and an oak ceiling. At the far end stood an altar with a wooden dais in front of it, a flagstoned top, and the double lancet window allowing in light from its right. To me, there is now little doubt that the room was built in the 13th century as the castle's chapel.