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, 26 June 2014

Attic Rooms Take Shape

From the battlements first thing this morning one could watch two very different fishing boats working the waters to the east of the castle.  The one on the right is a small creel boat, setting creels - lobster pots - to catch prawns (langoustines), while the one on the left is a coble, a boat with a traditional design for catching the wild salmon which still run along this coast.

Progress in the castle continues to be rapid.  On the north range, the wooden roof plates, the timbers which run along the tops of the stone walls to take the roof, are in position, while....

....the floor joist supports, which will carry the wooden floors of the attic level, are being fixed in place.  As can be seen, the attic itself appears quite a small space, but will be one of the best areas of the house as it will have dormer windows which look out over the battlements and across the Sound of Mull.

Within the courtyard, the stonemasons are hard at work rebuilding the inner courses of the walls up to battlement level.  This stonework looks extremely good but the plan at present is to cover the exposed interior of the curtain walls with a layer of plaster.

In this picture we're looking at upper part of the west range, the building that used to house, at various stages, a kitchen, stable, forge, storage areas and sleeping accommodation.  The plan for its future is that it will become accommodation for the housekeeper who will look after the clients who rent the castle on a weekly basis.

Monday, 23 June 2014

Mingary from the Air

Many thanks to Iain Thornber for these pictures of Mingary Castle, taken recently when he passed in a helicopter.

Iain, a local historian and archaeologist, writes a regular column for the Oban Times.

Thursday, 19 June 2014

Progress on the Stonework

Visiting the castle weekly gives one a vivid impression of how fast things are moving.  Last week, the emphasis was very much on the stonework of the north range, but much of the upper part of this is now completed.  The wall plates - the top of the walls onto which the roof will rest - can be seen in this picture completed ready for the roof timber to be bolted to it.  The nearer of the two interior structural walls is ready for the attic floor which will rest on it, while....

....the other interior wall will need some scaffolding to complete it.  One of the four fireplaces can be seen and, at top centre, the four chimneys which are built into the wall.

So work has moved elsewhere.  Looking across from the top of the north range to the west, south and southeast walls, the rubble has been cleared from their tops to expose the remains of the walkway that went round them, and it's not in good condition.  So....

....stonemason Damien Summerscales and John O'Neil are building up the stonework on the inside of the wall to just above the level of the old walkway.  This will then be infilled with rock and then have a lime base onto which new flags will be placed.

The weather has remained fine, so a great deal of effort is going in to the pointing of the exteriors of the curtain walls.  Because it's permanently shaded from the sun and therefore remains coolest, allowing the mortar to go off steadily, the north wall is the easiest for people learning the pointing 'trade'.  So John-Paul Ashley, foreground, has some of his workmen and three Swedish volunteers working on it.

The three - Sara Lindeberg, Lars Eriksson in red, and Adam Hultberg - are from the Gotland campus of Uppsala University.  Lars and Sara are studying building conservation, and Adam archaeology.   The two men have internships and will be here for ten weeks, while Sara is gaining practical experience for five weeks.

Friday, 13 June 2014

Temporary Roof Removed

Approaching the site this morning it was immediately obvious that the temporary roof which was put on the 'north range', the main building in the castle courtyard, has been removed, so that....

....from the top lift of the exterior scaffolding one can now look across what will be the attic floor of the refurbished building.  The archaeologists had been here earlier in the week finishing the drawings of the parapets, so the builders have now been able to clear them completely, exposing the slabs which form the walkway round the roof.  These are formed of a metamorphic rock called schist: there are outcrops of this type of rock a few miles to the east of the castle.

Work will now progress quickly on building up the interior structural walls and the end gables so the permanent roof can go on.  We've had a run of fairly dry weather so conditions are good at the moment - but the local weather is famously fickle.

Builder Mark Rutherford Thompson was kind enough to show me the work that's been going on in the intramural passageway which runs through the east wall.  Readers will recall that the steps up from the first to the second floor had been blocked with rubble when chimneys were built in to the east gable end of the 'north range'.  This has all been cleared - picture looks up the passage from the first floor up to the second floor, from which a left turn takes one into the chapel.

Looking in the opposite direction, into the small semicircular room which has the round musket ports, I could see where the builders have been replacing the oak timbers which form the roof of the passage.  In the foreground are the old timbers, and the new timbers now go round into the small room. What's been done so far illustrates the time-consuming nature of this sort of work: replacing the timbers in the room and a short section of passage has taken three men - a stonemason, a carpenter and a workman - a whole week, as the walls had to be built up and then every section of oak timber had to be cut to exact size so it fitted into its place.

The oak that has been removed has been neatly laid out near the castle entrance.  It's in remarkably good condition, considering that it may be the original oak that was built into the passage when the walls were first raised some 700 years ago.

Thursday, 5 June 2014

Progress in the North Range

We've enjoyed some fine weather recently but the wind is in the north today, bringing a fine drizzle and colder-than-normal temperatures.  What the weather's going to do next is of considerable importance as, within the next ten days, the builders need to take off the temporary roof on the north range.  It's done great service through the winter, but the end gables and interior structural walls which will carry the new roof need to rise above the temporary roof line.

Part of the end of the temporary roof at the east end has been removed already, and this view gives some idea of the working area inside.  Visible are the piles of rocks taken from the castle which have been cleaned and are steadily going back into the walls as the building progresses.

We're looking here at one of the lancet windows which lets light through the north curtain wall into  what was the mediaeval hall.  The oak lintels weren't easy to insert as the wall above was highly unstable - visible at the top of the picture is the neatly rebuilt stonework.

Builder Mark Rutherford Thompson is seen here in the chapel next to the only double lancet window in the north wall.  This area was also extremely difficult to deal with - followers of this blog will remember that Mingary's archaeologists believe that a cannonball struck and severely damaged the wall to the left of this window.

All the oak lintels in the north curtain wall have a layer of slates above them to protect them from water seeping down through the wall.  The slates slope gently towards the outside of the wall to lead the water away.

This morning Mark was working with the lads clearing out the floor area in the chapel.  The roof is still supported, and the next job, now that the walls are stable and can take the metal brackets, will be to get concrete lintels in to form the ceiling.

Meanwhile, work on the chimneys continues.  In this picture of one of the interior structural walls the vertical divisions between the chimneys can be seen - they're called mid-feathers - and, to the left, a fireplace.  This wall has almost reached the point where the stonemasons can't build it any higher until the temporary roof is off.