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.

Monday, 15 December 2014

Fighting the Storms

If builder Mark Rutherford Thompson doesn't look too happy, he has good cause.  Last week was a dreadful week, with severe gales, heavy rain, hail, sleet and snow and, to add to the fun, frequent lightning strikes which have brought eleven power outages, some of them as long as nine hours.

Trying to keep a project like this one going in such conditions takes patience and determination from both Mark and his partner in the business, John-Paul Ashley.  The high winds have rocked the Estate caravans in which they and their men are living, making sleep nigh-on impossible.  The power outages mean that there's no hot water for showers at the end of a cold and wet day, no hot food, and no heat to keep them warm.

Despite this, the team has kept working, and it's easy to see some of the results.  In the west range the first floor joists are now in place as well as, to the left of the picture, the huge oak beams which hold up the fireplace and an alcove.  This room has more than one fireplace - it was, at various times, a kitchen and a forge.

The gap in the centre of the photo is where an early flight of stairs rose from the courtyard to the battlements, but these were largely removed when this range was originally built.

The other room on the ground floor in the west range is much smaller.  A new floor has been installed, as well as the joists for the first floor. Billy, one of the workmen, is seen here standing next to what will be a feature fireplace.

Even though the gales were mainly from the west, conditions on the exposed castle site were extreme - yet only one area was damaged.  The picture shows what's left of the temporary roof on the biomass boiler.  This was ripped off by the wind, allowing water to get into the hopper - at the near end in this picture.  As a result, some 30 tonnes of wood chip was soaked, and the boiler went out.

Despite this, the main range remains warm, but a priority now is getting a roof back over the boiler house, digging out the soggy chipping, and getting the boiler fired up before everyone leaves on Wednesday for their well-deserved Christmas break.

Thursday, 4 December 2014

Christmas Wishes

Here's wishing all the team at Mingary Castle a very happy, enjoyable and relaxing Christmas break.  The site is closing down on the 18th, but some of them will be away earlier.
Back row, left to right: Billy, Nick, Mark, Grimmy, Chris, Damien, 'H'.
Front row, left to right: J-P, Martin, Callum, Richard.

Stabilising the Curtain Walls

The last time we saw Alasdair Smith (right) and Liam Martin of UKdima Engineering Ltd at the castle, they were drilling two large holes through the basement rock from the moat into the castle to carry the services, including the heating from the biofuel boiler.  They've been down again over the last few weeks, this time drilling much smaller holes through the bases of the curtain walls as part of a process of stabilising the walls.

The method is very similar to that used to pin the huge granophyre blocks in place when work first started on the castle, with forty-two steel reinforcing pins being inserted through the bottoms of the walls, from the outside into the courtyard, epoxied into place, and then plates placed on either end and screwed tight to pull the two sides together.

This plan shows a vertical view through one of the curtain walls. Blocks had to be removed from the exterior (left)....

....and the hole drilled through the base of the wall.

The steel rods were then inserted, and steel plates screwed tight on either end.

Later, the rocks that had been removed were replaced and mortared into position so the plate is hidden.  The mortar here has yet to be brushed, so it will quickly blend in with the rest.

When I went down to the castle today, a small team, including Richard (pictured), was working on the base of the walls, the one place where the pointing hasn't been completed.  Until recently, the scaffolding wasn't in place to make it accessible.

The lowest section of the west wall is now almost complete, but they have to work their way round all the other walls.  Here's hoping that the weather holds so that this, one of the last jobs that have to be done on the exterior walls, can be completed as soon as possible.  Then, some time after New Year, the scaffolding will come down and the refurbished and strengthened walls will be revealed.

Picture of steel plate courtesy Mark Thompson.