South Walls, Hackness, The Battery

Battery (19th Century)

Site Name South Walls, Hackness, The Battery

Classification Battery (19th Century)

Alternative Name(s) Longhope Gun Battery; Longhope Anchorage; Scapa Flow; Lyness; South Waas

Canmore ID 9497

Site Number ND39SW 9

NGR ND 33738 91483

Datum OSGB36 - NGR

Ordnance Survey licence number 100020548. All rights reserved.
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Administrative Areas

  • Council Orkney Islands
  • Parish Walls And Flotta
  • Former Region Orkney Islands Area
  • Former District Orkney
  • Former County Orkney

Archaeology Notes

33738 91483

For associated Martello Towers at Hackness (ND 3384 9128) and Crockness (ND 3242 9344), see respectively.

The Battery [NAT]

OS 1:10,000 map, 1976.

This, along with was built 1813-15 to guard the convoy anchorage at Longhope against American privateers, and remodelled in response to the 'Fenian Navy' scare of 1866. Originally mounting eight 24-pounder guns en barbette, in its modified form it had four 68-pounders firing through embrasures; after 1866 the walled precinct also contained a cookhouse, officers' quarters and guardroom in addition to the original magazine and barrack-block. Apart from the removal of the guns and the dismantling of the magazine roof, these buildings remain unaltered, the present owner, who lives in the officers' quarters, having managed to preserve this outstanding mid-Victorian battery in remarkably fine condition.

R P Fereday 1971; A Ritchie 1985; RCAHMS 1989, visited August 1987.

An archaeological investigation was undertaken at Hackness Gun Battery in November 1997 by Headland Archaeology Ltd. The work was commissioned by Historic Scotland who also funded the investigation. It is proposed by Historic Scotland to consolidate the site and present it to the public. The archaeological investigation was intended to provide vital information necessary to reconstruct the battery as it would have looked in 1866.

The original 1815 gun battery is largely intact and preserved although the gun platforms were almost completely destroyed by the 1866 refurbishment. The 1866 battery is intact although the racers for the guns have been removed from the excavated gun platform. Many addtional features were identified by a geophysical survey (Headland Archaeology Ltd, Geophysical report HAC97; NMRS MS/899/67, 1997).

C Moloney 1998 (Headland Archaeology Ltd); NMRS MS/899/43.

ND 337 914 An archaeological investigation, involving geophysical survey and excavation, at Longhope Gun Battery identified a well-preserved series of structures and deposits relating to the structural development of the monument. The fragmentary remains of the 1815 battery were found beneath the 1866 structure. The magazine and shifting room were fully excavated and found to be well-preserved. Although heavily robbed of stone, the gun platforms also proved to be well-preserved and limited investigation identified the 1815 rampart and part of a possible earlier gun platform. Further investigation included excavation of the surrounding perimeter ditch and investigation of the nature of the magazine drainage system. Geophysical survey, undertaken by Arkensol, identified two previously unknown structures as well as numerous service trenches of varying dates and functions.

Sponsor: Historic Scotland

C Moloney 1998

ND 337 914 Excavations continued in 1999 at Hackness Gun Battery (Moloney 1998; NMRS ), with work concentrating mainly on the gun platforms. Two trenches were excavated across the whole of the 1866 platform. The eight 1866 gun racer cuts were all found to have been robbed out. There was also evidence of the original gun racers that had been truncated during the later refurbishment. One area of paving relating to the 1815 period was found undisturbed in the SW corner of the gun platforms. Further work was undertaken in the magazine and a strip of the missing northern bank was reconstructed. Examination of geophysical anomalies to the E of the gun battery revealed a probable prehistoric burial cairn.

Sponsor: Historic Scotland

S Halliday 1999

ND 3373 9149 to ND 3384 9128 The excavation of a water main trench was monitored at Hackness Gun Battery (NMRS ), on the island of Hoy. The trench was dug in September 2000, mostly by machine, partly by hand, and ran from the 19th-century battery (ND 3373 9149) to the Martello Tower (ND 3384 9128; NMRS ), a distance of some 110m.

No features were found outside the Martello Tower, except for the hard-core around the gateways, which is apparently of recent origin. The proximity of bedrock indicates that the tower was, unsurprisingly, built on solid foundations.

Two features in the field relate to the gun battery, the lightning conductor, and the drain immediately outside the battery wall, which may well replace an original drain. Inside the battery the layer of mortar and stone probably represents construction or demolition debris, the clay and stones below this may represent either natural subsoil, or, more likely, a redeposited dump, used as a level building platform.

A further watching brief was undertaken in May 2001 during the machine-excavation of three test trenches. No finds or features were noted.

The turf in a hand-dug trench was of very recent origin, and the rubble it overlay presumably represents building or demolition debris associated with the powder magazine. The slope to the base of this deposit probably represents the edge of the hole into which the magazine has been built, in an attempt to absorb the blast of any accidental explosion. The trenches revealed nothing of archaeological significance.

Sponsor: Historic Scotland

D Murray and G Ewart 2001

ND 3373 9149 A series of archaeological tasks were undertaken as part of ongoing development works (see DES 1999, 68-69). Various service trenches were archaeologically monitored within and around the battery compound. A detailed topographic survey of the enclosure ditch was made. Six trenches were hand-dug by archaeologists to locate and expose the original flagpole base, to further investigate the lightning conductor identified in 1997, and to excavate a section over the enclosure ditch at the point where it was to be crossed by the service trench.

An area of paving was identified outside the barracks building during the service trenching, which belonged to an early structural phase of the battery. The flagpole base was located and recorded. The lightning conductor was further exposed and the enclosure ditch was sectioned and recorded.

Full report lodged with the NMRS.

Sponsor: Historic Scotland

J Millar 2001

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