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Archaeology Notes

Event ID 835017

Category Descriptive Accounts

Type Archaeology Notes

Permalink http://canmore.org.uk/event/835017

NB43SW 49.00 42009 33175

NB43SW 49.01 NB 42107 33229 Driveway Bridge

NB43SW 49.02 NB 41996 33228 Driveway Bridge

NB43SW 49.03 NB 42131 33002 Sea Gate Lodge

NB43SW 49.04 NB 41818 32903 Matheson Memorial

NB43SW 49.05 NB 42463 33627 Bayhead Lodge

NB43SW 49.06 NB 40481 32608 Creed Lodge

NB43SW 49.07 NB 41160 33785 Marybank Lodge

NB43SW 49.08 NB 41917 32785 Cuddy Point, Sea Wall and slipway

NB43SW 49.09 NB 42121 32975 Sea Wall and Tower

NB43SW 49.10 NB 41353 32180 Memorial Fountain [Glen Strathallen memorial plaque]

NB 4200 3315 During recent conservation works on Sir James Matheson's mid-19th-century Lews Castle (NB43SW 49), the fabric of the building was examined. The possibility was considered of the former Seaforth Lodge of the MacKenzie's of Lewis being incorporated into the later 1850s building. Plans exist showing the layout in 1820 and 1785. Illustrations of the Lodge include an oil painting dated 1790, an etching dated 1789, and a print dated 1819 by Daniels. On all of these, a basic layout is shown of a main block flanked to the SE by two further blocks. The 1789 illustration shows a monopitched structure in the re-entrant angle between two blocks. Though the central block is shown as a possible two-storey structure both on the 1789 etching and the Daniels print, it is shown as a single-storey structure in the 1790 painting which also illustrates the possibility of an extension to this block under construction as it shows a roofless structure extending out to the SW. The Daniels print confirms this arrangement though with some artistic licence.

It has always been generally accepted that Seaforth Lodge was a 17th-century building, but both the illustration and the plans would suggest that the central block could represent a fortified tower block. Both the 1789 and the Daniels images show this block devoid of ground-floor windows, and the Daniels print suggests a possible balustrade top to the walls with a hipped roof.

On external examination of the present building, there exists at the bell tower two reworked corbel pieces that clearly do not belong to the Matheson building. The left hand example has a waterspout feature and a possible stringcourse carving to its extreme left (difficult to ascertain due to the dormer window being built directly abutting it). This detail could well be conversant with a tower balustrade configuration.

The rapidly deteriorating fabric of the building has led to internal remedial works, which has led to several areas being exposed - notably in the kitchen area and hallway where a lime-harled wall has been revealed. The hallway has two doors, one built up at the Matheson period and the other still functioning as a doorway. These have featureless plain harled door jambs though the lintels are in freestone and harled. The gable, which is orientated NNE-SSW, is clearly lime-harled down to a first-floor level on the N aspect, thus confirming that that section was only single storey and has signs of an abutting section of a building on the NNE area where, in all likelihood, the main block originally stood. The gable rises to form a stack, rising to where it exits to form a part of the present building structure. The stack, which has been extended on the NNE, is in an unstable condition on the exterior due, in all probability, to undesirable construction methods. On the internal side of the gable, there is the outline of an extensive fireplace at ground level and the remains of a freestone fireplace jamb at first-floor level. All these wall surfaces have had interference on a substantial scale, which is the probable cause of settlement at chimney head level.

It is of interest that all the Matheson earlier building works have structural and ashlar faults. Sir James Matheson's chamberlain, John Munro MacKenzie, a qualified civil engineer, was appointed shortly after the building works commenced and recognised the deficiencies in the execution of the works, ultimately leading to a legal dispute with the builder.

J Crawford 2002

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