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Archaeology Notes

Event ID 856011

Category Descriptive Accounts

Type Archaeology Notes


NH75NE 3 76079 56674

(NH 7625 5670) Fort George (NR)

OS 6" map, (1959)

Not to be confused with (predeccessor) Fort George (Inverness Castle, NH 6664 4510), for which see NH64NE 9.

For barrow (Ardescroon Point) found in construction, see NH75NE 6.

For associated miltary training area and ranges (centred NH 7800 5700) and nearby coast defence battery, see NH75NE 27.00 and NH75NE 30 respectively.

For K6 telephone call boxes within the area of Fort George, see NH75NE 40.

Fort George is a unique example of 18th century military achitecture created by William Skinner betwen the years 1747 and 1769; the first date is the probable date of the first of Skinner's plans; the latter is the completion date of the garrison church.

S Cruden 1960.

The fort and church are in excellent condition and are War Department property, the fort is to be scheduled in the near future.

Visited by OS (R D) 16 August 1964.

NH 759 567 An extended programme of excavation, watching brief and survey was completed on the Point Battery (the western extremity of the fort). In order to waterproof the three vaulted structures buried within the thickness of the main rampart, the earthwork itself was removed over the buildings.

After trial excavations in November 1993 and a watching brief in January 1994, the main programme of work carried on until May 1994 with intermittent archaeological input. This entailed the recording of all elements of those gun platforms, revetting wall, flues, drains, as well as the earthworks themselves (parapet, firing step and main rampart), which had to be removed in advance of the repair work.

Evidence was discovered of the Point 'Pepper Pot', and associated passage which was damaged by a 19th century gun setting along with detailed information of the construction of other parts of the 18th century layout. The primary gun platforms were of slab stone construction over sloping mortar footings. The brick-faced parapet was built directly on to the wide stone wall which forms the outer face of the main rampart. The firing step and main fill of the rampart behind these revetting elements, was of extremely solid construction, comprising a series of rolled gravels and sand deposits to a depth of over 6m. The tops of the vaults themselves were in turn found to be sealed by a combined deposit of clay and pitch soaked gravelly sand forming a waterproof layer of a high quality only breached by later drainage features.

Sponsor: Historic Scotland

G Ewart 1994d.

NH 759 567 A watching brief and excavations were carried out at the NE Battery during the summer of 1995, in the course of repair work to the Battery and casemates. The sequence of construction of the outer and inner rampart walls was derived, along with evidence for the 18th century waterproofing. Contemporary graffiti was recorded on the mortared faces of some of the structures, and the sequence of repairs and alterations was recorded.

Sponsor: Historic Scotland.

G Ewart, D Stewart and A Dunn 1995.

NH 762 567 A watching brief was maintained by Kirkdale Archaeology during repair work on the SE casemates, in March 1996. The casemate roofs were exposed to allow for repair and rewaterproofing. These resembled closely the casemates previously excavated at the NE part of the fort (which were erected earlier in the original building programme), indicating that an identical building plan was being followed. However, the foundations for the firing step wall, founded above the casemate roofs on the gravel infill of the rampart, was of simpler design than its NE equivalent, indicating an evolution in building design during the programme of works.

The general sequence of construction of the rampart and associated structures was confirmed by 1996 observations. A full graphic and photographic record was made.

A watching brief in July 1996 during the installation of a new water main included recording the remains of the demolished wall to the E portal of the Place of Arms. No finds were made.

Sponsor: Historic Scotland

G Ewart, D Stewart and A Dunn 1996

NH 7618 5681 A watching brief was undertaken in December 1997 during trenching work for an electricity cable outside the casemates in the NE corner of the fort. The casemates are stone-built rooms, buried under the rampart of the fort, to provide shelter during an artillery barrage. They were built between 1749-62, with each one being designed to hold 40 men.

The discovery of two soakaways situated relatively close to each other indicated that they were probably constructed at different times, although their close similarity in construction indicated a relationship - quite probably that they were both of military design. A drain running from one casemate may once have been a more common feature.

Sponsor: Historic Scotland

D Murray 1998

NH 762 567 A watching brief was conducted in December 1998. The excavation of a cable trench was monitored at both ends of a track. The first section was in the ordnance yard where, below much modern disturbance, a late 18th or 19th-century stone and brick culvert with construction debris and yard infill relating to the same period was recorded. The other section was in a yard at the rear of the north staff block; nothing of significance was noted.

Sponsor: Historic Scotland.

P Sharman 1999

NH 7625 5670 Assessment excavations were carried out in June 1999 at two locations within Fort George (NMRS NH75NE 3), to test for the survival of original surfaces.

The first area was on the ravelin, which forms the eastern point of the earthwork defences, in the area to the E of the guardhouse which now houses the visitor centre. The purpose here was to ascertain what evidence, if any, exists for the authenticity of the present tarmac paths and any other paths in the area.

The second area was in front of the horse's door into the stables at the rear of the provision store and bakery E of the chapel at the W end of the fort. The stable is shortly to provide accommodation for a horse employed in offering cart rides for visitors. Excavation was required to determine whether or not there was evidence for cobbling or paths associated with the original use of the stables.

It was evident that considerable earth-moving had taken place fairly recently, notably associated with the revetment wall of the principal ditch and the partial rebuilding of the splayed inner entry of the ravelin gate.

Sponsor: Historic Scotland.

J Triscott 1999

NH 7618 5681 During December 1999 a programme of cable trenching was undertaken by local contractors under archaeological supervision. The project consisted of cutting a trench along the E access road from a point to the SE of the fort at the edge of the glacis to a point within the fort near the N entrance to the south sallyport.

Within the confines of the south sallyport the new trench followed the exact line of the old water main with the result that all the layering was backfill from that period. The variable depth of the water pipe at the S entrance to the tunnel might indicate some form of masonry threshold below.

Sponsor: Historic Scotland.

D Stewart 2000

NH 7625 5670 Various objects were recorded and retrieved in June 2001 from behind a collapsed length of tongue-and-groove panelling in a casemated barrack room in the curtain wall N of the parade ground in Fort George.

The rear of the panelling was partly covered in dirt and various finds that had fallen behind it. These were retrieved in 2m sections, measured from the S end of the panelling. Each of the sections was photographed to show the objects in situ, but their location was not recorded in any more detail. Their importance lies in their reflection of the daily life of the servicemen billeted in the room over many decades. The finds include sergeants' swagger sticks with copper-alloy ferrules bearing the regimental crest, blank bullets, a bayonet in a leather sheath, cutlery, cut-throat razors, decayed paper items including a timetable to Edinburgh, highly decorated pipe bowls, and many tins of talcum powder -presumably less reflective of cleanliness than of the need to keep dry feet, preventing foot-rot.

Sponsor: Historic Scotland

P Sharman and G Ewart 2001

The fortifications and barracks are visible on wartime oblique aerial photographs (S463.H53, 75-83, flown 31 August 1941).

Information from RCAHMS (DE), February 2004

NH 762 567 Archaeological monitoring was undertaken in February 2004 during renovation work and several minor assessments. These were in the Georgian and Victorian latrine blocks, the firing step palisade at the E point of the defences, and the rotted wooden remains found above the tide line in the mud at the shore end of the S pier.

The firing step examination is notable for the surviving evidence of the palisade posts. It appears that the posts were put in place before the firing step was built, and that the revetting wall for the step was built around the posts, with the brick setting in the base of the ditch holding the posts in place.

A minor excavation into the shoreline mud suggested that the accumulated deposits at the N end of the pier may hide an almost intact section of original wooden cladding.

NH 764 569 An archaeological evaluation was undertaken in June 2004 of a rarely seen part of the fort defences located on the N beach between the high and low water marks. The structure is the channel and tunnel of the sluice believed to have been designed to allow the main moat to be flooded for defensive purposes. The structure appears to be mostly intact, undoubtedly the result of the quality of materials used in its build, and appears to be contemporary with the original construction of the fort. The difference in height between the floor of the sluice and the existing floor of the moat (1.4m) suggests that the moat would only have had a shallow layer of water, and that only achieved at very high tides. However, a 1796 plan clearly shows a ditch dug along the central line of the moat and linking up at the sluice at both ends. This may well indicate that a narrow, but deep, water-filled channel within the moat may be all that ever flooded. Without excavating the deposits in the moat it is not possible to ascertain the original level of the channel.

NH 760 566 A watching brief was undertaken in August 2004 during the excavation of two post-hole sockets at the main entrance to the fort. The post-holes were located at either side of the public entrance path to the fort and were intended to form the main gateposts for the re-established defence structures. The locations of the excavated post-holes are apparently the same as the ones cut in the 18th century when the wooden defence network was originally erected. The remains uncovered below the current path surface are of archaeological interest in relation to the defence system of the fort and were left in situ, protected by a hessian cover from the modern concrete used to support the new posts.

Archive to be deposited in the NMRS.

Sponsor: HS.

D Stewart and C Shaw 2004

NH 762 567 A watching brief was undertaken in February 2005 at Fort George (NH75NE 3) while sub-contractors undertook the initial phase of construction work for the installation of BT cables. The work was restricted to three main areas within the fort complex: the Sally Port entrance, the area around the telephone boxes, and an area at the casemates near the Sally Port exit.

Also, a short period of archaeological monitoring was undertaken while sub-contractors undertook work in preparation for the installation of a new guardhouse at the Sally Port entrance to the fort. No features or finds of archaeological significance were discovered during these works.

Archive to be deposited in NMRS.

Sponsor: HS.

C Shaw 2005

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