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Inveraray, Old Village

Burgh (15th Century), Village (Medieval)

Site Name Inveraray, Old Village

Classification Burgh (15th Century), Village (Medieval)

Alternative Name(s) Inveraray Castle Policies; Argyll Estate; Old Inveraray Burgh

Canmore ID 23347

Site Number NN00NE 13

NGR NN 097 090

NGR Description Centred NN 097 090

Datum OSGB36 - NGR


Ordnance Survey licence number 100057073. All rights reserved.
Canmore Disclaimer. © Copyright and database right 2020.

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Digital Images

Administrative Areas

  • Council Argyll And Bute
  • Parish Inveraray
  • Former Region Strathclyde
  • Former District Argyll And Bute
  • Former County Argyll

Archaeology Notes

NN00NE 13 centred 097 090

Not to be confused with burgh and (present) village of Inveraray (centred NN 0953 0846), for which see NN00NE 24.

Inveraray is first mentioned in a charter of 1472, erecting it into a burgh of barony. It was erected into a royal burgh in 1648, when its territory extended from the Cromalt burn on the S to the green and yard dykes of the Duke of Argyll's estate, the lands of Kilmilieu and Auchareoch Burn respectively on the N, Loch Fyne on the E, and the Duke's park and the common moor on the W. In 1742, the old buildings were pulled down, and houses built by the Duke on the present site, then called Ardrainich.

New Statistical Account (NSA) 1845.

A pre-1742 plan in Argyll Estate Office shows the village centred at NN 097 090; landscape gardening and heavy vegetation obscure all traces.

Visited by OS (D W R) 7 March 1973.


Field Visit (September 1989)

The original burgh of Inveraray, established as a burgh of barony by the 1st Earl of Argyll in 1474 and erected into a royal burgh by Charles I in 1648, lay S of the old castle (No.132) and immediately W of the mouth of the River Aray, which served as its harbour. A 'summons of removal' was served on the inhabitants in 1746, soon after the new town was proposed, and some houses in the 'Laigh Street' were demolished in 1758 to allow construction of the military road (No. 269), but the main demolition was delayed until 1771-6.The location and appearance of the burgh are recorded on an estate-plan of 1731 and in drawings by Paul and Thomas Sandby and John Clerk of Eldin, and some re-used fragments, probably from buildings demolished in the 1770s, are incorporated in houses in Main Street North in the new town (No. 202) (en.1).

Comparison of the 1731 plan with surviving features of the landscape shows that the old town extended from the SE side of the present Inveraray Castle (No. 194) to the shore of Loch Fyne, where the existing A83 trunk-road probably over lies the sites of cottages shown by Thomas Sand by. At the highest point (c.10m OD) there was a trianglar market-place adjoining the castle enclosures, with a central octagonal structure erected about 1650 to carry the medieval Inveraray Cross (No. 36), and on the N side a church of about the same period (infra) abutting the S wall of the castle yards. A wing extending S from the centre of the S side of the church, shown by Paul Sandby as a low two-storeyed building with an E forestair and a crow-stepped S gable, was probably the tolbooth, likewise built after the erection of the royal burgh. The church appears to have stood close to the position now occupied by the medieval cross from Tiree (No. 38) in the garden SE of Inveraray Castle (NN 096092). From the S angle of the market-place a principal street lined on the W with stone-built merchants' houses extended S down a gentle slope for about 200m to the shore of the loch at NN 097089,and a shorter transverse street, also occupied by substantial buildings, ran E towards the mouth of the river or 'Shore'. The low ground in this area and extending S along the loch side, much of it now covered by trees, was occupied in the 18th century by rows of single-storeyed thatched cottages whose occupants included craftsmen and fishermen (en.2*). There were also small groups of cottages N of the site of the existing castle lodge (NN 095087) and at the N end of the Fisherland Avenue, on the site of Front Street (No. 201). From the market-place a short terraced road, bounded on the W by the tree-lined castle enclosure (en.3*), ran N to the 'Town Bridge'(infra), and an isolated house built 'against the braeface' lay on lower ground immediately to the E.

Rentals of 1690 and 1706 recorded about fifty properties in 'the toune of Inveraray, Bridge end and Fisherland', but only about thirty of these were included in the 1693 hearth tax assessment (which named twelve residents with two hearths and one with three) and in a 1712 valuation of taxable houses. From the 17th century there are references to substantial stone-built slated houses of at least two storeys, some with frontages of 12.8 metres or more, and new building continued until the early 1740s, so that seventeen householders were assessed in 1748 for tax on windows ranging from ten to twenty-nine in number, a total which was never to be equalled in the new town. The proprietors included local merchants and lawyers, and country landowners including the Campbell lairds of Duntrune and Otter, and their properties, which included outbuildings and yards or gardens, were held by tacks up to fifty-seven years induration, although some land was held in feu (en.4*). The terraced cottages on the lower ground appear from views by Thomas Sandby to have been thatched, some having hip-roofed ends, although two rows built probably after 1731 were apparently gabled, and some rows are shown with chimneystacks on the dividing-walls. The schoolmaster's house, which in 1706 stood 'upon the braeface', was repaired with a thatched roof in the 1720s (en.5). Several kilns are recorded, one being a malt-kiln converted from a 'house at the shore side' before 1706, and at that date there were two smiths' houses, at least one being 'at the Bridge End'. Like its successor, the old town was confined by the boundaries of the castle policies, but grazings and peat-lands were available on the 'Common Muir' or 'Town Common', an extensive area on the W slope of Glen Aray.

CHURCHES. Early views of the old town show a rectangular church with a W tower carrying a pyramidal spire, on the N side of the market-place, and the 1731 plan also shows a short N aisle extending into the castle policies, opposite the S wing which contained the tolbooth. This was evidently the church built for the English or Lowland congregation (see No. 65) in 1652-9, whose steeple subsequently contained the town clock and a bell of 1724 (see No. 37) and against whose end-wall a thatched extension to house the grammar school was built in 1661. The church was described in 1758 as measuring 16.5m by 6.lm within walls, with the 'Duke's Isle' being 4.9m by 3.5m, and with two lofts of which that for the magistrates was the larger. A stone forestair built in 1727 may have been that shown at the E gable in Paul Sandby's drawings which shows dormers in the S wall evidently lighting a gallery. This was identified in 1740as the 'old church', but an earlier building on a different site appears to be indicated by a reference of 1630 to the pulpit of the 'new kirk', presumably built shortly before that date to replace the medieval parish church at Kilmalieu (No. 65).This may have become the Highland Church, which in 1758similarly measured 16.5m by 6.lm within walls and had E and W lofts. The identification in 1740 of the main N-S street as leading 'from the cross to the Highland Church' suggests that the latter was at the S end of the street, where an isolated building aligned WNW-ESE was shown on the 1731 plan some 60m from the loch-side (en.6).

RCAHSM 1992, visited September 1989


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