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North Sutor, Coast Battery: Engine House

Engine House (First World War), Engine House (Second World War)

Site Name North Sutor, Coast Battery: Engine House

Classification Engine House (First World War), Engine House (Second World War)

Alternative Name(s) Cromarty Defences; Fort North Sutor; Site No. 1

Canmore ID 252690

Site Number NH86NW 9.13

NGR NH 81844 68946

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 Highland
  • Parish Nigg (Ross And Cromarty)
  • Former Region Highland
  • Former District Ross And Cromarty
  • Former County Ross And Cromarty

Archaeology Notes

NH86NW 9.13 81844 68946

A brick and concrete stand-by set house with blast wall protecting the side entrance is situated about 105m NW of the WW II No.2 gun-emplacement. Internally, the engine mounting beds are visible.

The set house was to provide electricity for the battery using diesel generators.

Visited by RCAHMS, (DE, GS, SW), August 2000


Note (29 July 2013)

The original First World War engine house had a protective berm or bank of earth and stone on its E and S sides. The Second World War engine house was rebuilt just to the N and E of the original. The new engine house, which still stands, has evidence of three engines and possible smaller fourth.

The protective bank has been removed and the engine house is currently used to shelter cattle.

Information from RCAHMS (AKK) 29 July 2013.

Project (March 2013 - September 2013)

A project to characterise the quantity and quality of the Scottish resource of known surviving remains of the First World War. Carried out in partnership between Historic Scotland and RCAHMS.

Field Visit (29 May 2019)

This engine house, which was rebuilt by the Army in the Second World War, is situated 8m SE of the track leading from the North Sutor Battery Site No.1 to Site No.2 (NH86NW 9.48). It is rectangular on plan and measures 9.1m from ENE to WSW by 5.6m transversely within reinforced cast concrete walls 0.45m thick, which rise to a height of 3.06m at wall-head. Around its footings at the NE corner are traces of a narrow concrete strip with a moulded gutter. This may run all around the building, but its course elsewhere is overlain by turf - although what may be two rectangular drains or culvert hatches at ground level must interrupt its line on the SSE. A flat, overhanging concrete roof that is waterproofed with a thin layer of asphalt, caps the building. However, the overhang is twice as broad on the SSE, as it incorporates four circular apertures that vented the exhausts of the engines. Immediately below the roof are a series of narrow, vertical vents in each of the four walls. These are arranged in groups of five, with three groups in the NNW and SSE walls, and two in the ENE and WSW walls. Most retain a diamond-patterned metal mesh within the slit. Each of the walls has been camouflaged externally with crudely applied red, brown and green wavy paintwork. An entrance close to the building’s NE corner that once held double doors distinguishes the façade on the NNW. This is surmounted by a cast concrete lintel and fronted by a concrete threshold. In addition, a window ornamented with a cast concrete lintel and a sill is centrally located in the wall. By contrast, a pair of similar windows are situated in the ENE and WSW end-walls, but while the former are symmetrically arranged, the latter are placed off-centre closer to the building’s SW corner. A square cable duct is situated near the NW corner of this wall at ground level. The rear of the building contains three plain rectangular apertures, which originally were probably fitted with metal plates containing vents. The WSW aperture is smaller than its neighbours, as this specifically corresponds with a plinth for a smaller engine.

The roof within the interior is supported by two cast concrete beams running from NNW to SSE; and while the ceiling and walls are largely whitewashed, a layer of blackwash has been also been applied to the ceiling and the lower half of the walls. Four large rectangular stains on the SSE wall mark the former position of header tanks – one for each of the generators. The plinths for these engines are largely buried in a deep layer of dung covering the concrete floor, but one of three matching examples measures 1.23m from NNW to SSE by 0.92m transversely and 0.32m high. It also retains the bolts that fixed the engine in position. A fourth plinth, a little smaller than the others, is positioned immediately adjacent to the smaller of the apertures in the SSE wall.

A later, low-gabled building, situated a little off-centre and only 0.55m SSE of the engine house, almost certainly housed a large tank that held the fuel supply. It is rectangular on plan and measures 5m from NNW to SSE by 3.4m transversely within brick walls 0.23m thick and 2.97m high. The NNW and SSE walls exhibit two phases of construction, the first being distinguished by the use of orange-red brickwork and the second by the use of white concrete bricks. The first phase of the building generally survives to a height of 1.65m, although the WSW wall has largely been reduced to its foundations. This earlier structure appears to have been about 0.8m shorter than its successor, but otherwise the same width. By contrast, in the second phase the building was not only extended to provide new doorways at the SSE end of the ENE and WSW walls, but also raised a further c.0.8m to wall-head. In addition, central buttresses that terminate just below the apex of the low gabled roof reinforced the NNW and SSE walls internally. This gable is formed of single course of angled concrete blocks that are separated at intervals by narrow slits designed to hold thin wooden batons, which supported a roof of corrugated iron sheets. Three dwarf walls no more than 0.55m high subdivided the interior in both phases and these appear to have formed a cradle to support the fuel tank. At some point, a crude, subrectangular aperture measuring 0.5m in diameter was hacked through the centre of the ENE wall at ground level.

The main building is annotated ‘Engine Room’ on an undated sketch map entitled ‘Layout of Fort North Sutor’ within the Fort Record Book held in The National Archives at Kew (WO192/248). It is also depicted on two RAF aerial photographs (106G/RAF/0751/6039-40) flown on 31 August 1945, which also indicate that it was partly protected on the ENE and SSE by a very large, ill-fitting L-shaped bund that had been built to protect the WWI engine house that stood where the fuel tank block is now located (ADM 7/942). This earthwork has been removed, but disturbed ground now marks roughly where it once stood. When the fuel tank block was enlarged at some point during WWII, the same concrete bricks were employed as are found used in the latrine block (NH86NW 9.43) and the second phase of the one standing building (NH86NW 9.33) at the largely abandoned First World War Battery Site No. 2.

Visited by HES, Survey and Recording (ATW, AKK), 29 May 2019.


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