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Kinlochleven Aluminium Works

Aluminium Works (20th Century)

Site Name Kinlochleven Aluminium Works

Classification Aluminium Works (20th Century)

Alternative Name(s) Kinlochleven Aluminium Works, Carbon Factory And Silos; Loch Leven; 'the Ice Factor'; Kinlochleven Aluminium Smelter

Canmore ID 76800

Site Number NN16SE 3

NGR NN 18947 61835

NGR Description Centred NN 18947 61835

Datum OSGB36 - NGR

Permalink http://canmore.org.uk/site/76800

Ordnance Survey licence number 100057073. All rights reserved.
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Administrative Areas

  • Council Highland
  • Parish Lismore And Appin (Lochaber)
  • Former Region Highland
  • Former District Lochaber
  • Former County Argyll

Recording Your Heritage Online

Kinlochleven Pioneering hydroelectricity plant and (now demolished) aluminium smelter, with good survival of early company housing, dwarfed by the Mamore hills at the head of Loch Leven. Opened in 1909, it is now obsolete to its original function, but an ambitious programme of phased regeneration has established part of the site as an outdoor tourism and small business centre. There was an inn here in the 18th century (where Pennant breakfasted on minced stag), and, by about 1900, two lodges - Kinlochmore and Kinlochbeg. In 1904 an Act of Parliament established the Loch Leven Water and Electric Power Co, which merged with the North British Aluminium Co Ltd. (set up in 1894) and built the Aluminium Works, 1905-9. Operated by the largest British hydroelectric power station of its day, works consisted of a large factory block containing rows of 76 smelters (closed in 2000 and now demolished), a warehouse, carbon works and laboratory. The power house, with a dramatic long perspective of 10 pelton wheel turbines by Escherwyss of Zurich and an 11 th of similar design, is still in situ and, as such, almost unique. The water supply was fed by the Blackwater Reservoir four miles away, its mass concrete dam by engineers Thomas Meik & Sons, 1904-9, 1 km wide - the largest in Europe at that time. The carbon silos/bunkers, vast arcaded rubble blocks incorporating structures of early reinforced concrete by T. Meik & Sons and A. H. Roberts, were converted in 2002 by Bruce & Neil Architects for the Kinlochleven Land Development Trust as an outdoor activity/interpretation centre and micro brewery. Most of the rest of the carbon factory was demolished in 1989.

[The North British Aluminium Company was set up in 1894 with Lord Kelvin as technical adviser.]

Taken from "Western Seaboard: An Illustrated Architectural Guide", by Mary Miers, 2007. Published by the Rutland Press http://www.rias.org.uk

Treasured Places

Built between 1905-9, the Kinlochleven Aluminium works was the second smelter to be built by the British Aluminium Company Ltd. It included a hydro-electric power station, at the time the largest of its kind, which generated electricity at the voltage and amperage required for the manufacturing process. Following closure of the works in 2000, parts of the complex were demolished while some buildings were retained for alternative uses.

Information from RCAHMS (SC) 30 August 2007

Hume, J R 1977

Miers, M 2007

Archaeology Notes

NN16SE 3.00 centred 18947 61835

Works [NAT] (at NN 1886 6193)

Works [NAT] (at NN 1898 6176)

OS 1:10,0000 map, 1971.

NN16SE 3.01 NN 20214 60445 to NN 19871 60976 Pipeline

NN16SE 3.02 NN 19050 61826 Power House

NN16SE 3.03 NN 17638 61853 to NN c. 17788 61833 Quay (Loch Leven)

NN16SE 3.04 NN 1763 6185 to NN c. 1894 6183 Railway (narrow gauge)

NN16SE 3.05 NN 18775 61829 Visitor Centre and Library ('The Aluminium Story')

NN16SE 3.06 NN 18863 61683 Works Hostel

NN16SE 3.07 NN 17859 61886 Slipway

NN16SE 3.08 NN 19871 60976 to NN 19118 61767 Penstocks

See also:

NN26SW 2 NN 30500 60200 Blackwater Reservoir

NN26SW 3.00 NN 24790 60371 Blackwater Reservoir, Dam (Blackwater Dam)

NN26SW 3.01 NN 24731 60260 to NN 20214 60445 Aqueduct

NN26SW 3.02 [NN 202 604 to NN 247 602] Possible construction railway

NN26SW 3.03 NN 20188 60458 Lower Penstock Valve House

NN26SW 4 NN 24213 60253 Blackwater Dam, Burial-ground (Construction Graveyard)

For (associated) Kinlochleven village (workers' housing), see NN16SE 6.

For (relevant) field survey area (AOC, 1997), see NN26SW 27.

(Location cited as NN 190 617). Kinlochleven Aluminium Works, built 1905-9 by the British Aluminium Co Ltd. Powered by the largest British hydro-electric power of itsday (capacity 25,725 kW) with fourteen Pelton turbines. The water is drawn from a gravity dam [NN26SW 3.00] on the Blackwater [Reservoir] at NN 248 604.

The works is in two parts. One is an irregular complex of buildings including the power station, boiler house and other structures, dominated by a circular-section brick chimney. The buildings visible from the main road have a rubble finish to tone in with the surroundings, which are of great natural beauty. The other part consists of a large block of single-storey buildings, with prominent ventilators.

The village of Kinlochleven [NN16SE 11] was built to serve the works, and consists of a number of blocks of 2-storey houses, providing a range of accommodation. Theseare in the 'model-village' style common in the period.

The works was linked to a pier [NN16SE 3.03] on Loch Leven by an electric railway [NN16SE 3.04] of 3ft (0.91m) gauge. This was closed in 1960 and dismantled, but the track bed is largely intact.

J R Hume 1977.

Aluminium Works, built in 1905-9 and extended in the 1930's. Near the street, tall aggressively rubbly Edwardian blocks, their sides patterned by round-arched openings.

J Gifford 1992.

This works is now closed. A visitor centre (NN16SE 3.05) has been opened, and part of the works is in use as an ice-climbing centre ('The Ice Factor').

Information from RCAHMS (RJCM), 8 June 2006.

Activities

Construction (1905 - 1909)

Aluminium Works, built in 1905-9.

J Gifford 1992; J R Hume 1977.

Design (1905 - 1909)

Modification (1930 - 1939)

Extension of the works was carried out in the 1930s.

Field Visit (18 May 1976)

(Location cited as NN 190 617). Kinlochleven Aluminium Works, built 1905-9 by the British Aluminium Co Ltd. Powered by the largest British hydro-electric power of itsday (capacity 25,725 kW) with fourteen Pelton turbines. The water is drawn from a gravity dam [NN26SW 3.00] on the Blackwater [Reservoir] at NN 248 604.

The works is in two parts. One is an irregular complex of buildings including the power station, boiler house and other structures, dominated by a circular-section brick chimney. The buildings visible from the main road have a rubble finish to tone in with the surroundings, which are of great natural beauty. The other part consists of a large block of single-storey buildings, with prominent ventilators.

The village of Kinlochleven [NN16SE 11] was built to serve the works, and consists of a number of blocks of 2-storey houses, providing a range of accommodation. Theseare in the 'model-village' style common in the period.

The works was linked to a pier [NN16SE 3.03] on Loch Leven by an electric railway [NN16SE 3.04] of 3ft (0.91m) gauge. This was closed in 1960 and dismantled, but the track bed is largely intact.

J R Hume 1977.

Partial Demolition (1989)

Buildings, including the carbon factory, were demolished around 1989 after closure of the works.

Modification (1989 - 2002)

Following closure of the works, parts of the complex were retained and converted for alternative uses.

Change Of Use (1989 - 2002)

Change Of Use (1989 - 2002)

Photographic Survey (8 April 1991 - 22 May 1991)

Aerial Photography (1991)

Aerial Photography (6 April 2007)

Publication Account (2007)

Kinlochleven Hydro-Electric Works and Blackwater Dam

(Institute Civil Engineers Historic Engineering Works no. HEW 0611/0611)

The Loch Leven Water Power Acts of 1901 and 1904 authorised the generation of electricity for the production of aluminium in the West Highlands. Work on what was the first major hydro-electric project in Britain began in 1905 by harnessing the water power available from the

western section of the Blackwater chain of lochs stretching from Rannoch Moor to Kinlochleven and was completed in 1909 at a cost of about £600 000.

The Blackwater was dammed to create an 8-mile long reservoir drawing on a catchment area of about 55 square miles. Water from the dam was led to a generating station at the head of Loch Leven which supplied electricity to the aluminium smelters and associated works. The Pelton

wheel turbines produced an aggregate power of 30 660 hp with an generator output of 21 088 kW.

The main feature of the hydro scheme was a mass concrete gravity dam 3112 ft long and 86 ft high. It was necessary to amend the cross-section of the dam when it was found that the unit weight of concrete made with

locally obtained aggregate was less than that used previously in calculations. The dam profile was amended to give a heavier section with a base 62 ft wide and a factor of safety against overturning of 2.28.

The dam, with a storage capacity for 24 billion gallons, was connected to the 25MW generating station through a closed concrete conduit 3 1/2

miles long and six steel pipes each 39 in. diameter and 935 ft long.

The transport of materials to site from the wharf at Loch Leven was by means of a cableway 6 1/2 miles long with trestles from 10 ft–130 ft high and spans from 100 ft–1000 ft driven by a 250 hp Pelton wheel. A railway between the same termini followed the general contour of the valley

except for two rope inclines of 200 ft and 600 ft rise. This and the derricks at the dam were electrically driven, the power being obtained from a temporary hydro-electric plant provided by the contractor.

The works were designed by Thomas Meik and Sons with Sir A. R. Binnie consulting and the resident engineer A. H. Roberts. The main contractor was Sir John Jackson Ltd, and during construction between two and three thousand navvies laboured in rain-soaked conditions. During one period of 24 hours 5.59 in. of rain fell at Kinlochleven drowning the inner shell dam by 15 ft but it stood perfectly. Robert McAlpine & Sons constructed the jetty and laid the water mains throughout the village.

R Paxton and J Shipway, 2007.

Reproduced from 'Civil Engineering heritage: Scotland - Highlands and Islands' with kind permission from Thomas Telford Publishers.

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