Archive for May 2011

Well, well, well……………   1 comment

As many of you will already know, over the next few years, I’m keen to open up previously closed areas of the castle for visitors to explore, so I though I’d give you a wee update on one of our current projects.

The well area in the castle is one of the few areas that actually remained reasonably intact after the 1719 destruction, and was successfully incorporated into the castle’s rebuild at the beginning of the last century. We believe the well to be approximately 32feet deep, and not only is it a truly magical little area, but it offers a good opportunity to see some of the very different construction methods used in the medieval castle.

Although visitors have been able to get a glimpse of it from above on the external ballistrades outside the kitchen corridor, public access has been previously almost impossible. Currently there is a wooden platform at the well-end of the ballistrades which actually disguises the fact that there are steps leading down to an intermediate walk-round level within the well itself. (For the historians amongst you; this intermediate level was the point where the arrow that killed Donald Gorm MacDonald back in 1539 was fired from.)

So the plan is to remove the wooden platform entirely, have a stonemason re-furbish the slightly worn steps below, fit some hand rails and get the area opento the public later on in the year. Health & Safety protocol means that we’ll have to have a blacksmith fit some cross brace bars in the three exterior openings in the well wall, as it’s currently feasible for a child to crawl through the three wide openings that lead to a 20 foot drop (not good for business!)

Before we do this, we have some rather awkward housekeeping to be doing. The interior walls of the well itself have been covered in ivy for decades, and it’s clear that the well-established roots have eaten into the very fabric of the stones pointing. To clear the walls of this incredibly invasive plant is certainly going to be no easy task. There is absolutely no possibility of reaching the problem from below because of the water within the well, and to access it from above is going to require some quite precarious rope access work above a 20 foot drop. Once the ivy itself is cleared we’ll then have to spray the entire area to stop any future regrowth, at which point we’ll also be able to assess the scale of the re-pointing job required to safeguard the area for the future.

So yesterday, we had a specialist contractor come along to have a good look at what should prove to be one of his more interesting projects! Cutting back the ivy from the end of a rope is one thing, but the prospect of repointing the internal walls with lime mortar should present quite a challenge!

A side issue to this whole project is that obviously the cut ivy that falls into the well will require recovery from the water, and the contractor in question has also offered to dredge the 32 feet of its depths to remove the years of rotting leaves and other vegitation that have accumulated over the years. Now as appealing as this idea is to me, I actually believe that the waters may very well contain historical artefacts of great archaeological interest, potentially dating back from previous centuries. A number of large objects have already been found during previous superficial explorations back in the 1890s, including our Yett which currently hangs in the Banqueting Hall. So rather than just have an indiscriminate dredging and pumping out of the wells contents, I think the appropriate thing to do will be, at some point in the future, to have this operation overseen by our team of specialist archaeologists with a view to meticulously sifting through everything that is removed and seeing what we treasures we might discover!!!


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Posted May 26, 2011 by eileandonan in Uncategorized

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