MHG15618 - Fort George


Fort George is a unique and the most complete example of 18th century military architecture built by William Skinner between the years 1747 and 1769. It is a Scheduled Monument and listed.

Type and Period (4)

  • CHURCH (Built, 18th Century - 1767 AD to 1767 AD)
  • FORT (Built, 18th Century - 1747 AD to 1769 AD)
  • BARRACKS (Built, 18th Century - 1747 AD to 1769 AD)
  • WAR MEMORIAL (Modern - 1901 AD to 2100 AD)

Protected Status

Full Description

NH75NE 3 7625 5670.

(NH 7625 5670) Fort George (NR)

The first Fort George was in Inverness on the site of the medieval castle. When it was damaged in 1745 during the Jacobite uprising a replacement was built on Ardersier Point. They are differentiated by Fort George and Inverness, Fort George.

Fort George is a unique example of 18th century military architecture created by William Skinner between 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. <1> See also revised edition. <2>

In the National Library of Scotland is a series of Military Maps and Drawings (many are coloured) of the Board of Ordnance, dealing with the troubled times of the 18th Century, Reference "MSS. 1646-1652". A number refer to Fort George on Arderseer Point, the peninsula at the opening of the inner Moray Firth. It has been distinguished from the Fort George at Inverness by the name of the Peninsula, and sometimes is referred to on the Plans as in 'North Britain'. <3>

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

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.

Fort George was Listed on 5/10/1971.

Photographs were taken of some of the buildings by K Mackenzie of Inverness-shire County Council in 1973.

Fort George was Scheduled on 30/11/1981.

A firing quill and detonating hammer of mid-C19 date were found on the Duke of Cumberland’s Bastion in November 1988 after turf was removed from the east side of the bastion. Circles of single bricks, with sand spread in a thin layer within the circle were revealed. The objects, which as found were two pieces of fabricated copper, both originally japanned black, were found just below the surface of the sand. Together they formed two pieces of a firing quill. The detonating hammer had been found close by some days previously. <4>

Small-scale excavations were carried out by Kirkdale Archaeology for Historic Scotland in 1990 at the traverses near the easternmost point of the covered way, to investigate the nature of the unfaced masonry that was visible beneath the firing steps of the covered way and traverses. [No report available but see <18>]

An extended programme of excavation, watching brief and survey was completed on the Point Battery (the western extremity of the fort) by Kirkdale Archaeology between November 1993 and May 1994. 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. <5> For more detail see <18>

A watching brief and excavations were carried out at the Northeast Battery during the summer of 1995, in the course of repair work to the Battery and casemates 15 to 21. 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. <6> For more detail see <18>

A watching brief was maintained by Kirkdale Archaeology in March 1996 during repair work on the southeast casemates. The casemate roofs were exposed to allow for repair and re-waterproofing. These resembled closely the casemates previously excavated (see above and <6>) at the northeast 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 northeast 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 the 1996 observations. A full graphic and photographic record was made. <7> For more detail see <18>

A watching brief in July 1996 by Kirkdale Archaeology during the installation of a new water main included recording the remains of the demolished wall to the east portal of the Place of Arms. No finds were made. <7>

A watching brief was carried out by Kirkdale Archaeology in 1997 over two days during minor excavation works within the fort. No significant features or deposits were found. Work on the blacksmith's shop necessitated a further watching brief. The west part of the shop is partly divided by a short north-south wall protruding from the north wall, which serves to create an alcove in the northwest corner, and the wall contains a chimney flue on its east side; these features indicate the position of the furnace. A likely sequence of events can be suggested: the building was erected c 1760 on levelled sand deposits; the floor was then flagged throughout; after the smithy fell out of use, the flags were removed, where they could be reused, and the building became a coal store, the floor of which was eventually concreted over. <8>

A watching brief was undertaken in December 1997 by Kirkdale Archaeology during trenching work for an electricity cable outside the casemates in the northeast 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. <9>

A watching brief was conducted by Kirkdale Archaeology in December 1998 when 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 C18 or C19 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. <10>

Oblique aerial photographs of the fort were taken by J Bone in 1998. <11>

Assessment excavations were carried out in June 1999 by Kirkdale Archaeology at two locations within Fort George, 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 east 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 east of the chapel at the west 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. <12>

During December 1999 a programme of cable trenching was undertaken by local contractors under archaeological supervision by Kirkdale Archaeology. The project consisted of cutting a trench along the east access road from a point to the southeast of the fort at the edge of the glacis to a point within the fort near the north 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 south entrance to the tunnel might indicate some form of masonry threshold below. <13>

Oblique aerial photographs of the fort were taken by J Bone in 2000. <14>

Various objects were recorded and retrieved by Kirkland Archaeology in June 2001 from behind a collapsed length of tongue-and-groove panelling in a casemated barrack room in the curtain wall north 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 south 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 for trains 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. <15> For more detail see <18>

Archaeological monitoring was undertaken by Kirkdale Archaeology 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 east point of the defences, and the rotted wooden remains found above the tide line in the mud at the shore end of the south 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 north end of the pier may hide an almost intact section of original wooden cladding. <16> For more detail see <18>

An archaeological evaluation was undertaken by Kirkdale Archaeology in June 2004 of a rarely seen part of the fort defences located on the north 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. <16> For more detail see <18>

A watching brief was undertaken in August 2004 by Kirkdale Archaeology 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 C18 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. <16> For additional information see <18>

A watching brief was undertaken in February 2005 at Fort George by Kirkdale Archaeology while sub-contractors undertook the initial phase of construction work for the installation of telecommunication 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. In addition, a short period of archaeological monitoring was undertaken during 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. <17>

A report for a number of the more substantial investigations that were carried out between 1990 and 2005 has been published. It also includes a comprehensive detailed description of the construction and development of the fort. <18>

Minor excavations, consisting of four trenches, were carried out under the supervision of Kirkdale Archaeology in 2007 in advance of construction work close to the Barrack Square. Five phases of archaeological deposits were recorded, the earliest being the original ground surface at the time of construction of the Fort, and a number of finds were recovered of which only the pottery was retained. <19>

This site was photographed from the air by Jim Bone in 2008. <20>

A planning application was submitted in 2010 (10/00054/FUL) for the protection by rock armour of the exposed north sluice at Fort George. A measured survey of the sluice and the proposed appearance following the positioning of the rock armour were provided as part of the application. <21>

Photographs of the exposed sluice structure were requested and subsequently submitted to the HER in April 2010. <22>

Under the terms of its PIC call-off contract with Historic Scotland, Kirkdale Archaeology was asked to make an archaeological record of part of the coast above the foreshore to the N of Fort George. This had been subject to severe erosion from wave action with the result that a series of contexts of suspected archaeological significance had been exposed. The work was carried out on 4th May 2010. In conjunction with the recording of eroding banks outside the North Sally Port, a survey was made of two sets of World War Two landing platforms. The Platforms lay to the SW of Prince Henry’s Bastion, and to the NE of Prince Edward’s Ravelin. The NE Platforms were being eroded at a significant rate, and a measured plan was made to record their current positions for future comparison. A full photographic survey was carried out and written notes were made at both locations. <23> <24>

A small excavation was carried out in 2012 by Kirkdale Archaeology near the entrance of Fort George prior to the installation of a scale model to aid visitor orientation. Four sondages were dug to look for evidence of surfaces or hard standing relating to the ramp leading to the ramparts to the northeast of the trench. This large grassed over slope seemed likely to have been used to carry artillery up to the ramparts summit, and it seemed possible that this would have required such a feature. In the event no evidence was found for any such ground preparation. <25>

Photographs of the fort were contributed by M. Briscoe via the Highland HER Flickr group. <26>

The Scheduled area of Fort George was amended on 17.8.2012. It includes the fort and an area that retains the level ground surface created at the time of the fort’s construction. It extends to the mean low water mark of spring tides on the north, south and west. To the east it extends beyond the glacis to include all defences and an area around these within which remains associated with their construction are likely to survive. The top 0.30m of the surfaces of the modern roads, hard standings and footpaths, are excluded to allow for their maintenance, as are the above-ground elements of fencing. The chapel, the sergeants’ sleeping quarters, the staff block and barracks and the sergeants’ mess are specifically excluded from the scheduling. <27>

A watching brief was undertaken in Nov-Dec 2012 during the removal of material for the replacement of floors in two rooms of the Highlanders Museum, Fort George, by Highland Archaeology Services. The work covered the monitoring of the removal of rotten floor joists and infill material and the excavation of foundation trenches for sleeper walls to support a new suspended floor. In the southeast corner of room G2 an uneven layer of lime mortar, of irregular shape and extending to approximately 2m x 3m lay directly beneath the joists. This was not found elsewhere and was probably the result of plastering or rendering during construction rather than a remnant of a deliberately laid floor. No evidence was found of earlier features or of major alterations or refurbishment to the building. The shallow trenches for the new sleeper walls cut into clean, natural beach pebbles, sands and gravels. The report includes photographs of the interior of the rooms during the watching brief. <28>

See also <29> <30> <31> <32> <33> <34> <35> <36> <37> <38> <39> <40>

Undated aerial photographs by J Bone <41> <42> <43> <44> <45> <46> <47> <48>

During the First World War Fort George was the regimental depot of the Seaforth Highlanders. The Fort remained the depot until the amalgamation of the Seaforths with the Queen's Own Cameron Highlanders in 1916, to form the Queen's Own Highlanders, who continued to occupy the fort. Fort George is reported as being the location of a prisoner of war camp after 1916, although it does not appear in a 'List of Places of Internment' in Britain, its colonies and the Dominions, issued in January 1919 by the Prisoners of War Information Bureau. Recorded as part of HS/RCAHMS World War One Audit Project, 2013. <49> <50> <51>

A small-scale archaeological watching brief was carried out by S Birch on behalf of S Farrell in 2014 in advance of the removal and replacement of a new cable joint at the southeast corner of the current visitor centre building at Fort George. The excavations revealed a section of the footings of the visitor building and an open access hole through the fabric of the building that had been used for routing service cables into the building’s interior. The sediments abutting the southeast side of the building had been heavily disturbed in the past in creating the original services trench. These mixed sediments produced fragments of ceramic drain, fragments of ‘industrial period’ ceramics and glass, animal bone and two fragments of lead. The southeast-facing section of the excavations showed less disturbed material abutting the southwest corner of the building. <52>

An archaeological assessment was carried out by Kirkdale Archaeology in 2015 after a small trench was excavated for emergency repairs to a buried water pipe in the southern portion of the fosse, between the covered way surrounding the ravelin and the south-east bastion of the fort. There were no finds or features of archaeological significance. <53>

As part of a long-running dual-designations assessment project, the site was de-scheduled by Historic Environment Scotland in 2019, though it remains listed at Category A. The listing specifically excludes the interior and roof of the Junior Ranks mess and kitchen within the rear enclosure of North Stores Block (Building 9). At the same time, three separate category B listed K6 telephone boxes (see MHG11436) had their existing listing amended. The changes came into effect on 12/11/2019. <54>

Sources/Archives (62)



Grid reference Centred NH 76317 56757 (726m by 526m) (2 map features)
Map sheet NH75NE
Civil Parish ARDERSIER
Geographical Area INVERNESS

Finds (0)

Related Monuments/Buildings (0)

Related Investigations/Events (24)

External Links (4)

Comments and Feedback

Do you have any more information about this record? Please feel free to comment with information and photographs, or ask any questions, using the "Disqus" tool below. Comments are moderated, and we aim to respond/publish as soon as possible.