MHG3047 - Battlefield - Culloden


The site of the Battle of Culloden, now in the ownership of the National Trust for Scotland.

Type and Period (1)

  • BATTLEFIELD (18th Century - 1746 AD to 1746 AD)

Protected Status

Full Description

(Name: NH 742 450) Site of the Battle of Culloden (NAT) 16th April 1746 (NAT)
OS 6" map, (1968)

Desc of battlefield based on local memory etc: Inverness FC, 1902, Vol V p351

The Battle of Culloden took place on 16th April 1746 between about 4500 men under Charles Edward Stuart and a Hanoverian force of 9000 led by Duke of Cumberland. The battle positions were as shown on plan and result was an overwhelming victory for Hanoverians. A modern memorial cairn bearing an appropriate inscription has been erected at a spot where there was intense fighting. The associated memorials etc, noted on NH74NW 17.1 - 17.5 and ground on which they stand are owned by the NTS.
M Brander 1975; R Prentice 1976.

A management plan for those parts of the battlefield site in the ownership of the National Trust for Scotland was drawn up and agreed in January 1993. <1>

A desk-based assessment, including a map regression exercise, was carried out by K Aitchison for the NTS in 1994 in an attempt to locate the position of several turf dykes which were known to have beeen important during the battle. Unfortunately the exact location of the dykes and other structures could not be pinpointed owing to the inaccuracy of the C18 mapping. <2>

The NTS have worked steadily on the restoration of Culloden battlefield towards how it would have looked at the time of the battle. After an analysis of contemporary plans of the battlefield, an attempt was made to locate a small polygonal enclosure in which the English dead are said to have been buried, and to assess whether any of surviving enclosures could date from time of the battle. All of the current drystone enclosures seem to date from around 1845, but to some extent follow the approximate lines of the larger enclosure shown on plans of 1746. As anticipated, no trace of the turf dyke could be found. However, a geophysical survey of the field is now planned, in the hope of locating the English graves and from there surmising the position of the turf dyke: the polygonal parish boundary, which seems to mimic the dyke, should provide supporting evidence if the geophysical survey is successful. <3> See MHG14723

NH 745 450 and NH 740 448 Resistance and gradiometer surveys were conducted on two discrete areas of the battlefield at Culloden by CFA (Edinburgh) in 1995: the area around Old Leanach and an area in the extreme west of land owned by NTS. The project had three main aims: to establish the presence of remains of other structures around the extant building at Old Leanach; to locate the remains, if any, of a pentangular turf-built enclosure at the west of the battlefield; and to identify the position of the reputed 'grave of the English dead'. The survey around Old Leanach successfully identified two regions of high resistance of similar surface area to the extant building which probably reflect the footings of associated buildings. The larger survey to the west identified nothing of any great antiquity, save for a very faint anomaly noted on the gradiometer survey. This anomaly had a magnitude little greater than the background, and would be very difficult to view as significant, if it were not aligned on a similar orientation to the cartographic evidence for the turf dyke. <4> DES summary <5> See MHG14723

Reconstruction of turf dyke formerly existing in 18th c., by National Trust in 1995. <6> See MHG14723 for photos.

In June 2000 and September 2001 a programme of fieldwork was carried out on the battlefield site. The fieldwork included: topographic survey of the battlefield area; ground-penetrating radar (GPR) survey of the clan graves and the 'Field of the English' (where Government troops are presumed to have been buried); metal-detector survey of the 'Field of the English' and the area between the Interpretation Centre and the clan graves; geophysical survey of the area around Old Leanach Cottage and the area between the Interpretation Centre and the clan graves and excavation of the denuded walled feature adjacent to Old Leanach Cottage, traditionally referred to as the 'Red Barn'.

The project provided a new insight into the battle through the examination of archaeological evidence. The metal-detector survey revealed that both the Jacobite and Hanoverian lines extend further to the south than previously believed. Geophysical survey and excavation of the area adjacent to Old Leanach Cottage failed to reveal any evidence for activity pre-dating the C19. The GPR survey revealed the presence of grave pits beneath the mounds in the clan cemetery. Results of the project were broadcast on BBC2 in early 2002. Reports on this work have appeared in the book which accompanies the TV series and a full academic report, probably to appear in monograph form with the other five British battlefields investigated as part of the project, will also be forthcoming. <7>

Lockplate flintlock pistol found at Culloden Battlefield, exact location unknown. Information supplied by Inverness Museum, 21/03/02. See assoc. docs. File.
J Aitken : 23/05/02.

Geophysical surveys involving both resistivity and magnetometry were carried out by Archaeological Services WYAS in 2004 in five areas around the Culloden Battlefield site in advance of the proposed construction of a new visitor centre and car parking facilities. The survey area comprised approximately 9 hectares of rough pasture, to the south and east of the original visitor centre. No anomalies of a probable archaeological origin were identified in any of the areas likely to be affected by the development proposal or outlying areas closer to the known battlefield site. Areas of high resistance east of Old Leanach may have been caused by rubble associated with buildings referred to in the aftermath of the battle. Many of the identified anomalies were interpreted as being caused by natural features or by variations in the underlying drift geology. <8>

A series of geotechnical test pits and boreholes were archaeologically monitored by CFA Archaeology Ltd in 2004 following a geophysical survey (<8>) and prior to the construction of new visitor facilities. In addition a metal detector was used to scan for artefacts in the topsoil immediately prior to excavation of the test pits and subsequently on the spoil heaps. No archaeological features were exposed and no artefacts were recovered. <9>

A multi-faceted investigation was undertaken in April 2005 at Culloden battlefield by GUARD as part of the programme of site re-assessment related to the construction of a new visitor centre. Metal detector survey, geophysical survey and limited excavation were combined to pursue a number of research avenues relating to the location, progress and character of the battle and the role of the landscape. The metal detector survey was carried out across a wide transect passing roughly east-west through the Field of the English, the reconstructed Leanach enclosure and the area beyond. This resulted in a considerable assemblage of battle-related debris, including around 250 lead balls of various types. This material was thought to represent several stages of the battle, including the Government artillery barrage, the Jacobite charge, hand-to-hand fighting on the Government left, and the fighting withdrawal of the Jacobite force. The geophysical survey, which included both resistivity and magnetometry, was used in an attempt to locate the unmarked graves of the Government troops in the so-called Field of the English. This produced with some promising results. In addition to possible prehistoric activity, in the form of a circular feature, a large anomaly may represent a burial pit, especially when viewed in conjunction with the pattern of artefact deposition. The hand-excavation of two evaluation trenches across geophysical anomalies, first identified after survey in 2000 (see <7>), was carried out in an effort to locate the buried remains of a building related to the farmstead now represented by Old Leanach Cottage. One trench contained a linear trench, which may relate to the foundation cut for the wall of a building, possibly related to the farmstead. <10>

In December 2005 the NTS commissioned GUARD to continue the survey work begun in April 2005. The areas corresponding to the new visitor centre building footprint and the associated car park were subject to metal detector survey. Low densities of buttons and musket balls were recovered, suggesting that sporadic fighting took place behind the main Government Left, possibly in mopping-up operations involving Jacobites who had broken through the Government line. Lead casting debris and a silver King's Shilling dated to the 1690s may represent evidence for the site of the temporary Government camp established on the field after the battle. <11>

In April 2006, a programme of ground-penetrating radar survey was carried out by GUARD over the Jacobite Graves in the Clan cemetery. As suggested by earlier work, this indicated pits beneath each of the mounds. <11>

In June 2006, the Field of the English was subject to further metal detector survey by GUARD in order to define the location of the Government left flank. This resulted in the recovery of a number of musket balls, buttons and other battle debris. <11>

A watching brief was undertaken by GUARD in August 2006 and March 2008 during the construction of a new NTS visitor centre at the site of the battle of Culloden. Earlier investigations had suggested that the development footprint of the new visitor centre and ancillaries would be archaeologically safe, and this proved to be the case. No significant structural features were found in any of the excavated areas, and artefact retrieval was only achieved by the ongoing metal detector surveys of the topsoil, subsoil and spoil. This produced a few musket balls and other assorted battle-related objects, most of which showed signs of heavy plough damage. Apart from validating the previous predictions of archaeologically safe zones, the value of the monitoring was in its ability to identify the degree of post-1746 agricultural improvement and sustained forestry programmes across the battlefield. Both regimes brought extensive impacts and terrain modifications which can now be quantified and related to the survivability of battle features and any earlier deposits and structures in the immediate area.

Previous work in the battlefield area had shown that the paths representing the opposing Government and Jacobite battle lines were incorrectly positioned, and new paths were laid out along more accurate alignments. The footpaths in the core area of the battlefield, known as the Clan Cemetery and designated a SAM, were also realigned and brought back to run along the old course of the B9006 road which ran through the cemetery area until the 1970s. The footpath monitoring results were also negligible, with no structural discoveries and only a handful of minor artefacts. One battle-related question which was partially resolved was the discovery of a much older (albeit undated) trackway sequence under the former B9006 road into the battlefield from the west. This is in keeping with contemporary maps which show a track through the battlefield to Leanach cottage, and this may have influenced how the conflict progressed. <12> (Awaiting full report)

This battlefield was added to Historic Scotland's new Inventory of Historic Battlefields in March 2011. <13>

GUARD Archaeology Limited was commissioned by National Trust for Scotland to undertake a metal detector survey prior to the construction of footpaths along the Battlefield site in May 2012. In addition a watching brief was carried out during the construction of a drain adjacent to the Old Leanach Cottage. These revealed no significant archaeological remains. <14>

An additional metal detector survey was carried out by West Coast Archaeological Services in 2013 on a section of proposed footpath that was not available for survey the previous year. A number of metal objects were found, including a copper-alloy buckle possibly of C18 date. <15>

Photograph of musket balls found on the site. <16>

NH74NW 17.00 centred 742 450
NH74NW 17.01 7497 4526 Cumberland's Stone
NH74NW 17.02 7437 4502 Grave of the English
NH74NW 17.03 7425 4499 Graves of the Clans

Extends onto map sheet NH74SW:
For Culloden Moor, King's Stable Cottage (NH 7333 4484), see NH74SW 1.
For Culloden Moor, Prince Charlie's Stone (NH 7376 4438), see NH74SW 2.
For Culloden Moor, Well of the Dead (NH 7431 4497), see NH74SW 20.
For Culloden Moor, Old Leanach Farmhouse (NH 7450 4499), see NH74SW 21.
For Culloden Moor, Jacobite Memorial Cairn (NH 7417 4498), see NH74SW 30.

Sources/Archives (25)



Grid reference Centred NH 73740 45240 (4360m by 3284m) (2 map features)
Map sheet NH74NW
Geographical Area INVERNESS

Finds (0)

Related Monuments/Buildings (5)

Related Investigations/Events (17)

External Links (3)

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