MHG4196 - Military fort and Governor's House - Fort William


The military fort and Governor's House at Fort William.

Type and Period (1)

  • FORT (Undated)

Protected Status

Full Description

The military fort and Governor's House at Fort William.

(NN 104 742) Fort William (NAT) (Dismantled) Sally Port (NAT)
OS 6" map (1876)

Fort William. The first fort at this site was of turf and wattles thrown up by Monck in the early 1650's and called the garrison of Inverlochy
(T Wallace 1911; J B Salmond 1934).

A crude plan with features in simple elevation among the Clarke Papers probably represents the same fort consolidated. It lies on the promontory at the confluence of the river Ness and Loch Linnhe. A zigzag trench cuts across the landward side of the fort which was thus surrounded by water on all sides; according to the plan it had one full 3-pointed bastion at the SE corner covering the trench and the bog on the landward side, and demi-bastions at the other four angles of the irregular enciente. The demi-bastions enfiladed one wall only.

The fort was rebuilt in stone in 1690, allegedly on a smaller scale, by General Mackay who renamed it Fort William. It contained a bomb-proof magazine and three block-houses fitted to accommodate 100 men. A fourth block was used as a store. It was defended on the land side by a ditch, glacis and revelin, and on the west side by ramparts faced with stone upon which were mounted fifteen twelve-pounder guns. The fort was entered by a bridge across the ditch; the guard house was immediately inside the fort. Adjoining it were the officers quarters, and in the opposite block of buildings was the general's house. The other buildings were occupied by the men. At the back of the fort towards the River Nevis was the Sally-port.

The fort was dismantled in 1864 and sold. The West Highland Railway Company acquired it in 1889 and a railway yard was built on the site. However stretches of walling have survived the destruction of the entrance and outworks on the landward side of the fort, and about half the rampart perimeter in two long stretches along the shore of the loch and the river survives to a height of about 20' with a demi-bastion at the angle between them.

The masonry indicates two building periods, the first, of river boulders along the loch side, is probably Mackay's work, the second, of superior masonry in roughly squared stones laid in courses and supported by small pinnings, is probably 18th century work. In this is a well-wrought sea-gate in dressed ashlar, round-arched with long and short voussoirs as shown in the plan of 1656.
S Cruden 1960 <1>

The remains of the fort were schedued in 1960.

Fort William, correctly described above. In the wall to either side of the sally port or sea-gate, are regularly spaced gun-loops, one is blocked. A stretch of walling near the north angle, the east side of a demi-bastion, has been rebuilt, in coursed, roughly-squared masonry with small pinnings, matching the 18th century work. A further adjoining stretch is reconstructed in concrete. This followed undermining due to floods some years ago.
Surveyed at 1:2500.
Visited by OS (ASP) 15 July 1961

No change.
Visited by OS (NKB) 15 May 1970

The National Library of Scotland holds a series of Maps and Drawings (many are coloured) of the Board of Ordnance, relating to the years around the Jacobite Rebellions of 1715 and 1745. Reference "Mss. 1645-1652". <2>

It is reported that a clean-up operation on the foreshore has included the scraping and landscaping of part of the scheduled monument. The work was halted and the circumstances are being investigated in co-operation with Historic Scotland. <3> <4> <5>

In August and September 2007, the Centre for Battlefield Archaeology and Glasgow University Archaeological Research Division (GUARD) conducted a programme of archaeological investigation of the remains of the old fort at Fort William, part of the Parade in the town of Fort William and the battlefield of Inverlochy. The fieldwork involved geophysical survey at the fort and the Parade, followed by trial excavation of anomalies. Trial trenches at the Parade exposed several rich midden deposits and material providing evidence for the burning of the town of Maryburgh, as suggested in contemporary accounts in 1746. The results at the fort were not so positive, as most traces of the garrison were removed in the C19 and C20 through its use as a railway yard; however, a trench outside the fort suggested survival of midden deposits pre-dating this period of destruction. This part-Heritage Lottery assisted project was a Highland 2007 initiative supported by Lochaber Community Fund and Highland Council, and included active participation on the part of the local community, including school groups and metal detectorists. <6>

Works by Morrisons Supermarkets in 2008 outside the southernmost corner of the supermarket building exposed a section of wall which may have been associated with the original fort wall which continued southeastwards from the existing remains. It was photographed, albeit in restricted circumstances, by R Cairns. <7> If the wall was part of the fort this might imply that further remains of the fort walls may yet survive under the supermarket car park and potentially elsewhere.

Photographs were contributed by Martin Briscoe in July 2011 via the Highland HER Flickr group. <8>

The scheduling was amended and updated by Historic Environment Scotland with effect from 14/01/2019. <9>

Sources/Archives (42)



Grid reference Centred NN 1048 7422 (177m by 237m) (2 map features)
Map sheet NN17SW
Civil Parish KILMALLIE
Geographical Area LOCHABER

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