It’s Just a Field, isn’t it?

Here at Culloden Battlefield and Visitors Centre we get visitors from around the world; some will know the history inside out whilst others will be taking their first steps into Scottish history. It’s safe to say that we also get people who are more keen to explore the site than others and this was certainly pointed out when we had one gentleman ask the question ‘It’s just a field, isn’t it?’

Culloden, Inverness.
Culloden Moor

Now technically I suppose you could answer yes, it is called a battlefield. And if you don’t know the history that may be all you first see but we’d like to think Culloden Battlefield is much more than ‘just a field’.

First and foremost Culloden Battlefield is a war grave. It is important to remember that in 1746 some 1,500 Jacobites and 50 Government soldiers not only died here at Culloden but were also buried here. Today the site cares for the mass graves that can be found on the moor and the memorial cairn and clan graves that have been in place since the 1880’s. Having the graves on the site of battle is rare and in the past we have been asked why we have not done excavations and archaeology work on the battlefield. The simple answer is we do not want to do invasive work on the graves and as war graves we believe they should be left untouched for people to pay their respects.

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The Memorial Cairn at Culloden Battlefield

 

Secondly, we have to consider the history of the site which surely marks the place as more important than ‘just a field’. This was the site of the last battle in the last of the Jacobite Uprisings. It was at this site that Prince Charles Edward Stuart and William Augustus, the Duke of Cumberland, faced off for the last time and Prince Charles was finally defeated in his attempt to reclaim the throne. The battle of Culloden ended some 60 years of fighting over the Scottish, English and British thrones and is an iconic moment in British history. By conserving and protecting the land we can do our bit to help keep this important place in history alive.

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Culloden Battlefield

 

Culloden is also closely connected with the Highland Clan system. Whilst Culloden was not the cause for its demise it certainly can be said to have accelerated the process. Following Culloden came the pacification of the Highlands and eventually the Highland Clearances. Whilst this was a terrible time for the Highlands and its culture it did mean that we had mass emigration leading to Scottish ancestry being spread throughout the world. Now we receive visitors from all corners of the globe who come to try and trace their roots and discover more about their Scottish heritage. Culloden is a place where they can come and learn more about their clan and even their relatives who may have been transported following the battle. Culloden opens up the door to world history in a very special way.

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Clan Graves at Sunset

So, is Culloden ‘just a field’, our answer is no. The site is an emotional place that captures a moment in history and brings together people from around the world as they learn more about their past, pay their respects to those who fell and discover the stories that brought us to where we are today. It is not just a field; it is a place of remembrance, education, connection, discovery, passion, history, rest, conservation and a place of a myriad of emotions.

We hope you enjoyed this post and as always please like, tweet, comment and share your experiences of Culloden Battlefield. If you would like to help support the work we do here at Culloden you can make a donation to the site here.

All the best, K & D

 

General Wade

Since we covered the Welsh Jacobites earlier this month for St Davids Day we felt it only fair to turn our heads to the Irish for St Patricks Day.

This time rather than focusing on the whole Irish section we decided to just pick one man; George Wade.

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George Wade

Born in 1673 in Killavally in Ireland, George Wade had a long military career. He fought in both the Nine Years War and the War of Spanish Succession before becoming commander of the British forces in Ireland in November 1714. In 1715 he join in the fight against the Jacobite Rising and undertook security duties in Bath where he unearthed a haul of Jacobite weapons. He is said to have helped counter several plots in England, and at one point even arrested the Swedish ambassador in London.

Perhaps the thing Wade is most well known for though is his roads. In 1724 George I’s government sent Wade to Scotland to inspect the state of the country. It is said when he first visited he found the Highlands in ‘a state of anarchy and confusion’, and virtually inaccessible to his troops. He recommended the construction of barracks, bridges and proper roads to assist in the control of Scotland. On 10 May 1725 he was appointed Commander in Chief of His Majesty’s forces, castles, forts and barracks in North Britain and was tasked with carrying out his own recommendations.

Over the next twelve years Wade directed the construction of some 240 miles (390 km) of roads and 40 bridges linking garrisons at Ruthven, Fort George, Fort Augustus and Fort William. The roads were designed to be sixteen feet wide and like Roman roads were ideally built in a straight line. Every ten miles soldier camps were formed with inns often developing alongside, some of which can still be seen today. Indeed much of Wades work can still be seen today including the five arch Tay Bridge at Aberfeldy which is known as ‘General Wades Bridge’ and reportedly cost over £4,000.

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The Tay Bridge in Aberfeldy

 

Wade was also responsible for raising a militia called the Highland Watches. The first six companies were formed in 1725, with another four in 1739. The men were recruited from clans loyal to the crown: Campbell, Fraser, Munro and Grant and were designed to prevent fighting between the clans, deter raiding and enforce the new disarmament laws.  These six independent companies were eventually brought together in 1739 to become the Black Watch Regiment and were, for many years, the only troops allowed to wear tartan of any kind.

In 1745 Wade was called back from retirement at the age of 72, to aid in stopping the ’45 Rising but his role was minor and inglorious. Based in Newcastle his troops failed to intercept the Jacobite army on its campaign south to Derby and again on its dejected return north to Scotland. Wade was replaced as Commander-in-Chief by the Duke of Cumberland who eventually led the government army to victory at Culloden.

Wade died in 1748 and was buried in the centre aisle of the nave in Westminster Abbey.  He was unmarried but left four illegitimate children, George, John, Jane and Emilia.

We hope you enjoyed this little insight into Wades life. As always please like, tweet, share, comment and why not take a journey along some of Wades roads.

All the best, K & D

The Last House Besieged in Britain

270 years ago on 17th March 1746 an assault began on Blair Castle that would make it the last house to be besieged in Great Britain.

Blair Castle has been around, in one form or another, since 1269 and is the ancestral home of Clan Murray and historically the seat of their chief, the Duke of Atholl. It began as a medieval tower that was continually extended over the years. In the 1740’s it was transformed into a stylish home losing its turrets and castellations.

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Blair Castle as it looks today

During the first Jacobite Rising in 1689 the Duke of Atholl remained loyal to the government, despite two of his sons joining the Jacobites. However, the castle itself was taken by the Jacobites and it is said the Battle of Killiecrankie was fought because Viscount Dundee did not want to retreat and surrender the castle. Indeed, the Jacobites, led by  Dundee held a council of war in the castle on the eve of the battle. After the battle, Blair Castle remained in Jacobite hands for some time.

In the 1715 Rising, the house was again divided. The 1st Duke and his second son, James, supported the government, while his eldest and youngest sons, William and George, followed the Jacobites. When the Rising failed, William was stripped of his title and lands and exiled to France. In his absence, James became 2nd Duke on their father’s death in 1724.

During the 1745 Rising Prince Charles Edward Stuart stayed in the castle on two occasions. The first in September 1745 and then again in February 1746. It was after this though that the Jacobites abandoned the castle leaving it open for Government forces to occupy.

On 17th March 1746 Lord George Murray returned with the Atholl Brigade to begin the siege on his family home and put it back in Jacobite hands. George Murray was the brother of the current Duke of Atholl, James Murray so it was very much a family affair with one supporting Prince Charles and the other the government. It is said when Lord George arrived at Blair he had ‘pipes playing and colours flying’.

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Lord George Murray

The Jacobites managed to surprise the government outposts surrounding the castle and by the afternoon of the 17th terms of surrender were issued to Andrew Agnew, the commander of the government forces holding Blair Castle. Interestingly no one in the Jacobite army was found willing to deliver the summons so it was actually given to Molly of Blair Inn who gave it to a young officer of her acquaintance. He then passed it to Agnew. The Jacobites demanded the castle, garrison, military stores and provisions all be given over into the hands of Lord George Murray; the surrender was refused.

On 18th March the Jacobite opened fire with the first shot said to have been fired by Lady Lude whose nearby house had previously been plundered by the garrison. Unfortunately Lord George Murray was unable to make true headway in his attack on the castle. Equipped with only a couple of small field pieces he couldn’t dent the seven feet thick walls of the castle. After discussing various options Lord George Murray decided the best plan would be to starve the men out as they were low on provisions.

Finally after repeated demands from Prince Charles to return to Inverness in preparation of the approaching Government army Lord George Murray raised the siege on 31st March. The main body of Jacobites left to rejoin Prince Charles and Blair Castle remained in Government hands.

We hope you enjoyed the story of Blair Castle and as always please tweet, comment, like, share and why not visit Blair Castle yourself one day.

All the best, K & D.

 

Welsh Jacobites

When we talk about Jacobites it is easy to sometimes miss out the fact that there were many supporters for the Jacobite cause in Wales so with St Davids Day just passed we thought we’d shine a light on the Welsh Jacobites.

Wales in fact plays a part in Jacobitism before it even really existed for it was on a visit to a Catholic shrine in Holywell, north Wales that James II supposedly prayed for a son with his second wife, Mary and shortly after Mary suddenly conceived.

Many of Wales’ oldest families supported the Jacobites in theory if not in practice. Perhaps the best example is that of Sir Watkin Williams-Wynn. From the early 1700s Wynn headed one of the best known Jacobite clubs, the Cycle Club. The club would meet periodically to toast the ‘king over the water’  in specially made drinking glasses and pledge support for the Jacobite cause. The club members included every significant landowner in a ten mile radius of Wrexham so had a fair amount of power in their midst. The Cycle Club was not the only secret Jacobite organisation to exist. In Montgomeryshire there was a group known as ‘The 27’ and at one meeting in Talgarth in 1727  Jacobite sympathisers actually ended up having to appear before a magistrate to explain their actions.

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A Jacobite Drinking Glass

 

During the build up to the 1715 Jacobite Rebellion discontent was rife, especially in Wrexham, where as the summer progressed, rioters broke windows in the ‘dissenting chapels’ and roamed through the streets of the town. It was believed that Sir Watkin Williams-Wynn orchestrated the riots.

Wynn was considered an important figure in the potential restoration of the Stuarts to the throne and was active again in the ’45 Rebellion pledging his support for the Jacobites in the 1740’s. The key point here though is that he offered support only as long as the Stuarts came accompanied by a French army. Whilst others followed with just promises of the  French army Wynn held fast and insisted his condition was met before support was given. When Prince Charles Edward Stuart arrived in Scotland in 1745 without the anticipated French support Wynn held fast and thus provided no aid. This action may account for the lack of active Welsh Jacobites in the ’45 Rising.

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Sir Watkin Williams-Wynn

Despite Wynn’s stance though some Welshmen did join the Jacobite army including a David Morgan from Penycraig who obtained a captain’s commission in the army of the Young Pretender. He was apparently captured by the Hanoverians during the Jacobite retreat north from Derby and was tried for treason. On 30th July 1746 he was executed on Kennington Common by hanging, drawing and quartering, and then his head displayed on Temple Bar in London.

After this it’s not a surprise that any Welsh Jacobites worked hard to cover their tracks  to avoid facing a similar fate to David Morgan. We hope you enjoyed this little insight into Welsh Jacobites. As always please like, share, tweet, comment, follow and have a wonderful Dydd Gwyl Dewi.

All the best, K & D