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.

culloden7
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.

cropped-cropped-cullodenbanner.jpg
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.

KODAK Digital Still Camera
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

 

Leanach Cottage

Situated on the grounds of Culloden Battlefield lies Leanach cottage. This beautiful thatched cottage attracts many visitors throughout the year and is a lovely memory of the history of the battlefield. Today, we thought we’d share a little more about the cottage and why it is so special to all of us here at Culloden.

Leanach is one of the last survivors of a once common local structure type of a single storey thatched building. Today the building stands as an isolated structure but in the past this area was well populated and the land divided into smallholdings.  Historical maps show a number of farmsteads in the close vicinity with small pockets of individually cultivated land, however, Leanach is now one of the only surviving examples of this landscape.

The cottage itself was likely constructed in the early 18th century, probably as part of wider improvements on Culloden estate and originally would have been a T-shaped structure. In the 17th and 18th century estate owners provided their tenants with the wood for their roof crucks whilst the tenant was responsible for the construction of the walls of their houses.The walls were often made from local stone and/or turf at the gable ends.

leanach1940's
Leanach Cottage in the 1940’s

During the Battle of Culloden Leanach Cottage was situated in between the Government lines and it is likely the building would have been used as a field hospital for the government men.

Following Culloden there were several periods of occupation, sometimes intermittent and the shape of the building appears to have been altered by the demolition of the western end of the structure in the mid-late 1860s, leaving an L-plan structure which can still be seen today. The building then appears to have been abandoned again shortly after this and fell into a ruinous state (late 1860s-1880s). The cottage was then rebuilt and reoccupied in the early 1880s, possibly as part of Duncan Forbes’ work to memorialise the Battle of Culloden during which time he also built the memorial cairn and erected grave stones on the clan graves.

leanach2
Belle MacDonald outside Leanach Cottage

The last occupant of Leanach Cottage was Belle MacDonald who lived here until she died in 1912. Her family apparently gave tours of the battlefield to interested visitors as the Victorian railway brought tourists into the highlands. In 1924 the Gaelic Society of Inverness and Thomas Munro Architects set out to repair and conserve the building and the original steeply pitched roof was replaced with a shallower one.

Picture1
Leanach Cottage

The National Trust for Scotland was gifted Leanach Cottage in 1944 by Hector Forbes, the local land owner, and it became the original visitor centre in 1961. Quite different from the centre we have today it had a few simple panels to allow people to experience the story of the battle. Minor alterations continued until 1978 when the NTS removed the old 1920’s roof and replaced it back to a steeply pitched roof more in line with the original crucks which were still visible in the western wall.

With the opening of the new visitor centres Leanach has been able to retain its charm and beauty and we hope to be able to open the cottage once again next year so visitors can see inside this lovely piece of history.

snowpic
Leanach Cottage in the snow

In terms of conservation of the thatch and the turf wall, it is easy to see why the Trust needs the support of its Members to keep such buildings from falling into disrepair. Now, we don’t usually play the charity card but this time we are so please forgive us. If you would like to help protect Leanach Cottage you can go to https://www.nts.org.uk/Donation/Appeal/Once/Give-to-your-favourite-National-Trust-for-Scotland-place/ or you can text ROOF75£5 to 70070 to donate £5. Thank you.

Hope you enjoyed the post. As always please like, follow, share, tweet, comment and keep coming back for more!

All the best, K & D