Circa 1808-11. 2-storey, 5-bay symmetrical former lock keeper's house, divided into 2 properties, with wide, roofed, 3-bay projecting bow front, facing the canal on the west side. The house is white harled with some contrasting black-painted raised ashlar margins. There is a base course and eaves course and deep overhanging eaves. The entrance doors to both properties are on the west side of the property. There is slate hanging to the south west gable.
The windows are predominantly 6-over 6-pane timber sash and case. There is a grey slated piended roof with a large central 8-can chimney stack.
The interior was seen in 2013. The property is divided into 2 houses; one to the west and one to the east. It has undergone some alteration, but there are narrow, curved staircases, some timber fire surrounds and 4-panel timber doors.
Statement of Special Interest
The early 19th century lock keeper's house at Banavie is an important, unusual structure in domestic canal architecture because of its scale and quality of design detail. It sits within its own grounds on the west side of the Caledonian canal and is unusual as the entrance to the property is on the elevation away from the canal. Most buildings associated with the canal have their principal entrance elevation facing the canal. The design of the building, with the prominent 3-bay curved bay is very unusual for lock keepers' houses and is understood to be unique to the Caledonian Canal. There are three similar listed houses on this canal. The property has been little altered externally and is notable for retaining its unbroken roofline as well as its distinctive central stack and its traditional glazing pattern. Unusually, slate hanging is on the south west gable, probably added for extra protection against the prevailing west winds.
The house is situated immediately on the canal side and retains its connection to the canal. The interior has undergone some alteration, but retains some timber fire surrounds.
The majority of the domestic architecture on Scotland's canals is of a more simple design than this house and often consists of a single story cottage, with perhaps a later extension to the rear. This building reflects a more fashionable approach to design, incorporating 2 storeys, wide bays and large, multi-pane windows.
The whole of the Caledonian Canal is a Scheduled Monument which identifies it as being of national importance to Scotland. For this section of the Caledonian Canal see Scheduled Monument No 3530.
The house was built initially to house the lock keeper and around 30 men, who built this spectacular series of locks called Neptune's staircase. Neptune's Staircase was constructed between 1809 and 1811 and the house is most likely to be of this date. The workers for the canal were originally housed in turf huts with stone houses being built later. After the canal was built, the house became the lock keeper's house.
The iconic Neptune's Staircase at Banavie is the longest staircase lock in Britain, and consists of 8 locks and 9 lock gates. A staircase is defined as two or more, adjacent locks and where the upper gates of one lock serve as the lower gates of the next. Boats entering the staircase are therefore committed to passing through all the locks in one go before other canal users can use them. It was nicknamed Neptune's Staircase by those who constructed it. It originally had 36 capstans which would be rotated in a strict order to allow the water in or out of the locks. Each capstan had 20 rotations and it would take half a day for a boat to climb or descend the staircase and consequently boats may have to wait for up to day to use the staircase. Many lock keepers were needed to operate this staircase smoothly, swiftly and safely. During the 20th century the staircase was mechanised, cutting down the time and effort in operating the locks.
The primary role of a lock keeper was to maintain and operate the locks and the cottages and houses were constructed adjacent to them for convenience. Cottages were usually single storey with accommodation comprising of a living room and a bedroom. This property is unusual in being much larger in size. It does, however, have a large garden, which was common in that the lock keeper could grow vegetables and keep poultry and animals.
The previous listed building record written in 1971 noted that the Canal House was built in 1815 and designed by Thomas Telford. At the time of writing there is no documentary evidence to support this.
The Caledonian Canal is one of five canals surviving in Scotland but is unique among them as being the only one entirely funded by public money. The canal was part of a wider infrastructure initiative across the Highlands to facilitate trade and the growth of industry and, most importantly for the Government, to tackle the emigration problem resulting from the Highland Clearances by providing much-needed employment. The experienced engineer Thomas Telford submitted a report in 1802 to Government commissioners which detailed the route and size of the canal. The canal connects Inverness in the north to Corpach, near Fort William in the west, by linking four lochs: Loch Dochfur, Loch Ness, Loch Oich and Loch Lochy. The total length of the canal is 60 miles, but only 22 miles are man-made.
Built to take sea-going ships, including the 32-gun and 44-gun frigates of the Royal Navy, the Caledonian Canal was designed on a much larger scale than other canals in Britain and the locks were the largest ever constructed at that time. This combined with the remoteness of the location and the variable ground conditions, make it a great feat of engineering and construction.
Telford was appointed principal engineer to the commission with William Jessop as consulting engineer. Although work began in 1804 rising costs and the scale of the project resulted in slow progress and the first complete journey was made on 23-24 October 1822. Whilst the Canal was constructed for commercial use it was never a commercial success. Since its opening it was beset by problems and had to be closed for repairs and improvements in the 1840s. However the canal became popular with passenger steamers with tourism increasing following a visit by Queen Victoria on 16 September 1873.
Previously listed as 'Caledonian Canal, Banavie, Neptune's Staircase, Lock Cottage, (Lock Keepers' House)'.
Statutory address and listed building record updated as part of the Scottish Canals Estate Review, (2013-14).