The monument consists of an artillery fort, built by the Government in the aftermath of the 1745 Jacobite Rising to replace the earlier fort at Inverness. Construction began in 1748 and was completed in 1769. It is still a working army base, with parts of the site open to the public. The site lies on a promontory, at 0-5m above sea level and 1.1km W of Nairn.
The fort is an angle-bastioned defensive structure designed to house 2,000 soldiers and consists of outworks, including a covered way, ravelin and ditches. The fort ramparts contain five bastions and two demi-bastions, joined by lengths of curtain wall forming the major defence. Beneath parts of the ramparts are casemates, providing additional bomb-proof accommodation for the garrison. The wide fighting platform, or terreplein, on the top of the ramparts facilitated the movement of heavy guns around the fort to the embrasures within the bastions. The internal buildings are laid out symmetrically on either side of a road which forms the central axis. The parade ground is in the east of the fort, flanked by the imposing artillery and staff blocks. Beyond them are two large U-shaped barrack blocks around a square, then the ordnance and provision stores, and at the western end is the garrison chapel. The main gate is centrally placed in the east curtain and flanked by two bastions. The only additional building within the fort since its original construction is that of the Navy, Army and Airforce Institutes (NAAFI), built in 1934, which now houses Seaforth's Regimental Institutes.
The area to be scheduled is irregular in plan to include the remains described above and surrounding area within which evidence relating to the monument's construction, use and abandonment may survive, as shown in red on the accompanying map. It includes the fort and an area that retains the level ground surface created at the time of the fort's construction and may also retain evidence for activities associated with the construction and use of the fort. It extends to the mean low water mark of spring tides on the N, S and W. To the E, it extends beyond the glacis, to include all defences and an area around these within which remains associated with their construction and use are likely to survive.
Excluded from the scheduling are the top 30cm of the surfaces of the modern roads, hard standings and footpaths, to allow for their maintenance. The above-ground elements of fences are also excluded. For the avoidance of doubt, the chapel (still in ecclesiastical use), the sergeants' sleeping quarters, the staff block and barracks and the sergeants' mess (all occupied as dwelling houses) are specifically excluded from the scheduling.
The monument was deemed to be scheduled by virtue of its inclusion in the portfolio of properties in the care of the Secretary of State for Scotland at the time the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979 came into force. This rescheduling clarifies the extent of the scheduled area, to facilitate management of the site. The monument is in the care of Historic Scotland on behalf of Scottish Ministers and is the subject of a Memorandum of Agreement between the Ministry of Defence and Historic Scotland.
Statement of National Importance
The monument's cultural significance can be expressed as follows:
Major-General William Skinner, engineer for the Board of Ordnance of North Britain Construction, designed Fort George in 1747. William Adam oversaw the construction, which began on 11 June 1748. After Adam's death, his sons John, Robert and James Adam continued the work, which was only completed in 1769. The fort is constructed mainly of red sandstone, but yellow sandstone was also used for plinths.
The fort was built on a barren peninsula and, as the main threat of attack initially was from the landward approach, the defences were concentrated on the eastern (landward) flank. The outworks, on this side, were the first part of the fort to be completed, together with the triangular ravelin, placed between these and the east rampart and surrounded by a ditch. The ramparts (with their bastions and demi-bastions) are formed of piled shingle, faced with stone; within parts of the ramparts are casemates, providing additional bomb-proof accommodation for the garrison. Enclosed by the south bastion are the north workshops and a powder magazine. The fort is entered over the principal bridge and its symmetrically laid out internal buildings are ranged on either side of a road which forms the central axis. The parade ground is in the east of the fort, flanked by the imposing artillery and staff blocks. Beyond them are two large U-shaped barrack blocks around a square, then the ordnance and provision stores, and in the far west is the garrison chapel. Access was through the outworks and over the principle bridge and principle gate. There are two opposing sallyports in the north and south ramparts. The south sallyport also gave access to the fort from the harbour, which was built to land materials for the fort's construction and to serve the civilian ferry across the Moray Firth. As a result of threatened action in 1759, the defensive emphasis shifted from the landward flank to the Moray Firth and the Points Battery overlooking the Firth was strengthened.
The fort was designed to hold two infantry battalions (1,600 men and their officers), as well as a separate artillery company and staff offices. There was a bakehouse, brewhouse, wells, sutlery (inns) and a chapel. In addition, there were stores, an armoury, powder magazine, workshops and a hospital. The internal buildings were a triumph of Georgian domestic architecture. The last building constructed was the chapel; not shown on the original drawings, it was begun in 1763 and may have been designed by Robert Adam.
The two 'piles' of barracks were arranged around the barrack-square. Work began on them in 1753, with the northern pile completed by 1761 and the southern by 1764. Later alterations saw the number of men per room reduced and the provision of washing and toilet blocks on the barracks (now removed). Within the gate is a grassed parade ground with the staff and artillery blocks beyond, flanked in the south by the Governor's House, now the officers' mess, and in the north by the Fort Major's House, now the Queen's Own Highlanders' Museum. Both include some important architectural flourishes, including fireplaces and stair details.
The Grand Magazine, within the centre of Prince William Henry's Bastion, was the main store for black powder. This highly specialised design kept the powder dry by an elaborate system of ventilation and kept it safe by the exclusion of combustible materials and by the construction of a vault able to withstand a direct mortar attack. It now contains the Seafield Collection, a very fine collection dating to the Napoleonic Wars of weapons and equipment from the regiments raised by Sir James Grant.
In 1760, the fort received its main armament of 65 guns: twelve 42-pounders (pdrs), four 32-pdrs, twenty-one 18-pdrs, twenty-two 12-pdrs, four 6-pdrs, and two 13-inch mortars.
Fort George is the finest example of eighteenth-century military engineering in the British Isles and is largely unaltered since its completion in 1769. The design of Fort George derives from an international architectural vocabulary developed by military engineers across Europe in the preceding 300 years. The designer, Major General Skinner, had worked in Minorca and Gibraltar and had travelled widely, and he drew on this experience and on the recent innovative work by the French engineer, Cormontaigne. He designed the bastions to be solid, increasing the manoeuvrability of guns and allowing the installation of raised gun batteries, en barbette, on the eastward facing bastions. The flanks of the bastions are elongated, requiring fewer guns to cover the approaches. The most significant refinements (when compared to earlier defences in the UK) are the outworks.
This was the biggest construction job ever completed in the Highlands, requiring 1,000 men to build and many of the materials to be brought in by sea. Security in the early years was seen as a constant threat. The final cost of the fort was £200,000, which was more than Scotland's Gross National Product for 1750.
The military landscape extends over the ground east of the fort, which was kept clear to ensure a clear field of fire for the defenders. The army land was marked by the King's Stones, a line of widely spaced upright stones running north to south, approximately 1km east of the fort. This ground was used as a firing range and training area (and continues in this use to this day). At the furthest extremity of the military landscape, a water tower was constructed in 1900 to replace the brackish wells within the fort. Beyond this, married quarters were built in the 20th century and subsequently demolished.
The governor of Fort Augustus, which was completed in 1742, had chief command over the garrisons in the Highlands, including Fort William, Braemar Castle, Bernera and Inversnaid Barracks, Fort George, Ruthven Barracks and Corgarff Castle.
Tilbury Fort, Fort Cumberland and the defences at Berwick, Plymouth Citadel and Portsmouth are perhaps the nearest English parallels, with Charles Fort in Kinsale as the best Irish example, and the Elizabeth Castle on Jersey and Fort Regent on Guernsey the best examples in the Channel Isles. There are also many European examples.
Fort George was designed in the aftermath of the 1745 Jacobite Rising, which was the last attempt by the Stewart dynasty to unseat the Hanoverian monarchy. The Rising came to an end at the Battle of Culloden in April 1746, with the defeat of the Jacobites. In the aftermath of Culloden, Prince Charles Edward Stewart fled the country and Government forces under the Duke of Cumberland brutally restored order in the Highlands. Hanoverian garrisons were established, many of them housed in existing strongholds such as Corgarff, Duart, Tioram and Braemar. In addition, the Great Glen forts of Fort William and Fort Augustus were repaired. It was also proposed to rebuild the fort at Inverness, but this was abandoned when the Town Council sought compensation for the partial loss of use of their harbour. A new site was found on the loyal Cawdor Estates, 11 miles east of Inverness.
Before the fort was completed, Jacobite disaffection had become little more than a memory and the place slipped into a role as a Highland recruiting base. Regiments were raised, given basic training, and then sent to theatres of war around the British Empire.
In 1773, Dr Samuel Johnston, author of the landmark Dictionary of the English Language, and James Boswell, the noted biographer, visited and dined at Fort George with the Governor, during their famous tour of Scotland.
After the United Irish rebellion of 1798, twenty of their leaders were imprisoned in Fort George for four years.
By 1800 the resident garrison consisted of a company of Invalids and Veterans. Throughout the Napoleonic Wars, the fort served as a training ground and embarkation station for many of the regiments raised by local landowners. Amongst these were the regiments raised by Sir James Grant, including the Strathspey Fencibles (raised 1793), the 97th Regiment (1794) and the Inverness-shire Volunteers and Militia (raised in 1794 and 1803 respectively). Their surviving equipment is part of the Seafield Collection, which is on display at Fort George. After the Battle of Waterloo in 1815, Fort George was considered as a location for the imprisonment of Napoleon.
In 1817 an order to dismantle the Highland forts was quickly countermanded. A proposal to turn the fort into a prison in 1835 came to nothing. It continued to serve as a recruiting and embarkation base for the army. In 1859, during the French emergency, the defences were remodelled as a coastal-defence battery and rearmed with traversing guns.
A reorganisation of the Army in 1881 made Fort George the home depot for the Seaforth Highlanders, a regiment formed by the amalgamation of the 72nd and 78th Highlanders. The 78th had a long association with the fort, having first paraded there in July 1793. The fort continued as a regimental depot until 1961, when the Seaforths were amalgamated with the Cameron Highlanders to form the Queen's Own Highlanders. They marched out in 1964, but this important association is evident today with the regimental history and museum in the fort.
The monument is of national importance as a superbly well-preserved artillery fortification of the 18th century, a period when the Government was trying to ensure its effective control over the north of Scotland. It is the best preserved and least altered of any major fortress in Britain, and one of the most complete in Europe, of any date. Study of its fabric and below-ground archaeological remains has the potential to contribute to our understanding of military organisation and army life during and after the 18th century. The association with Scotland's best known architectural dynasty, the Adam family, gives the fort particular importance. The loss of the monument would significantly diminish our future ability to appreciate and understand the military history of Scotland since the 1745 Jacobite Rising.