House plan for “very sensitive” Culloden Battlefield site

Plans to build a farmhouse on a "very sensitive" site at Culloden Battlefield have emerged. PIC: Creative Commons/Flickr/Shadowgate.
Plans to build a farmhouse on a "very sensitive" site at Culloden Battlefield have emerged. PIC: Creative Commons/Flickr/Shadowgate.
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Scotland’s leading heritage body has objected to plans to build a farmhouse on a “very sensitive” part of Culloden Battlefield.

Historic Environment Scotland (HES) said key events of the battle on April 16 1746 were likely to have been staged at the proposed site of the property at Muirfield Farm, Westhill.

There is also a high chance of battle artefacts being found in the area, HES added.

The house plan is the third development put forward for the battlefield area in recent times - and the first of the three to be rejected by HES.

The official objection from HES said: “The Battle of Culloden was a significant event in Scotland’s national story.

“The proposed residential development would affect this sensitive part of the battlefield’s open character and consequently have a significant adverse impact upon the battlefield’s key characteristics.

“We therefore object to the application.”

READ MORE: Heritage body “does not object” to Culloden holiday park

The single storey house has been proposed for farmland around 400 metres north of the B9006 which splits the battlefield where Jacobites clashed with Government forces more than 270 years ago.

Plans suggest the house would sit between Jacobite and Government lines, and in the area of moor charged across by the Jacobite left flank, HES said.

READ MORE: Historian asks ‘are we going to lose Culloden?’

The objection said: “This area is likely to have been crossed by the charging left flank on their unsuccessful attempt to engage the Government lines.

“Therefore, the proposed development area is in a very sensitive part of the battlefield likely to have been part of the main area of events during the battle.”

The objection added: “The archaeological potential of the northern part of the battlefield is high. In particular, topsoil or ploughsoil could contain artefacts related to the battle.”

“The application has not assessed the potential of the proposed development area to contain any such remains.

“However, the proposed development would entail ground disturbance that could remove, damage or destroy any such remains and could adversely affect this special quality of the battlefield.”

The northern part of the battle played an important role in the engagement, the heritage body added, and that topographical features could still highlight the wet ground the Jacobites tried to navigate in their attempts to reach government lines.

The remains of a network of enclosures, including Culloden Parks, where the Jacobite left flank was anchored at the beginning of the battle, can still be found in the area.

The proposed house would also sit close to the remains of King’s Stable Cottage, which took its name from the nearby stables where the Government horses were kept in the aftermath of the battle.

The cottage is associated with a post-battle atrocity when 12 wounded Jacobites were taken from a house and shot in a hollow nearby.

The proposed site for the new farmhouse sits in both the Culloden Battlefield Inventory and the Culloden Muir Conservation Area.

The application, which is now being examined by planners at Highland Council, follows controversy surrounding two earlier development proposals for land at Culloden.

Sixteen new homes will be built at Viewhill Farm with a holiday park and 100-seat restaurant proposed for land at the old Treetops Stables at Faebuie.

Historic Environment Scotland did not object to either of these applications, despite claims from historians that Viewhill site was a war grave.

In the case of Treetops, HES said the land was not central to the events of the battlefield and primarily acted as a backdrop to events.