Awesome Bricks is this Weekend!
This weekend we’ll be at the totally awesome Awesome Bricks show at the National Museum of Flight at East Fortune Air Field in East Lothian.
Our model will have a distinctly Scottish flavour – the internationally travelled LEGO Corgarff Castle, last seen in Norway’s beautiful city of Trondheim. The museum is a great place for a show, because not only do you get to gawp at lots of awesome LEGO models, you also get to gawp at lots of awesome retro aircraft. Right, that’s enough of the word ‘awesome’.
Tickets cost between £9 and £14, while under 5s and National Museums Scotland Members go free! Remember, for the price you get access to the whole museum too, so this is a great value event!
Find out more and book your tickets at:
Battle of Culloden
On this day in 1746 the Battle of Culloden was fought between the Jacobite army of Charles Edward Stewart, also known as the Young Pretender or Bonnie Prince Charlie, and a Government force under the command of William Augustus, Duke of Cumberland. The battle resulted in total defeat for the Jacobites and the effective end of any efforts to place a Stuart on the British Throne.
Conflict had broken out in the summer of 1745 with the Jacobites achieving a number of unexpected successes. Having defeated a large government army at the Battle of Prestonpans in September, they effectively controlled the whole of Scotland and even penetrated England as far south as Derby before returning north. The withdrawal would lead them to their last stand on Culloden Moor, near Inverness in the Scottish Highlands.
On the night before the battle the government army, which was camped around 12 miles from the Jacobites to the west, celebrated Cumberland's twenty-fifth birthday by issuing two gallons of brandy to each regiment. In an attempt to take the initiative, and repeat the victory at Prestonpans, the Jacobites forced a night march with the aim of catching the Hanovarian’s by surprise. The trek however prorated arduous and having already left late, took much longer than expected. In the dark, the right and left wings of the army became separated and by the time the leading troops had reached Culraick, still 2 miles from their objective, there was only one hour left before dawn. It was concluded that there was not enough time to mount a surprise attack and that the offensive should be aborted; the army returned in disarray.
Not long after the exhausted Jacobite forces had made it back to Culloden, reports came through of the advancing government troops. At about 11am the two armies were within sight of one another with about 2 miles (3.2 km) of open moorland between them. As the government forces steadily advanced across the moor, the driving rain and sleet blew from the north-east into the faces of the Jacobites.
The ensuing battle was brief. Unleashing their superior artillery, the government army opened by shelling the Jacobite lines. Charles, who had taken personal command of the army, left his men to endure the barrage for around 30 minutes, waiting for his opponents to move. Several clan leaders, worried about the resulting casualties, its effect on moral and angry at the lack of action, pressured Charles to issue the order to charge. Members of Clan Chattan were the first of the Jacobites to receive this order, but an area of boggy ground in front of them forced them to veer right so that they obstructed the following regiments and the attack was pushed towards the wall of the Culwhiniac enclosure. The Jacobites advanced on the left flank of the government troops, but were subjected to volleys of musket fire and the artillery which had switched from roundshot to grapeshot.
Despite taking heavy casualties the Jacobite charge met the government line, with two regiments, Barrell's 4th Foot and Dejean's 37th Foot, taking the brunt of the attack. The government’s second line was bought forward to plug any gaps and formed a five battalion strong horseshoe-shaped formation which trapped the Jacobite right wing on three sides.
The Jacobite left wing, which consisted of Macdonald regiments, had around 200m more to cover over much boggier ground and so engaged the government troops slightly later. As they took casualties the began to give way and sensing the advantage, Cumberland ordered his dragoons to ride them down. They too were impeded by the boggy ground and ended up engaging the French supplied Irish Picquets, who had been brought forward in an attempt to stabilise the deteriorating Jacobite left flank.
The Jacobite left collapsed and turned into a total rout. The Royal Écossais and Kilmarnock's Footguards, who had attempted an orderly retreat along the Culwhiniac enclosure were ambushed and forced into the centre of the field, where they were run down by Kerr's 11th Dragoons, though they put up a fierce fight and were able to retire. The rout would have become a massacre if it were not for the rear-guard action of the Irish Picquets who covered the Highlanders' retreat. This stand by the Royal Écossais may have given Charles Edward Stewart the time to make his escape.
From this point on the fleeing Jacobite forces were split into two groups: the Lowland regiments retired in order southwards, making their way to Ruthven Barracks; the Highland regiments however were cut off by the government cavalry, and forced to retreat down the road to Inverness. The result was that they were a perfect target for the government dragoons.
It is estimated that of the approximate 7,000 mend deployed at the outset of the battle, Jacobite casualties were around 1,500–2,000 killed or wounded. By contrast, the government only lost between 240-400 of their 8,000, while another 1,000 were wounded.
The 1,500 or so men who assembled at Ruthven Barracks in Badenoch received orders from Charles Edward Stewart to the effect that all was lost and to "shift for himself as best he could". Similar orders must have been received by the Highland units at Fort Augustus. By April 18th the Jacobite army had disbanded. Officers and men of the units in the French service made for Inverness, where they surrendered as prisoners of war on 19 April. The rest of the army broke up, with men heading for home or attempting to escape abroad.
The morning following the Battle of Culloden, Cumberland issued a written order reminding his men that "the public orders of the rebels yesterday was to give us no quarter". Contemporary accounts report then that for the next two days Culloden Moor was searched and all those found wounded there were put to death. Charles Edward returned to France and so ended any realistic attempt to place him, or any other Stuart, on the British throne.
Culloden Battlefield is now owned by National Trust Scotland who have an excellent visitor centre at the site. You can find out more here:
The scenes in this blog were part of our model The Jacobite Risings: The Fight for Britain's Throne which explored the history of the Risings and in particular that of the 'Forty-five'. This model was on display at Stirling Castle over the winter of 2017 and 2018 where it proved hugely popular and received considerable media attention. While the full model no longer exists, parts of it do and are often on display, so follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to find out where and when.
Last year we bought you a piece on how we built our Jacobite army, in this post we turn our attention to the government force.
It’s often a little too easy to view the government army of the ‘Forty-Five’ as being a homogeneous mass of redcoats occupied by men enlisted in England. For those unfamiliar with the term, ‘redcoat’ is in reference to the colour of the uniform worn widely by soldiers in the British Army from the 17th to the 20th centuries. To some degree, there is truth in this; for example the vast majority of regiments present at Culloden were dressed in this way and indeed most soldiers were English. Within the army as a whole however, there was more diversity with plenty of Scots, and even Highlanders, serving on the government side; it is important to remember that it’s likely that most Scots at the time were not Jacobites and many were fiercely Unionist in outlook. The presence of Dutch and Hessian mercenaries provides further diversity, not just in terms of language and nationality, but also in dress. Lastly it is worth noting that even among the regular British army, not all soldiers wore redcoats; for example the artillery regiments of the time wore blue, while light cavalry often wore green.
Researching the appearance of our government army took much the same path as our Jacobite one. We have drawn from a variety of sources, but the most useful have been books published by Osprey and a visit to the Highland Folk Museum where we met members of Alan Breck's Prestonpans Volunteer Regiment.
Given the predominance of redcoats within the army, building up our infantry has been a relatively straightforward task as LEGO have produced redcoats in some form ever since their first Pirate sets were released in the 1980s. The quality of torsos has improved considerably since then and so we have been able to use minifigures from more recent LEGO Pirates and Pirates of the Caribbean sets. The only modifications we have had to make to these is to change the heads and hands around to give them a more natural ‘fleshy’ colour.
We have used a few different torsos to represent our officers, but these have been chosen solely to denote a difference in rank rather than coming from a historical source. The same could be said of our standard infantry torsos, since the infantry coats of the time were fronted with yellow lapels, which are conspicuously lacking on our LEGO ones. Such are the compromises that need to be made when building a LEGO army; the symbolic must often take precedent over perfect accuracy.
Attached to each infantry regiment were grenadiers; soldiers that represented the elite of the British army. Grenadiers did not wear the usual tri-corn hat of regular infantry, instead wearing a finely decorated mitre-style headpiece. While we cannot recreate the decoration, a mitre may be recreated using a headpiece found originally in Prince of Persia sets. To complete our grenadiers we have also equipped them with a satchel, which is supposed to represent the grenades they carried.
We thought it important that we should in some way show the Scottish, and more specifically, the Highland element of the government army and the obvious choice for this was to build a small company of the 43rd Highlanders (later the 42nd Royal Highlanders), better known as The Black Watch.
The Black Watch’s history goes back to the aftermath of the 1715 rising when the British Government found itself without the resources or manpower to keep a standing army in the Highlands. Instead they kept order by recruiting men from local clans that had remained loyal to the government. This arrangement proved unsatisfactory and in 1725 General George Wade raised six Independent Highland Companies as militia to keep "watch" for crime. These companies were commonly known in Gaelic as Am Freiceadan Dubh, or the Black Watch, probably due to the dark government issue plaids they wore. Four more companies were added in 1739 and in the same year all ten were formed into the 43rd Highland Regiment of Foot.
When the ‘Forty-five’ broke out, the Black Watch saw action at the Battle of Prestonpans in 1745 but then returned to England, partly to counter a feared French invasion and partly because they weren't really trusted not to join the Jacobites. However one of the regiment’s companies fought at the Battle of Culloden, where they suffered no casualties.
The key to creating a convincing LEGO Black Watch was to get the plaids right and fortunately there is a third-party company that makes kilts for minigiures in the Black Watch tartan. These, along with black bonnets rather than tri-corn hats, were placed on minifigures with the standard redcoat torso and the result is a reasonably accurate representation of the regiment’s dress during the ‘Forty-five’. Interestingly, accounts from the time appear to suggest that officers of the Black Watch could choose their own plaids and so our officer is dressed in a red tartan.
One of the key features of the government army was its cavalry. General Wade had favoured the use of dragoons, facilitated by his new roads, as a means of patrolling the Highlands and as such we see modifications, such as the addition of stables at Ruthven Barracks, made to the area’s military infrastructure. Dragoons have been relatively easy to create, because as far as LEGO goes the only meaningful distinction you can make is to put a redcoat on a horse. Other cavalry types take a bit more work.
The government army also deployed a company of hussars, which were a type of light cavalry commonly used in during the 18th and 19th centuries. The role of Hussars was to harass enemy skirmishers, overrun artillery positions, and pursue fleeing troops. The style of combat originated in Hungary and indeed, when Cumberland entered Scotland he had a personal escort of Hungarian cavalry. The Hussars of Cumberland’s army wore dark green and a tall fur hat and we have been able to recreate this appearance using parts from a number of minifigures. The torso has been the crucial aspect here, with the ideal part found as part of Collectable Minifigure Series 8’s Thespian.
Like the cavalry, artillery is another area where the government army had superiority over the Jacobites. At Culloden they were able to field 10 3-pounders and 6 coehorn mortars, which did significant damage to the Jacobite lines before they were able to engage. Creating soldiers for this artillery is reasonably straightforward as they wore dark blue jackets with black tri-corn hats. There are a range of dark blue torsos available from the Collectable Minifigure Series’, Pirates and Pirates of the Caribbean sets, so creating a hierarchy of troops has been relatively straightforward.
The final component of our Government army is the Germanic one – the Hessian mercenaries. Hesse-Kassel was a state in the Holy Roman Empire that for its size had a relatively large army, which it paid for by renting out to other warring countries. Great Britain’s Hanoverian monarchy were of course German themselves, in fact George II was born and bought up in Germany and remained Duke of Brunswick-Lüneburg (Hanover) and Prince-elector of the Holy Roman Empire until his death. Britain and Hanover were already engaged in the War of the Austrian Succession and were able to draw on their allies and indeed familial ties, first the Dutch and then the Hessian’s, to provide troops to put down the Jacobite rising. The influence of the Hessian’s during the ‘Forty-Five’ is debatable; for example they refused to march through the Pass of Killiecranckie to relieve the besieged Blair Castle and did not take part in the Battle of Culloden.
The Hessian uniform of this period was dark blue with the headgear dependent on the type of soldier they were i.e. regular infantry, grenadiers or cavalry. Because our artillery were already in dark blue there are some similarities between the design of the two. Context offers a means of separation as the Hessian’s did not operate artillery, so our Hessians have muskets and the occasional sword. We have decided to only create Hessian infantry, since our army already has enough cavalry to fill its ranks.
With the army assembled, all that remains is to place them in the field; you can see how this was done on our blog on the Battle of Killiecranckie. Better yet, you could see our LEGO Hanoverians as well as our LEGO Jacobites for real, when they go on display as part of The Jacobite Risings: The Fight for Britain’s Throne at Stirling Castle until February 2nd. Find out more:
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Battle of Prestonpans 1745
On this day in 1745 the Battle of Prestonpans was fought between the Jacobite army of Charles Edward Stewart, also known as Bonny Prince Charlie or the Young Pretender, and those of the Hanoverian British Government, under the command of Lieutenant General Sir John Cope. The battle was a resounding and somewhat unexpected victory for the Jacobites who completely routed Cope's army, killing or capturing and estimated 2,100 men while losing fewer than 100 of their own. Following Prestonpans the Jacobites would march south as far as Derby, capturing Carlisle and Manchester, before deciding to return to the Highlands where they would eventually face defeat on Culloden Moor.
Having raised his banner at Glenfinnan on 19th August, Charles Edward Stewart and his Jacobite army had marched south, taking the cities of Perth, Stirling and Edinburgh with little in the way of resistance. Despite taking the cities they failed to capture the castles at either Stirling or Edinburgh, or indeed the Barracks at Ruthven, but these held only minor garrisons who could do little to effectively counter the Jacobites in what was essentially hostile territory. Cope had taken an army north with the aim of reaching Fort Augustus and over-awing the Highland clans. However, he overestimated the size of the Jacobite force and fearing an engagement at Corrieyairack, diverted his men to Inverness. Cope then marched his army to Aberdeen from where it sailed south, landing at Dunbar just to the east of Edinburgh on the same day the city fell to the Jacobites.
Cope was now keen to engage with the Jacobites, with intelligence suggesting they numbered but 2,000 but poorly armed men. His own army numbered around 4,000 and while they were mostly fresh recruits and lacked combat experience, they had cavalry and artillery in support. Meeting Charles' advance guard on September 20th, Cope decided to stand his ground and drew up his army facing south, with a boggy ditch to their front, and the park walls around Preston House protecting their right flank. It was a strong position as a frontal charge favoured by the Highlanders would flounder in the bog and be defenseless against the musket and canon fire of the government army.
The Jacobites knew this too and if it weren't for the knowledge of a Jacobite Lieutenant Anderson, the battle may have turned out quite differently. He was the son of a local farmer and claimed to know a path through the bog. At 4am the next morning, under the cover of darkness and the morning mist, the Jacobites made their way three abreast along this route to the far east of Cope's position. From there they were able to charge down the government army who were taken completely by surprise and thrown into a panic. While the government were briefly able to deploy their canons the battle became a rout in under 10 minutes. Out of the 2,300 men in the government army, only 170 troops managed to escape, including Cope himself.
The battle was a pivotal moment in the rising, handing Charles Edward Stewart a major victory and perhaps emboldening the Jacobites to strike south towards London. The defeat was a humiliating one for the government and now, taking the situation with the seriousness it deserved, they recalled their army from Europe. Consequently when the two sides met for the final time on Culloden Moor in the April of 1746, the government army would be quite different in character and experience to the one that fell apart at Prestonpans.
Our model The Jacobite Risings: The Fight for Britain's Throne explores the history of the Risings and in particular that of the 'Forty-five'. It will next be on display at the Great Western Brick Show on October 7th and 8th, why not come and see it there?
Raising the Banner
On this day in 1745 the standard of Charles Edward Stuart, also known as Bonny Prince Charlie or the Young Pretender, was raised on a hill near Glenfinnan.
Sailing from France Charles had initially landed in Scotland on Eriskay in the Western Isles on the 23rd July and made his way to Glenfinnan by sea and on foot via Loch nan Uamh. Here he was met by a small number of MacDonalds and remained there for several days as more clansmen arrived. By the 19th August he felt that he had enough support and as the standard was raised he announced that he was there to claim the British throne in the name of his father James Stuart ('the Old Pretender').
The Glenfinnan Banner, as Charles' standard would be know, is depicted as being a white square on a dark red background and the raising of it marks its first recorded appearance. Interestingly, the banner's pattern is identical to the Royal Navy's signal flag for the number nine, which raises the distinct possibility that it was a hastily found makeshift option plundered from the Doutelle signal box.
Another interesting fact is that among those present at Glenfinnan were a handful of government troops who had been captured in an earlier skirmish with some MacDonalds'. One of these, Captain John Sweetman was released and was able to rendezvous with General Cope's force at Dalwhinnie and report on the arising threat.
The Jacobites would leave Glenfinnan and march south via Corrieyairack, made easily traversable by General Wade's new road. They would set a course that would see them reach as far south as Derby before returning north to face defeat on Culloden Moor in April 1746. Charles went into hiding and left Scotland's mainland via Loch nan Uamh not far from the place where just eight months before he had launched his rising.
Our model The Jacobite Risings: The Fight for Britain's Throne explores the history of the Risings and particularly that of the 'Forty-five'. It will be next on display at the Great Western Brick Show in October, why not come and see it there?
While our models often focus on significant events and big buildings, we feel that one of the most important aspects of our work is the depiction of everyday life as lived by ordinary people and you can see this effort played out across all of our models. The Jacobite Risings gives us another great opportunity to do this, allowing us to re-imagine a little piece of 18th century highland life. The Highlands were reasonably well populated in the early 18th century, this being before the brutal reprisals that followed the “Forty-five” and before the Highland Clearances of later years. During this period the pattern of settlement was dominated by multiple-tenancy farms within which houses were usually clustered together in small townships, with ridged fields, which had grazing grounds beyond. This settlement pattern is now long gone yet these townships and their field systems are by-far the most extensive archaeological remains in the Cairngorms National Park, the area on which we have chosen to focus our build.
Luckily the National Park is also home to a resource that is of immeasurable use to builders like us – the Highland Folk Museum. When it was established in 1935 it was Britain’s first open air museum, though at the time it was located on the Island of Iona. It came to its present site in Newtonmore in the 1990s via Laggan and Kingussie.
The museum is home to a recreated 1700s Township, which features 6 houses and a number of other period structures. These were built using traditional methods based on what we can infer from archaeological evidence and written accounts. The Township is curated by a number of specialist staff who dress in 18th century clothing and provide interpretative displays for visitors. One building even houses a loom which is expertly operated by the staff. The Township proved so useful that we in fact took several trips to visit it. It provided us with a wealth of information to work into our model and also helped us get a feel for the way life was lived during the early 18th century.
Our model is home to its own Township as well as a sprinkling of isolated buildings, such as steadings and shielings. Designing these buildings has proved challenging as their rounded shapes do not easily lend themselves to the medium of LEGO. However, we have come up with a number of innovative solutions, some of which we have been developing over the last couple of years, that meet these challenges perfectly. We have also created a number of scenes based around traditional activities, including waulking the cloth, peat cutting and shinty – the aim being to make our landscape come alive with day to day activity.
The Highland Folk Museum is run by High Life Highland, which is a charity formed in 2011 by The Highland Council to develop and promote opportunities in culture, learning, sport, leisure, health and wellbeing. It is open from the beginning of April to the end of October and is free to enter, although you can make a donation if you wish. It’s a great day out, especially of you have a family; find out more at:
Our LEGO Township will be next on display as part of our epic model, The Jacobite Risings: The Fight for Britain’s Throne at Swindon's Great Western Brick Show in October, why not come and see it there?
The Battle of Killiecranckie
In this blog we explain why we chose to base the battle in our new model The Jacobite Risings: The Fight for Britain's Throne on the Battle of Killiecranckie, which was fought on this day in 1689.
Choosing a battle for a LEGO model is always a tricky act, particularly when the the period you are presenting has become entwined within competing notions of national identity, romanticism and sectarianism. Under such notions subtitles and complexities are sometimes lost while myths and legends gain ground. The presentation of conflict in our latest model has therefore been carefully thought about.
The Jacobite Risings are often romantically depicted as a David and Goliath struggle between Highland Scots and an English dominated British Government, with the former’s tartan clad warriors clashing with the latter’s musket firing redcoats. However, the reality, as always, is more complicated. The support for the Jacobite cause alternatively grew and waned throughout the period, but it’s never likely to have gained the support of the majority of Scots. In fact it never even had the unanimous support of the Highland Clans and time and again we see Highlander fighting Highlander from opposite sides of the battlefield. Conversely, though less prevalent, the idea that every Englishman was an enthusiastic Williamite or Hanovarian is also false as, for example, we see from the ill-fated adventure of Charles Edward Stuart’s Manchester Regiment. The agency of individuals or groups cannot and should not be underplayed. We also see the intervention of foreign powers, with at various points French and Spanish troops fighting on the Jacobite side and Dutch and German troops on the Government’s, the latter able to draw on the resources of an increasingly global empire. Such complexities are the hallmark of civil conflict and it’s perhaps best to regard the Risings as such, Britain’s last civil wars.
We also have to consider that unlike our models of earlier battles, such as Hastings or the Viking raiders of England 793, many of the rank and file who fought in the Risings were not anonymous faces but people for whom we have records and accounts. People who have identifiable ancestors and ancestors who identify with them. There are therefore additional sensitives that need to be recognised when creating a battle out of LEGO. This is not to say that depicting a battle such as Culloden, or indeed any battle, is taboo. If it were then the entertainment industry, be it involved in film, television, video games or literature would have overstepped the mark some time ago. The important thing is how you frame and present your creation.
Choosing a battle for The Jacobite Risings and deciding on how to depict it has proven challenging. There are after all no shortage of options, with Killiecrankie and Cromdale in the ‘89, Sheriffmuir and Preston in the ‘15, Glen Shiel in the ‘19 and Prestonpans, Falkirk, Inverurie and Culloden in the ’45 all being strong candidates. Even the Battle of the Boyne, which is generally ascribed to the Williamite War in Ireland, can be seen as part of the broader Jacobite efforts of the first rising. Given its importance to British history and its role in forging Scotland’s national identity, the Battle of Culloden would seem like the obvious choice. It’s location within the Highlands also makes it a strong contender, particularly as the “Forty-five’s” other major battles all took place in the Lowlands. Yet it is also marks the end risings and the end of realistic efforts to restore a Stuart to the throne and we wanted the model to feel like it was during the risings, to feel like events were yet to fully unfold.
This left us with a bit of a problem because, as mentioned earlier, the “Forty-five’s” other major battles were fought in the Lowlands and therefore outside of the area we wanted to create. It’s true that skirmishes and other encounters, such as the two sieges of Ruthven Barracks, took place in the Highlands, but these were limited in scale and peripheral to the thrust of the main campaign. In the Highlands, the major battles of the risings were Glen Shiel in 1719, Killiecrankie in 1689 and Cromdale in 1690. Yet these were also problematic, because as explained in our original blog, we are largely basing our model during the “Forty-five” and certainly, in terms of architecture and minifigure design, this is the period we draw our references from.
To address this we returned to our aim of representing a dramatic highland landscape and in particular the landscape of the area now designated as the Cairngorms National Park. The battlefields of both Killiecrankie and Cromdale are within the Park, the former in the south the latter in the northeast. While the area around the Haughs of Cromdale undoubtably holds a subtle beauty it is Killiecrankie that possess the drama we were searching for.
The geography of the Pass of Killiecrankie is dominated by deeply incised gorge, through which flow the waters of the River Garry. It’s slopes are littered with crags and densely wooded and in the shade of the often snow-capped summits of the Cairngorm Mountains. The gorge provided a strategic bottleneck in the main route through the Highlands, a fact that was well recognised by the Jacobite commander, John Graham of Claverhouse, Viscount of Dundee (also known as Bonny Dundee), who was camped with an army of some 3,000 men near Blair Castle, just to the north. Having heard that a government army of 4,000 foot, two troops of cavalry and three pieces of old artillery under General Hugh MacKay of Scourie was moving north from Stirling, Claverhouse moved his army to a ridge above the pass. As the government army moved through the gorge they were forced to climb uphill through woods to a position below the Jacobite’s ridge. For two hours the armies faced each other with the government artillery firing speculative shots. At 7pm, the setting sun blinding the west facing MacKay’s troops, Claverhouse ordered a charge and while the musket fire of the government lines caused much damage it failed to check the oncoming Jacobites. The government army was routed and their baggage train overcome, the Pass of Killiecrankie choked with fleeing men. MacKay made a last stand in which Claverhouse was killed, though it was not enough to prevent a Jacobite victory and the Williamite general was forced to retreat. Though Claverhouse’s death sent the rising in Scotland into terminal decline, the victory on the battlefield was complete, with around 2,000 government troops lying dead compared to just 600 Jacobites.
We decided therefore to base our battle on the geography of Killiecrankie even though stylistically our armies would reflect a later date. While this does remove our battle from real events slightly it does fit with our approach towards landscape, in which we must place buildings and features in a way that provides balance of interest, rather than attempting to place them relative to one another as they might appear in real life. Furthermore, we are still able to capture the essence of military conflict in the period while also showcasing the type of landscape on which the conflict took place.
National Trust Scotland run a visitor centre at Killiecranckie, where you can find out about the battle and get information on walks around the gorge. It's open daily from April 1st to November 5th and entry is free. Find out more here:
LEGO Killiecrankie will next be on display as part of The Jacobite Risings: The Fight for Britain’s Throne at the Great Western Brick Show in Swindon on 7th and 8th October – why not come and see it for yourself?
This week is National Parks Week in the UK, where we celebrate everything that is unique and wonderful about the country’s 15 National Parks. This year we’ve drawn inspiration from the landscape of Britain’s largest, the Cairngorms National Park.
At 4,528 square kilometres, and comprising 6% of Scotland’s land area, the Cairngorms National Park is the UK’s largest protected landscape. It’s twice the size of the England’s Lake District National Park and bigger than the whole of Luxembourg. It’s perhaps best known for its eponymous mountain plateau of expansive proportions and its interconnected sub-arctic environment. There are no other mountains like them in Britain - massive granite domes with corries and passes scooped out by long departed glaciers and a broad rolling plateau that is more akin to Arctic Scandinavia than Britain.
The National Park also contains the most extensive tracts of Caledonian forest in Britain, comprising of pine, juniper and broadleaved species. Over 300 kilometres square of this woodland has also been identified as being ‘ancient’, which is defined as land that is currently wooded and has been continually wooded since at least 1750.
The area now covered by the National Park was the scene of a number of pivotal events of the Jacobite Risings as well as a number of buildings that saw events unfold. These include:
The National Park is also home to the Highland Folk Museum, which is home to a recreated 18th Century township and is a great place to learn about life in the Scottish Highlands. The museum also puts on events and we have been lucky enough to witness Jacobite and redcoat reenactors demonstrating the ways of 18th century warfare.
This history made the National Park the ideal place on which to base our mode, The Jacobite Risings: The Fight for Britain’s Throne, and naturally, we built a number of these events and buildings into our model. You can read about these in more detail in our previous and forthcoming blog posts (here and here), but we've decided to go a step further. Creating a landscape that looks anything like the Cairngorms has to pay some respect to its beautiful mountains – so we’ve built up and we’ve built high! The centrepiece of the model is a one metre tall mountain, complete with rocky cliffs, tree lined slopes and snow patches. Of course, this isn’t a scale model of a Cairngorms mountain, if it were it would need to be around 30 metres high, which would put a bit of a limit on our ability to take it to events. But at one metre, this is a big LEGO model by any standards and dwarfs the buildings and Minifigures that surround it. Building the mountain has been tough, with its creator James Pegrum, describing it simply as “...a nightmare”.
A second aspect of the Cairngorms’ landscape we wanted to recreate was its rivers, with the National Park containing the headwaters of three of Scotland’s largest, as well as many smaller ones. We wanted to show some river types that are unusual in other parts of the UK, so rather than choosing one of the big rivers such as the Spey or Dee, we chose some smaller but still famous ones. On one side of our mountain we have created the weaving form of a braided river, inspired by the spectacular landscape of Glen Feshie. On the other we have created a deeply incised gorge, inspired by the River Garry as it flows past Killiecranckie.
Finally, we wished to create some woodlands inspired by those found in the area and in particular those made up of species such as Scots pine and silver birch. Both species are common throughout the National Park and in places dominate its landscape. Because the former is coniferous and the latter deciduous, this meant harnessing a range of different techniques, as shown in the photos below.
We’re big fans of the Cairngorms National Park and thoroughly recommend a visit. It was voted one of the top 20 places to visit in the world by National Geographic Traveller Magazine, having “…everything from castles and distilleries to family attractions and endless outdoor fun”.
Find out more and start planning your trip now:
We’ll be tweeting photos of the National Park all week, follow us at @bricktothepast
Phew, we do some miles here at Brick to the Past! Last month we were in Caithness, last weekend we were in Manchester and now we're back in Scotland, this time in the mountainous splendor of the Cairngorms National Park! To be fair, we have our HQ in the mountainous splendour of the Cairngorms National Park, but that's not really the point, it's all about time spent on the road! Besides, we wouldn't be writing just to tell you that we're back home safely, no, we can do better than that. So here it is - we're delighted to announce that we have another exhibition on!
Last weekend we unveiled the first iteration of our latest epic model, The Jacobite Risings: The Fight for Britain's Throne. Part of this model is a recreation of Corgarff Castle, located in the eastern Cairngorms, as it might have looked during the first half of the 18th Century. We wrote a blog about the design process back in March; a blog that's well worth checking out if you're nerdy enough to be interested in the castle's history.
So what better place for the LEGO Corgarff Castle to spend the summer than the real Corgarff Castle? Well, it's our opinion that there is no better place so that's exactly where it is and will be until September 4th.
It's rare that we can say with confidence that the venue is more impressive than the LEGO model we have on show. Which isn't to talk the model down, the model rocks, but Corgarff Castle must be one of the most beautiful castles in Scotland and is well worth a visit in its own right. So what we have is a great opportunity to not only visit an amazing historic building in an amazing landscape, but it's also an opportunity to see some amazing LEGO at the same time. The model is packed with details from the period of the last Jacobite Rising in 1745 as well as a ton of other features including an impressive collection of local wild animals - see if you can spot them all!
Corgarff Castle is owned and managed by Historic Scotland and is open Monday to Sunday between 1st April to 30th September.
LEGO Corgarff Castle will be on display until the 4th of September 2017, so that in our opinion, is the best time to visit!
Tickets are £6 for adults, £3.60 for children and children under 5 and Historic Scotland members go free. The price of seeing LEGO Corgarff is included in this price.
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Building LEGO armies can become a bit of an obsessive pastime and it is not unknown for avid collectors to amass forces that number in the thousands. Indeed, here at Brick to the Past we have substantial numbers of Macedonian, Spartan, Persian, Roman, Viking, Anglo-Saxon, Norman and generic medieval troops. Jacobites however are new to us and it has been an interesting process designing and redesigning our burgeoning force. In this blog we explain how we did it and how you too can do it too.
The first stage of any army building project is always research and this essentially takes two interrelated paths. Firstly, you need to get a good idea of what an army looked like, what clothes they wore, what equipment they used, what standards they flew. Secondly, you need to find out if LEGO actually make pieces that represent these characteristics and if not, how can you creatively fill in the gaps. This latter part may require you to consider any comprises you need to make and how far you are willing to pursue these. Cost may also play a significant part in this process because while the perfect part may exist, it might also be rare and therefore prohibitively expensive if your intention is to build a substantial force. Make sure you spend time exploring the options on sites such as Bricklink before committing.
Fortunately for the avid army builder, there is a wealth of easily accessible literature to help them along the way. Books published by companies such as Osprey are ideal for this purpose, because not only do they contain detailed drawings of soldiers and their equipment, they also provide descriptions of tactics and formations employed at the time. There are numerous titles available on the Jacobite Risings, both in and out of print, and so it was natural for us to turn to these as a major source of information. For this project, another good source came in the form of battlefield re-enactors and we were lucky enough to talk to members of Major General Glenbucket's Regiment, Alan Breck's Prestonpans Volunteer Regiment and Régiment Irlandois de Dillon at the Highland Folk Museum in 2016.
The most noticeable thing about Jacobite armies is the variety of clothing worn and equipment used. Indeed, the appearance of an army could change over the course of a campaign, as goods were requisitioned and equipment captured. Our army is stylistically based on that of the one during the ‘Forty-Five’ Rising and we have tried to incorporate a few key features into the mix. Before describing some of these however, a few words needs to be said on the subject of tartan.
If you walk down Edinburgh’s Royal Mile, or indeed any Scottish street that relies on an influx of tourists, you will be bombarded with advertisements for tartan goods, and more particularly, ‘authentic’ clan themed tartan goods. These trade on the idea that each Highland clan has its own unique tartan, and these days, this is largely true. However, this notion is a relatively new one, only dating from the first half of the 19th century and finding its roots, like many such traditions, in the Romantic movement of the time. Traditionally, tartans were not clan specific, with colours based on whatever natural dies were available locally, while patterns would have been made according to the tastes of the local weavers. As a result, what might be regarded as regional styles may have emerged, but these were not formalised along clan lines. During the ‘Forty-Five’ members of different clans would in fact have been identified by their ‘clan badges’, which usually took the form of a sprig of a specific plant and were usually worn on a person’s bonnet. For example, the various branches of Clan MacDonald wore a sprig of common heather as their badge. So while our armies are kilted in various types of tartan, these tartans are not supposed to specifically represent any of the clans who joined the Jacobite cause.
The tartan kilts we’ve adorned our troops with are a mixture of third party custom pieces and our own creations, made from cuts of ordinary craft-shop ribbon. While we prefer to stick with official LEGO parts as much as possible, the only official LEGO kilt made to date is the one that came with the Bagpiper from Collectible Minifigure Series 7, way back in 2012. These are no longer in production and currently go for in excess of £2 on the seconds market and only in very small numbers; they are therefore wildly impractical for the purposes of army building and as such the compromise had to be made.
Another major compromise was with regard to the Jacobite blue bonnet. The bonnets, which were worn not only by the army of the “Forty-Five” but also by those of previous risings, and indeed by earlier Scottish armies, are an iconic item of clothing and so this was important to address. The trouble is LEGO, having naturally never produced Jacobite playsets, have never produced a piece of headgear that closely resembles the bonnets; we were therefore immediately forced to look for an alternative. Fortunately, while it may be a different colour, LEGO do produce a piece which has alternatively been presented as a ‘beret’ or ‘flat cap’, in black. As far as minifigures go the difference between beret and bonnet is pretty much non-existent and so these pieces were identified as a suitable substitute. We did find a third-party company who made blue berets for LEGO minifigures, such as those worn by UN peacekeepers, but decided that this would result in too many non-LEGO pieces in the model.
To achieve the army’s variable appearance, we drew upon a wide range of minifigures from a wide range of sets. Perhaps the most useful of these was the Highlander minifigure, released in 2012 as part of Collectable Minifigure Series 6. While the obviously stylised appearance of the minifigure is more Braveheart than Outlander, it does come with some extremely useful pieces, namely the torso itself, which is ideal for representing the plaid of the period and a round shield, known in the Highlands as a ‘targe’. The other benefit of the Series 6 Highlander is that it’s parts are still relatively cheap and so ideal for buying in large numbers. Obviously, we did not want the entire army to be dressed in the same way and so other torso designs were sought. Proving ideal were those from LEGO’s Pirates sets, Pirates of the Caribbean sets, Lord of the Rings and Hobbit sets and various Collectible Minifigure lines, including Series 14’s Zombie Pirate Captain.
Weaponry and equipment were also an important consideration and it is worth noting that they changed considerably in the 57 years between the start of the first and end of the last Risings. The equipment of the army even changed across the course of the Risings; for example, in 1745 the Jacobites had little in the way of artillery and relatively few muskets, while at Culloden they fielded eleven 3-pounders and one 4-pounder and ran into battle armed with muskets and pistols captured during earlier engagement. Our aim was to strike a balance between these two points and so while the majority of our army is armed with sword and targe, there are a reasonable number of men carrying muskets and other fire arms. Swords, targes and firearms were of course relatively expensive items and in the early days at least, many Jacobite soldiers would not have had access to them. Many marched into battle carrying other much cheaper weapons, including the Lochaber Axe. The axe was a heavy polearm type weapon of about five or six feet in length and typically used as a defence against cavalry or a pike against infantry. At the Battle of Prestonpans in 1745 it was used to great effect against General Hope’s horse and is thought to have been a crucial element in the Jacobite victory. Naturally therefore, there are a number of axe wielding soldiers present in our army .
It’s easy to forget that the Jacobite army of the ”Forty-Five” was more than just its foot and that it in fact had a number of small cavalry units, including hussars and dragoons. We have not tried to recreate each of these units as it would result in a slightly unbalanced force. Instead, we have chosen two, namely the Scotch Hussars and the Prince’s Life Guard. Both represent distinctive elements of the Jacobite army and, fortunately, are easy to recreate in LEGO form using a mixture of Hobbit and Pirate pieces.
Another easily forgotten fact is that the Jacobite army of the ‘Forty-five’ wasn’t just made of kilted Highlanders. Lowlanders were also present in the army, albeit in much smaller numbers, and these men would not have worn the kilts and plaids of their Highland counterparts. Following the invasion of England around 300 Englishmen joined the Jacobite army to form the Manchester Regiment. The involvement of many of these men was however short-lived, as following a failed attempt to hold Carlisle Castle, they would be captured and brutally punished. While these recruits would have joined the army in the clothes they were accustomed to wearing, there is evidence to suggest that the Jacobites tried to harmonise the appearance of their army by ordering replacement clothing in the Highland fashion.
Finally, the international contingent of the Jacobite army needs to be recognised. While French support for the ‘Forty-five’ never met the hopes and expectations of the Scottish Jacobites, it nevertheless existed. Much of this was provided in the form of detachments from the Irish Brigade, which had originally been formed when five Jacobite regiments were sent from Ireland to France during the Williamite War in Ireland in exchange for a larger force of French infantry. The ‘Irish Picquets’, as they were known, saw action at the Battle of Falkirk and Culloden, and were valued for their training and discipline. Interestingly, the uniform of this unit were red, much like those of the government force, but designed and cut in the French style. Other troops provided by the French were the Royal Scots (Royal Ecossais), who were originally formed as bodyguards for Valois Charles VII of France in 1418. The Royal Scots did not arrive in Scotland until late in the Campaign, landing in Montrose on 7th December 1745. French soldiers were also present in smaller numbers as engineers and gunners who would operate the Jacobite’s small collection of artillery.
Talking of artillery, we have also created a number of guns to place on our battlefield. LEGO of course have their classic moulded cannons that have appeared in their Pirates sets since the early 1980’s, but these aesthetically don’t accurately reflect the field artillery of the day and so we decided to build our own. Building artillery is great fun and our guns went through a number of iterations before settling on a final design. The main aim was to build something compact that would represent a gun somewhere in the 3-6 pound range and would look good at a minifigure scale of about 1:40.
With the army assembled, all that remains now is to place them in the field; stay tuned to the blog to find out how. If you want to find out early, our LEGO Jacobites will be unveiled as part of The Jacobite Risings: The Fight for Britain’s Throne at Manchester’s Bricktastic show this July; why not be the first to see it?
We'll be doing a guide to building the government army of the "Forty-five" later in the summer, follow us on Facebook or Twitter to see it first!
Finally, a big recommendation needs to be given to Maggie Craig's excellent book 'Bare-Arsed Banditti: The Men of the '45' which has provided us with a great deal of information and inspiration for our model. We also love the name of the book and found it a perfect into for this blog on our own bare arsed banditti. If you want to find out more about the rising of the "Forty-five" then get Maggie's book, it provides the perfect introduction.
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