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?
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On LEGO, History and other things by Brick to the Past