Following 1715 Rising the British Government decided to build four infantry barracks at strategic locations in the Highlands. These were to augment the government’s fortifications at Fort William, Inverness Castle (re-named Fort George), Edinburgh and Stirling, with the aims of preventing further conflict and enforcing the new Disarming Act (1716), which banned broadswords, muskets and other weapons of war being held by the Highland clans. The new barracks were built at Bernera near Glenelg, Inversnaid near Loch Lomond, Kiliwhimen (now Fort Augustus) and Ruthven, near Kingussie.
When we were considering what features to build, we knew that one of these barracks was essential and since our focus was to be area now designated as in the Cairngorms National Park, the barracks in question would be based on Ruthven. Fortunately for us, Ruthven is also the best preserved of these facilities.
Ruthven was built between 1719 and 1721 on a mound just to the south of the River Spey. The mound had previously been occupied by a medieval castle, which was laid to ruin in 1689 by Graham of Claverhouse, who attacked the pro-Williamite garrison there. The newer structure consists of two three-storey barrack buildings each capable of accommodating 60 soldiers. A protective curtain wall enclosed these blocks and was complimented with two square turrets, which doubled as the Officer accommodation and provided space for logistical functions (including bakehouse and brewhouse). In 1734 a stable block was added, reflecting the preference of General George Wade, who had been appointed Commander-in-Chief of North Britain in 1724, for more mobile dragoons (mounted infantry) in outposts such as Ruthven. The dragoons were “…to serve as a convoy for money or provisions for the use of the Forces as well as to retain that part of the country in obedience”.
At the outbreak of the “Forty-five” the bulk of Ruthven’s garrison was withdrawn to Inverness to join General Cope’s army. Taking the opportunity to take on a weakened position a force of 300 Jacobites attempted capture the barracks, they however lacked artillery and were unable to overcome the remaining 14 redcoats led by an Irish sergeant called Molloy. Following their victory at the at the Battle of Falkirk on 17th January 1746, during which the captured a number of heavy cannons, the Jacobites were in a stronger position and returned in February. This time a short siege resulted in the garrison’s surrender and they were allowed to leave the barracks unmolested. The Jacobite forces burnt the facility to prevent its future use.
Following the government victory at Culloden on 16th April 1746, Lord George Murray marshalled the remaining Jacobite forces at the barracks and attempted to rally them for the next stage in the campaign. However, Charles Edward Stuart (Bonnie Prince Charlie) was defeated and issued the order "Let every man seek his own safety in the best way he can" and so ended the Rising of Forty-five. The barracks was never rebuilt.
In designing our model of Ruthven Barracks we were able to draw upon a number of sources. Firstly, we undertook a number of field trips to the site. This was useful in so many ways as it not only gave us a real idea of its scale and its setting in the landscape, but it also provided us with lots of detailed information, such as the appearance of windows and musket holes, that we could work into the model. The barracks also have a number excellent interpretive panels, which are always useful sources of information and inspiration and we used these to help us design the interior of one of our barrack blocks, which is revealed with a small cut-away.
A second important source of information came from the original drawings of the British army’s surveyors and engineers which were drawn up prior to its construction. This helps us build the model to a scale that makes sense for a LEGO minifigure, which are weirdly shaped when you compare them real people. Due to this weirdness, of considered at a rough scale of 1:40, our model of Ruthven Barracks has a slightly smaller footprint and a slightly shorter relative height than the real one. The result, however, looks amazing!
A compromise we had to make was with regard to the mound that the barracks sit upon. Because landscape features always tend to be scaled down, thus avoiding the monotony of large featureless fields and hillsides, building a scale model of the mound would result in a feature totally out of scale with the rest of the model. So in order to make the relative scale feel right, our mound is a bit more symbolic, having a much lower absolute height.
Ruthven Barracks is owned by Historic Scotland and can be visited for free all year round. It’s an amazing site to visit offering dramatic vistas of the landscape around it:
LEGO Ruthven will next be on display as part of our huge model The Jacobite Risings: The Fight for Britain’s Throne at Stirling Castle over December and January.
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On LEGO, History and other things by Brick to the Past