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Foyers Hydroelectric Power Scheme, Former Aluminium Smelter, Powerhouse and Smelter

A Category A Listed Building in Aird and Loch Ness, Highland

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Coordinates

Latitude: 57.2554 / 57°15'19"N

Longitude: -4.4931 / 4°29'35"W

OS Eastings: 249699

OS Northings: 821051

OS Grid: NH496210

Mapcode National: GBR H98K.4LP

Mapcode Global: WH3G5.YWLV

Entry Name: Foyers Hydroelectric Power Scheme, Former Aluminium Smelter, Powerhouse and Smelter

Listing Date: 17 April 1986

Category: A

Source: Historic Scotland

Source ID: 332650

Historic Scotland Designation Reference: LB1880

Building Class: Cultural

Location: Boleskine and Abertarff

County: Highland

Electoral Ward: Aird and Loch Ness

Traditional County: Inverness-shire

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Inverfarigaig

Description

Probably Cameron Burnett for British Aluminium Company, 1895-6; later alterations. Large crowstepped and gabled former aluminium smelter and hydroelectric powerhouse adjacent to Loch Ness. Symmetrical tall N facing factory range comprising 8 crowstepped gables to long rear shed. Bull faced rubble with tooled dressings. Each bay divided by giant pilaster strips terminating under continuous string course. Wide flat-headed doorways in alternating bays, round arched windows above and oculi in gables. Further lower range to right (W) with 2 bays under crowstepped gable. Rear elevation lit by paired round headed windows; continuous string course below parapet. Paired gabled bays project to E, forming L-plan return elevation. Multi-pane glazing. Valleyed corrugated iron roof, each ridge supporting continuous louvered saddle-back vent.

INTERIOR: plain interior with rails and fittings to floor from former installed plant associated with former smelter (now removed 2009). Large roller hoist to roof supported by two steel I-beams. Further engineered metal beams to roof.

Statement of Interest

This powerhouse forms part of an A-group with the River Tarff intake and Loch Mhor Dam (see separate listings). The Foyers powerhouse, which is the earliest example of the large scale use of hydroelectric power in Scotland, and amongst the earliest developments in Europe, is prominently sited on the banks of Loch Ness, with the crowstepped gables visible against the tree-lined hillside from across the loch. The architectural detailing and style is distinct however, and is sympathetic to the natural setting. The simple castellated style is appropriate to the location on one of Scotland's most famous lochs, and is repeated on the Loch Mhor dam (see separate listing). The powerhouse originally contained 5 Girard turbines linked to Oerlikon generators which provided power for electrolysis which produced aluminium from bauxite in the aluminium smelter which was contained in the same buildings as the powerhouse.

The development of the Foyers scheme was highly influential, not only proving the viability of the technology to produce electricity with water driven turbines but also that the power produced could be applied to industrial processes successfully. The British Aluminium Company went on to develop 2 other large smelters in Scotland at Lochaber and Kinlochleven (see separate listings). The development of the scheme also had a significant impact on the local community, providing over 250 jobs around which a small settlement, including church and school, quickly developed.

The development of the Foyers Scheme predates the 1943 Hydroelectric (Scotland) Act which formalised the development of Hydroelectricity in Scotland and led to the founding of the North of Scotland Hydroelectric Board. Those developments which predated the 1943 act were developed by individual companies as a response to particular market and topographic conditions, in this case as a direct requirement for the production of aluminium. The completion of a number of schemes (including Galloway, Grampian and those associated with Alcan ' see separate listings) without a national strategic policy framework is exceptional as is the consistency of high quality aesthetic and engineering design across all of the schemes.

The Foyers scheme was probably designed by Cameron & Burnett, although they are likely to have worked in partnership with the British Aluminium Company's scientific adviser, Lord Kelvin on technical aspects of the design. Cameron and Burnett were prominent hotel architects in the Highland area, practising from Inverness and working mainly for the Highland Railway. The only other industrial commission by the practice is Millburn distillery in Inverness. The practice was also involved in designs for the buildings forming the village at Foyers.

The scheme ceased to be used for the smelting of aluminium in 1970 and was later taken over by Scottish and Southern Energy with the water now used to power a 5mW turbine in the former powerhouse and as part of a nearby pumped storage facility.

(Reviewed as part of Hydroelectric Power Thematic Survey, 2011. Category changed from B to A)

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