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Easdale Island, Harbour Breastwork

A Category B Listed Building in Oban North and Lorn, Argyll and Bute

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Coordinates

Latitude: 56.2923 / 56°17'32"N

Longitude: -5.6555 / 5°39'19"W

OS Eastings: 173888

OS Northings: 717099

OS Grid: NM738170

Mapcode National: GBR DDF2.L8N

Mapcode Global: WH0H2.335L

Entry Name: Easdale Island, Harbour Breastwork

Listing Date: 2 October 1984

Category: B

Source: Historic Scotland

Source ID: 395477

Historic Scotland Designation Reference: LB48053

Building Class: Cultural

Location: Kilbrandon and Kilchattan

County: Argyll and Bute

Electoral Ward: Oban North and Lorn

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Description

Circa 1825. Breastwalling to deep and narrow natural harbour inlet, aligned NE-SW with smaller inner harbour to S. Slate slabs laid vertically, regular courses. Slate and whinstone squared rubble steps to SW side of inner harbour. Walling to outer harbour falling into disrepair.

Statement of Interest

B Group with Easdale Island numbers: 2,3,4,5; 8,100,6; Drill Hall; 9; 11,11A, 11B; 12; 12A; 13; 15; 32,18,19; 29; 22,23; 24; 31,33A, 33; 34,35; 41,42,43,44; 47; 48; 36; 50,51,52,53,54; Coalery; 55, ordered to follow the original numbering from east to west across Easdale Island, not in actual numeric order. Standard early nineteenth century technique of breastwalling employed, whereby a breastwall was built from the seabed in sufficient depth of water to create a two-foot draught at low tide. The wall was then raised to a height of 12 ft and the gap site between the breastwall and shore filled with rubble and levelled with earth, sand and gravel to create a flat area for harbour quays. Easdale (the term Easdale slate includes the slate islands of Seil and Luing) was the centre of the Scottish slate industry from the sixteenth century through to a peak in the late nineteenth century. The seventeenth century roofs of Ardmaddy, Cawdor and Stalker castles being of Easdale slate, predating the earliest Ballachulish slates. However, systematic industry and settlement on the island dates from1745 when the island's owner John Campbell, Earl of Breadalbane set up the Marble and Slate Company of Netherlorn. Over a million slates were manufactured in that year alone. From this time through to the late nineteenth century it is common to see Easdale slates referred to in building descriptions, inventories and building contracts across Scotland (see the first and second Statistical Accounts). The company was dissolved in 1866 and the various quarries came under new separate ownership. The lease for Easdale being bought by a consortium of Glasgow merchants who formed the Easdale Slate Quarrying Company, their company logo can still sometimes be discerned stencilled on old slates. Commercial production stopped in 1915 with the slate beds running out or too unsafe depths (the Windmill Quarry ran to over 150ft below sea level) and with no rail links Easdale could not compete with cheaper competition from Wales and Westmoreland. However, it was under the Earl of Breadalbane that most of the present workers cottages were built and the all important harbour quays for exporting the slate. The prominent vertical slate slabs set into the breastwall at intervals acted as bookends for stacks of slates waiting to be loaded aboard ships mainly set for Glasgow, Liverpool and Ireland. Breadalbane leased the island shortly after the harbour and it is from this time through to the exhaustion of the quarries in the early twentieth century that slate production reached its peak with tramways and steam pumping engines installed. There was massive depopulation following the closure of the quarries in 1915. The Breadalbane family sold the island in 1930, which then saw further decline until purchased by Mr Donald Dewar in 1950. Dewar hastened the ruination of the island by the removal of many of the slate roofs to avoid paying rates on the buildings. The island was then bought by Mr Peter Fennell in the 1970s when the majority of the buildings were in ruins. Fennell restored and rebuilt many of the houses with the help of local craftsmen. He then sold them as individual feudal tenure plots as people returned to the island in the 1980s. Attempts to bring industry back to Easdale in recent years, in the form of reopening the quarries and a fish farm, have been opposed by local residents.

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