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Blairuskin Sighting Pillar (Former Glasgow Corporation Water Works)

A Category C Listed Building in Trossachs and Teith, Stirling

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Latitude: 56.1913 / 56°11'28"N

Longitude: -4.5243 / 4°31'27"W

OS Eastings: 243455

OS Northings: 702718

OS Grid: NN434027

Mapcode National: GBR 0N.FX5Y

Mapcode Global: WH3MD.GNS1

Plus Code: 9C8Q5FRG+G7

Entry Name: Blairuskin Sighting Pillar (Former Glasgow Corporation Water Works)

Listing Name: Blairuskin Sighting Pillar (Former Glasgow Corporation Water Works)

Listing Date: 18 August 2008

Category: C

Source: Historic Scotland

Source ID: 400011

Historic Scotland Designation Reference: LB51148

Building Class: Cultural

Location: Aberfoyle

County: Stirling

Electoral Ward: Trossachs and Teith

Parish: Aberfoyle

Traditional County: Perthshire

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Loch Lomond And Trossachs National Park Planning Authority

James M Gale, circa 1885. Slightly battered, square-plan, pyramidal-capped sighting pillar on deep, battered masonry base with low parapet walls and steps to top. Random schist rubble with sandstone quoins and steps.

Statement of Interest

Built to enable the construction of the tunnels carrying the second (1885) conduit of the Glasgow Corporation Water Works System (see below for significance of the scheme as a whole). Sighting pillars and towers were erected along the length of the tunnels on both the first (1855) and second conduits and were used for surveying to ensure the correct alignment of the tunnels. Most of these still survive, and this one has been selected for listing as a good representative example. Because of its deep base it is rather more substantial than the other pillars, which are mostly built straight onto the ground.

A considerable length of the 1885 conduit is carried through tunnels as the invention of gelignite and pneumatic drills made this the most cost effective option and avoided the necessity of building numerous aqueduct bridges in an area where building materials were not readily available. The process of tunnelling would not have been possible without accurate surveying on the surface. Use was made of the most advanced surveying techniques available, resulting in a very high level of accuracy. Almost all the tunnel faces met exactly on the line intended: the largest error was only 3 inches out, and was in a deliberately kinked tunnel.

The Glasgow Corporation Water Works system, which brings water down to Glasgow from Loch Katrine, was admired internationally as an engineering marvel when it was opened in 1860. It was one of the most ambitious civil engineering schemes to have been undertaken in Europe since Antiquity, employing the most advanced surveying and construction techniques available, including the use of machine moulding and vertical casting technologies to produce the cast-iron pipes. The scheme represents the golden age of municipal activity in Scotland and not only provided Glasgow with fresh drinking water, thereby paving the way for a significant increase in hygiene and living standards, but also a source of hydraulic power that was indispensable to the growth of Glasgow's industry as a cheap and clean means of lifting and moving heavy plant in docks, shipyards and warehouses. The civic pride in this achievement is visible in every structure connected with the scheme, from the neatly-detailed gates and railings along its route, to the massive masonry structures and iron troughs that carry the conduit and, in most cases, have withstood without failure or noticeable deterioration the daily pressure of many millions of gallons of water for well over 100 years.

Glasgow's Lord Provost, Robert Stewart (1810-66) was the driving force behind the implementation of a municipally-owned water scheme to provide clean water to Glasgow's rapidly increasing population. Loch Katrine was identified as a suitable supply and after some objections from various parties, an Act of Parliament authorising the scheme was passed in 1855. The scheme was built in two main phases following this Act and another 1885. The 1855 scheme, which was opened by Queen Victoria in 1859 and was fully operational by 1860, had been designed to allow for significant expansion as demand increased, and this work was carried in the 20 years following the opening. The 1885 Act allowed a second aqueduct to be built, which followed a slightly shorter course than the earlier scheme. The capacity of the second aqueduct was also expanded during the first half of the 20th century.

John Frederick Bateman (1810-1889) was chosen as the engineer for the scheme and construction work commenced in 1856. Bateman was to become one of the world's most eminent water engineers, and worked on a number of other water supply schemes in Britain, Europe and Asia. He was assisted by James Morrison Gale (1830-1905), who on the completion of the initial scheme in 1859 was appointed Water Engineer for the City of Glasgow, a post he held till 1902. Gale was responsible for over-seeing the incremental expansion of the first scheme during the 1860s and '70s and the building of the second aqueduct from 1885 onwards.

Listed following the thematic review of Loch Katrine water supply system in 2008.

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