History in Structure

Loch Mhor Dam, Foyers Hydroelectric Power Scheme And Former Aluminium Smelter

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

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Latitude: 57.2301 / 57°13'48"N

Longitude: -4.4654 / 4°27'55"W

OS Eastings: 251273

OS Northings: 818173

OS Grid: NH512181

Mapcode National: GBR H9BM.5B9

Mapcode Global: WH3GD.CJWQ

Plus Code: 9C9Q6GJM+2V

Entry Name: Loch Mhor Dam, Foyers Hydroelectric Power Scheme And Former Aluminium Smelter

Listing Name: Foyers Hydroelectric Power Scheme and Former Aluminium Smelter, Loch Mhor Dam

Listing Date: 11 February 2011

Category: C

Source: Historic Scotland

Source ID: 400612

Historic Scotland Designation Reference: LB51700

Building Class: Cultural

Also known as: Loch Mhòr Dam

ID on this website: 200400612

Location: Boleskine and Abertarff

County: Highland

Electoral Ward: Aird and Loch Ness

Parish: Boleskine And Abertarff

Traditional County: Inverness-shire

Tagged with: Dam Architectural structure

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Probably Cameron Burnett for British Aluminium Company, 1895-6; later alterations. Large 2-section dam with small crenellated control turret off-centre to right (SE) and lower, deep rectangular section dam wall beyond. Concrete, masonry and rammed earth with later concrete reinforcement to wall to left (NW). Coursed random rubble facings to dam walls; turret with shaped coping stones to left (NW); deep sloped concrete top to right (SE). Dressed surrounds to turret with flat copes to parapet. Rammed earth and random rubble wave wall to outlet. Later uPVC windows to turret.

INTERIOR: plain interior to turret with boarded floor at ground and 1st floors. Original control gear for sluice gates set into walls at ground floor.

Statement of Interest

This dam forms part of an A-group with the Foyers powerhouse and River Tarff intake (see separate listings). The dam is prominently sited in a moorland setting and forms a key part of the functioning of the Foyers hydroelectric power scheme, which is the earliest example of the large scale use of hydroelectric power in Scotland, and amongst the earliest developments in Europe. The long low profile of the dam is suited to the moorland setting and provides a striking geometric counterpoint to the sinuous natural forms which surround it. The castellated design influences on the dam clearly link it to the Powerhouse (see separate listing), which is designed in a similar style.

The dam raised the level of two smaller lochs to create a single large loch, Loch Mhor, to provide water storage and flow regulation for powerhouse at Foyers. The power was used for electrolysis to produce 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 Foyers 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 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. They 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 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 highly unusual as is the consistency of high quality aesthetic and engineering design across all of the schemes.

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.

(Listed 2011 as part of Hydroelectric Power Thematic Survey)

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