History in Structure

Mullardoch Dam, Glen Affric Hydro Electric Scheme

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

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Latitude: 57.338 / 57°20'16"N

Longitude: -4.9551 / 4°57'18"W

OS Eastings: 222241

OS Northings: 831365

OS Grid: NH222313

Mapcode National: GBR G94B.91D

Mapcode Global: WH2DF.VTMG

Plus Code: 9C9Q82QV+6X

Entry Name: Mullardoch Dam, Glen Affric Hydro Electric Scheme

Listing Name: Glen Affric Hydro Electric Scheme, Mullardoch Dam

Listing Date: 11 February 2011

Category: B

Source: Historic Scotland

Source ID: 400615

Historic Scotland Designation Reference: LB51703

Building Class: Cultural

Also known as: Glen Affric Hydro Electric Scheme, Mullardoch Dam

ID on this website: 200400615

Location: Kilmorack

County: Highland

Electoral Ward: Aird and Loch Ness

Parish: Kilmorack

Traditional County: Inverness-shire

Tagged with: Architectural structure Gravity dam

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James Williamson (engineer to North of Scotland Hydro Electric Board technical panel), W M Halcrow and Partners (engineers and contractors), 1952. Prominent large arrowhead plan dam with angled central bastion flanked by fixed spillways. Concrete mass gravity construction with some steel reinforcement. Battered downstream face with upstand parapet to flanking wings terminated by small control towers. Slightly recessed fixed spillways to centre flanking large angled centre buttress with deep parapet.

Statement of Interest

Mullardoch dam is a very large prominent dam of unusual arrowhead plan form. It is a key component of the Glen Affric hydro electric scheme, one of the major post-war hydro electric developments by the North of Scotland Hydro electric Board (NoSHEB). It is prominently sited at the head of a broad valley and set against a bowl of mountains behind it. The unusual arrowhead form and striking central bastion give the dam the appearance of citadel walls, emphasised by the uncluttered design with all machinery contained within two towers flanking the central portion of the dam wall and by the battered downstream face. The scheme played a key role in the realisation of the social agenda of NoSHEB by providing power to remote north highland communities and stimulating economic regeneration.

Mullardoch dam is the largest dam constructed by the North of Scotland Hydro Electric Board (NoSHEB) measuring 727 meters long and 48 meters high. The unusual arrowhead form of the dam was designed as a way to save materials during construction with the two inclined wings meeting on a small island (now submerged), the prominent central bastion playing an important role in providing sufficient weight to stabilise the joint. Had the dam been constructed as a single structure it would have been very costly due to the volume of materials required to build a gravity dam of this length.

The Affric / Cannich hydroelectric scheme, of which Mullardoch dam forms an integral component, was one of a large number of schemes developed in Scotland by the North of Scotland Hydro Electric Board (NoSHEB), formed after 1943 as a nationalised body to oversee the development of Scotland's resources for water power. The scheme played a key role in the realisation of the social agenda of NoSHEB by providing power to a remote community. Power generated on schemes in the southern Highlands, such as Tummel (see separate listings) was exported via the grid to the central belt, the profit from which subsidised the provision of power to remote north Highland communities and stimulated economic regeneration. Under the leadership of eminent chairman Sir Tom Johnston the board undertook developments throughout Highland Scotland and his aspirations saw the development of schemes in locations such as Loch Dubh near Ullapool and Storr Lochs on Skye. Johnstone's social aspirations and wider wishes to reinvigorate the economy of the Highlands ensured that schemes in remote areas formed a key part of the NoSHEB development plan.

All of the developments carried out by NoSHEB were subject to parliamentary approval and objections on the grounds of scenic amenity were common. In order to meet these objections the board appointed a panel of architectural advisers which included Reginald Fairlie (1883-1952), James Shearer (1881-1962) and Harold Ogle Tarbolton (1869-1947), appointed in 1943. Initially the role of the panel was to adjudicate on competition entries for designs, but by 1947 it had become one of designers. The panel had little control over the functional form of the buildings, as they left this to engineers, but they did influence the appearance and the style of the designs. The rigid views on the roles of engineers and architects during the design process resulted in the development of a style which can be characterised as vernacular modernism. This style is characteristic of many NoSHEB buildings and is a direct product of the strict role which engineers and architects played in the design process and of the increasing desire to harmonise buildings with the landscape.

The design of Mullardoch Dam is typical of Williamson's approach, with an innovative solution designed specifically to suit the requirements of a particular site. In the case of Mullardoch Dam the arrowhead plan was applied to make use of a small island (now submerged) in the middle of the loch where the two inclined walls meet. This allowed for significant savings in costs and materials over a more conventional design. Williamson was a prominent engineer who specialised in the design of dams following his work on the Galloway Hydro Electric scheme (see separate listings) in the 1930s. He acted as one of the chief engineering advisors to NoSHEB and was the lead engineer for a number of schemes until his death in 1953 after which the role passed to Williamson and Partners Ltd.

(Listed 2011 as part of Hydroelectric Power Thematic Survey)

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