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Plaque in Boundary Wall Only, Clachnaharry Road, Inverness

A Category C Listed Building in Inverness West, Highland

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Latitude: 57.488 / 57°29'16"N

Longitude: -4.2544 / 4°15'15"W

OS Eastings: 264954

OS Northings: 846439

OS Grid: NH649464

Mapcode National: GBR H8VX.ZYK

Mapcode Global: WH3FB.M18Y

Entry Name: Plaque in Boundary Wall Only, Clachnaharry Road, Inverness

Listing Date: 19 June 2014

Category: C

Source: Historic Scotland

Source ID: 402330

Historic Scotland Designation Reference: LB52229

Building Class: Cultural

Location: Inverness

County: Highland

Town: Inverness

Electoral Ward: Inverness West

Traditional County: Inverness-shire

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1822, erected 1922. Large white marble slab inscribed with a poem by Robert Southey set within concrete frame with inscription (see Notes) and chamfered base. Mounted on boundary wall and facing the Caledonian Canal.

Statement of Interest

This is a unique example of a commemorative plaque alongside the Caledonian Canal, with a poem by Robert Southey, the then Poet Laureate. It is an important part of the history of the canal and provides an insight into the character of its principal engineer Thomas Telford. Unusually the plaque is older than it appears as it was cut in 1822 but not erected until 1922. Cameron notes that this plaque was to be one of three erected on the opening of the canal in 1822 and they were intended to act as markers. The verse by Southey extols the virtues of Telford and the engineering feat of the Caledonian Canal. However it is understood that these plaques were not erected following an instruction by Telford because they neglected to mention the work of his consulting engineer, William Jessop and the other engineers. This plaque, intended to be sited at Banavie, was rediscovered in the early 20th century and erected in 1922 to mark the centenary of the opening of the canal.

The whole of the Caledonian Canal is a Scheduled Monument which identifies it as being of national importance to Scotland. For this section of the Caledonian Canal see Scheduled Monument No 5292.

The plaque is inscribed with a 25-line poem and is set within a concrete frame with the inscription 'Originally written by Robert Southey, to his friend Thomas Telford at the opening of the Caledonian Canal in October, 1822. Erected at the centenary'. Cameron notes that the plaque was made in Edinburgh.

Robert Southey (1774 '1843) was an English poet of the Romantic period and Poet Laureate from 1813 until his death in 1843. In 1819, Southey met Telford and from August to October that year, Southey accompanied Telford on an extensive tour of his engineering projects in the Highlands. Southey kept a diary of this tour which was published in 1929 as Journal of a Tour in Scotland in 1819.

The Caledonian Canal is one of five canals surviving in Scotland but is unique among them as being the only one entirely funded by public money. The canal was part of a wider infrastructure initiative across the Highlands to facilitate trade and the growth of industry and, most importantly for the Government, to tackle the emigration problem resulting from the Highland Clearances, by providing much-needed employment. The experienced engineer Thomas Telford submitted a report in 1802 to Government commissioners which detailed the route and size of the canal. The canal connects Inverness in the north to Corpach, near Fort William in the west, by linking four lochs: Loch Dochfour, Loch Ness, Loch Oich and Loch Lochy. The total length of the canal is 60 miles, but only 22 miles are man-made.

Built to take sea-going ships, including the 32-gun and 44-gun frigates of the Royal Navy, the Caledonian Canal was designed on a much larger scale than other canals in Britain and the locks were the largest ever constructed at that time. This combined with the remoteness of the location and the variable ground conditions, make it a great feat of engineering and construction.

Telford was appointed principal engineer to the commission with William Jessop as consulting engineer. Although work began in 1804 rising costs and the scale of the project resulted in slow progress and the first complete journey was made on 23-24 October 1822. Whilst the canal was constructed for commercial use it was never a commercial success. Since its opening it was beset by problems and had to be closed for repairs and improvements in the 1840s. However the canal became popular with passenger steamers with tourism increasing following a visit by Queen Victoria on 16 September 1873.

Listed as part of the Scottish Canals estate review (2013-14).

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