Re-creating the Jacobite Risings - Brick to the Past blog

07 December 2017
ruthven-barracks-98828.jpg Ruthann Barracks
Dan Harris of Brick to the Past talks to History Scotland about the background to their latest project, a LEGO® model of the Jacobite Risings, currently on display at Stirling Castle.
Re-creating the Jacobite Risings - Brick to the Past blog Images

Dan Harris of Brick to the Past talks to History Scotland about the background to their latest project, a LEGO® model of the Jacobite Risings, currently on display at Stirling Castle.

Creating enthusiasm and promoting history can take many forms and here at Brick to the Past we believe that a ubiquitous Danish interlocking brick based toy offers a particularly innovative medium. We specialise in building massive, detailed and meticulously researched historically themed LEGO® models and since we were formed in 2013, we assembled a range of dramatic creations representing different periods in Britain’s history.

When we started out, we were just a group of friends who were building for fun, but as our reputation grew we found a commercial demand for our work and so we now put on exhibitions and take on commissions, with the ultimate aim of bringing history alive to a wide and diverse audience. We have a network of builders that live across the UK, with our most northerly member in the Scottish Highlands and most southerly on the south Devon Coast.

The Jacobite Risings

In the past our projects have included huge models of medieval castles, Victorian London, Hadrian’s Wall, Anglo-Saxon England. Recently we completed a model of an Iron Age Broch for Caithness Broch Project, a job that tested our building skills to the very limit.

With 2017 being Scotland’s Year of History, Heritage and Archaeology we wanted to really get involved in the celebrations and struck upon the Jacobite Risings as great topic that represented a pivotal moment in not only Scottish history, but in British history too. The result is our latest model, The Jacobite Risings: The Fight for Britain’s Throne.

In the unlikely event that you’re unfamiliar with this period of history, the Jacobite Risings, also known as the Jacobite Rebellions depending on the writer’s perspective, were a series of uprisings, rebellions and wars that occurred predominantly in Scotland, but also spread into Ireland and England, between 1689 and 1746.

Following the deposition of James II of England and VII of Scotland in the Glorious Revolution, the aims of the risings were to return the Stuart monarch, and later his descendants, to the thrones of England and Scotland (and after 1707, the Kingdom of Great Britain). They take their name from Jacobus, the Latin form of James.

While conflict broke out in 1689, 1715, and 1719, the most famous rising is probably the last, that of 1745. During the ‘Forty-five’ Charles Edward Stuart, also known as the Young Pretender or Bonnie Prince Charlie, led an army from the Scottish Highlands as far south as Derby before retreating north to be decisively defeated at the Battle of Culloden in 1746.

We have decided to tell the story of these risings through the creation of an enormous 16-metre-square and 1-metre-high model of the Scottish Highlands, taking particular inspiration from the landscape, archaeology and historic buildings of the area now designated as the Cairngorms National Park. It was built by Dan Harris, James Pegrum, Simon Pickard, Steve Snasdell and Tim Goddard over a period of about 10 months and contains somewhere between 750,000 and 1,000,000 pieces.

Model details

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The centrepiece of the model is a one metre tall mountain, complete with rocky cliffs, tree lined slopes and snow patches. The mountain is flanked by two rivers, which are representative of some of the Cairngorms’ most spectacular. On one side of our mountain we have created the weaving form of a braided river, inspired by the outstanding landscape of Glen Feshie. On the other we have created a deeply incised gorge, inspired by the River Garry as it flows past Killiecranckie.

The model includes two large buildings, positioned at opposite ends of its 6 metre length. On the one side we have a model of Corgarff Castle, as it might have appeared during the ‘Forty-five’. Corgarff Castle, which is located in the eastern part of the National Park played a part in the 1689, 1715 and 1745 risings, being set aflame in all three. In the ‘Forty-five’ it was used as a munitions dump by Jacobite forces and was raided in February 1746 by government troops. The castle is owned and run by Historic Scotland and is open Monday to Sunday between 1 April and 30 September.

Ruthven Barracks

On the other side of the model we have built a recreation of Ruthven Barracks, which is located in Badenoch near Kingussie. The barracks were built following the 1715 Rising as part of the government’s efforts to prevent further conflict and enforce the new Disarming Act (1716), which banned broadswords, muskets and other weapons of war being held by the Highland clans.

During the ‘Forty-five’ the barracks were placed under siege twice, holding out during the first and falling during the second, when the Jacobites were able to deploy heavy cannons captured at the Battle of Falkirk in January 1746.

Everyday life

We feel that one of the most important aspects of our work is the depiction of everyday life as lived by ordinary people and so one of the most important parts of the model are its highland township, steadings and shielngs. The township is alive with activity including waulking the cloth, cow herding, peat cutting and shinty. We not only took inspiration from archaeological remains, such as those found in Glen Banchor, but also from the recreation of a township at the Highland Folk Museum in Newtonmore.

Of course, we could not have a model of the Risings without having a battle and so one of its most striking features is the huge fight going on between redcoats and Jacobites. This isn’t based on a particular battle, though the geography is based on Killiecrankie, where a battle did take place in 1689. Our armies however, are stylistically based on the ‘Forty-five’. The model has around 2,000 minifgigures and most can be found here.

Many of these have been designed to represent distinctive and perhaps underappreciated aspects of both the Jacobite and government forces. In the former we have representations of various cavalry units, the Irish Picquets, the Royal Ecossais and the Manchester Regiment, while in the latter we have representations of the Black Watch and Hessian and Romanian mercenary units.

This model is currently on display at Stirling Castle until 2 February. This is an incredible venue and the price included with general entry!

Find out more about Brick to the Past on their website.

(images copyright Brick to the Past)