Recent work in the Castle Grounds on the edge of the Shoe Burn near Lews Castle has uncovered the remains of an elevated water channel which seems likely to date from before the Matheson era - when Seaforth Lodge, of which some walls remain with the present Lews Castle, dominated the landscape
The channel - on the harbour side of the Shoe Burn bridge - is shown on the Plan of the Lewis Demesne drawn by William Ogburn, of the Ordnance Survey, in 1850 and now held by Stornoway Public Library.
The map also shows the incredible amount of work that had already been done by that date - considering the Mathesons only bought the Isle of Lewis seven years earlier. The artificial lake to the west of the Castle is clearly delineated.
It is also possible that the map also shows what was being planned rather than what had been achieved. Historic maps and paintings of Stornoway regularly include the buildings and road layouts being planned by the Mackenzie, Matheson and Leverhulme proprietors of Lewis rather than what was there on the ground at the time. And there seem to be some signs on the map that the water channel route was being over-written by later developments.
The map makes clear that the channel started on the high ground above the waterfall that is concealed by the road bridge adjacent to the rear of the Castle. The route followed by the channel suggests a mill lade for an overshot wheel - but there’s no record of such a mill. It could also have created a decorative waterfall beside the infilled site which now houses the Woodland Centre - or it could have provided a water supply to the distillery which was formerly on the site in the Seaforth era. The photograph below shows where the descent began from the almost level channel along the side of the valley.