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History of 96 Academy Street – courtesy of Eileen MacAskill

The Rose Street Foundry & Engineering Company Ltd was formed in 1895 by amalgamating three other foundries and the buildings are on the site of one of these, the Inverness Iron Works, dating from pre 1860.

The foundry was established in 1872. Architects Ross and Macbeth built the French Renaissance 3 storey building in snecked rubble with freestone dressings. The 3 bays fronting onto Academy Street is divided by a giant pilastrade. 3 shop fronts sit to the ground floor, surmounted by bowed tripartites with an ornamental frieze and broken scrolled pediments. Tripartite windows sit at the second floor beneath gables that contain arched tympana filled with tiled foundry men scenes. 

The mosaics are in 6 different colours, the 3 on Academy Street representing Blacksmiths, Pattern makers and Fitters. The Rose street mosaic represents Moulders; the sign 'The Rose Street Foundry & Engineering Company Ltd' runs the length of the frontage, again in a mosaic detail. This was undertaken by Craven Dunnill & Co Ltd, founded in 1872 and is the oldest surviving purpose built tile factory in the world. The block housed the offices of the Rose Street Foundry, which sits to the rear.

It was originally called 'The Northern Agricultural Implement and Foundry Company Limited'. The Company began by manufacturing agricultural implements and wire fencing and operating as a general iron foundry. It grew with the arrival of the railway in the Highlands and later diversified into marine engineering also providing ironwork for many buildings designed by the architect Alexander Ross.

In 1908 Sam Hunter-Gordon joined the company, initiating a family involvement with the company which lasted for 70 years and inspired its successes. The Foundry prospered during World War I, during the depression of the 1930s, acquisition of a Bradford firm and the patent for resistance welding saved the company and led to considerable success during World War II by then known as 'A-I Electric Welding Machines Ltd', played a vital part in the success of the D-Day landings by supplying welding machines used in Operation PLUTO (Pipe Line Under The Ocean). The pipeline, with over 100,000 welds, was wound around a large drum and laid underwater between Britain and France to provide a fuel supply to the Allied forces.

The Rose Street Foundry & Engineering Co. Ltd later became known as Resistance Welders Ltd from 1945, then finally A I Welders. Changes of ownership between 1973 and 1985 culminated in the closure of the firm in 1991; it was re-established in the same year through a management buyout.

Academy Street formerly known as New Street, takes its name from the old Inverness Royal Academy building erected in 1792. It remained in use as a school until 1895, when the academy moved to Midmills Road. It was designed in 1893 by local Inverness architects Ross and Macbeth as the warehouses of the Rose Street Foundry.

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