History in Structure

Howietoun Fish Farm

A Category A Listed Building in St Ninians, Stirling

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Latitude: 56.0728 / 56°4'22"N

Longitude: -3.9532 / 3°57'11"W

OS Eastings: 278513

OS Northings: 688381

OS Grid: NS785883

Mapcode National: GBR 1B.PKVC

Mapcode Global: WH4PD.7MRD

Plus Code: 9C8R32FW+4P

Entry Name: Howietoun Fish Farm

Listing Name: Howietoun Fishery

Listing Date: 9 January 1981

Category: A

Source: Historic Scotland

Source ID: 348864

Historic Scotland Designation Reference: LB15306

Building Class: Cultural

Also known as: Howietoun Fishery

ID on this website: 200348864

Location: St Ninians

County: Stirling

Electoral Ward: Stirling West

Parish: St Ninians

Traditional County: Stirlingshire

Tagged with: School

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1875-1879 (ponds laid out). Internationally renowned fishery situated on raised ground comprising a complex of fish ponds and structures associated with the breeding, feeding and transporting of the fish and running of the farm.

HATCHING HOUSE: single storey building of bull-faced rubble with long and short ashlar dressings. Low coped parapet with flat roof behind. Situated at head (S) of site, currently disused (2003).

PONDS: symmetrical arrangement to ponds. 12 graded timber lined ponds linked by a series of brick lined channels and culverts running on a SSE to NNW axis with linear ponds gaining in size, culminating in the broodstock pond which sits on a W to E alignment, with summer house in centre and 2 further ponds to N. A series of 16 ponds arranged in herring-bone plan to W of broodstock pond with triangular shape pond to S and 2 further ponds to the W of these.

SUMMER HOUSE: 1886. Centrally placed within the broodstock pond to N of complex. Elongated octagonal-plan, timber framed structure resting on ashlar band course and plinth of alternating red and yellow brick headers and supported on 6 octagonal brick piers linked by arches. Timber laid in diamond and herring-bone patterns and painted white, separated by green painted timber uprights. Piended central hexagonal-plan roof (with flat top) and pitched gables to E and W, slated. Leaded ladders built into roof. Tripartite window to E; canted window to S angle; entrance door with flanking windows to porch to W. Originally leaded casement, top hung and fixed windows (some replaced by plate glass). Pine lined interior walls and hexagonal roof. Original furniture designed by Wylie & Lochead remain including desk within E bay, chairs and chaise longue with back angled to fit shape of room. Framed certificates fixed to ceiling of the gold medals awarded to Maitland at the International Fisheries Exhibitions in London. Central trapdoor led to glass cylinder below summer house. Modern timber plank bridge supported by iron beam to W.

MINCING HOUSE: rectangular-plan, single storey feed (former mincing) house to SE of site. Yellow brick with white glazed brick window, door surrounds and quoins (similar detailing found within Milnholm Hatchery). Entrance to W (2-leaf plank door), leaded bipartite windows to N, window to E gable. Pitched, slate roof with flattened apex and timber boarded gables. Timber lined internal mansard roof. At the height of the farm?s production, 4-5 horses were killed a week to feed the fish.

DISPATCH HOUSE: flat-roofed structure built into slope of land to NE of site. Rockfaced ashlar (also used at Milnholm Hatchery Footbridge). Door to N, main entrance to E. Loading bay in front of door with steps, low wall and retaining wall. Series of platforms to interior with drains and pipes (to supply fresh water to fish in tanks awaiting transport), roof supported on cast iron columns and beams. Ashlar wall runs opposite dispatch house beside Canglour Burn.

WELLS: a number of square, brick lined wells surround the site. Pipes lead into the well from farm and out into Canglour Burn. Iron grilles prevent escape of fish and brick steps built into the well wall allow access into well. Brick wall finished with rockfaced ashlar coping. The wells were used to collect fish when the ponds were emptied for cleaning.

RAILINGS: plain cast iron railings with gates surround the majority of the site.

Statement of Interest

A-Group to form a unique site with Milnholm Hatchery and Footbridge and former mill at Sauchiemill. Sir James Maitland has been dubbed the 'father of scientific aquaculture' (Lannon); through scientific experimentation he pioneered fish farming techniques and set the standard for modern fish farming. He also applied marketing and business skills to create a successful operation, making use of improving road, rail and communication networks as well as the fashion for fish ponds on private estates.

Maitland initially experimented with portable ponds and tanks in Middlethird stream, then Loch Coulter but found a safer location, one less prone to flooding or drought, at Howietoun, which is fed by a dam and sluices from the Canglour Burn.

Ponds were built at varying depths and lengths according to the age and therefore size of the fish they were to hold. The linking channels were designed to prevent siltation and provide sufficient aeration of water. The farm developed over time, for instance, it was not known until 1881 that, for the prevention of fungal growth, ponds should be placed at right angles to the direction of the prevailing winds, thus it may be supposed that the 16 ponds to the NW of the site post-date 1881. Through his efforts, Maitland successfully overcame the difficulties in packing and transporting live ova so that by the 1880s, millions of ova were being produced and exported to as far afield as Australia and New Zealand and he also contributed to the introduction of brown trout to the USA. As a result, Howietoun became internationally famous and continues to attract international attention. Illustrations from Maitland?s book show horse-driven carts outside the dispatch house, being loaded with transport tanks which had been designed by Maitland. The extent of Maitland's passion for fish is illustrated in the summer house, which he used as his summer office. It is suggested by Lannon that the bridge is a later addition and that access was reached by rowing boat. Maitland would climb onto the roof and watch the farm from his elevated position but would also observe the fish underwater from the glass cylinder below the centre of the summer house. His vision and determination is encapsulated in a sentence taken from his book; 'civilisation must breed its trout as it has its cattle, or civilisation will have no trout'. Thus he was the first to achieve successful commercial fish farming through the application of scientific methodologies.

Despite competition from other fisheries, Howietoun was still the accepted source for reliable and plentiful supplies of high quality fish, especially brown trout. Following James Maitland's death in 1897, the farm remained in the family until 1967 when the estate was broken up. The fishery fell into disuse until it was bought by the University of Stirling in 1979 for the Institute of Aquaculture and was brought back into operation following a major overhaul. Howietoun is used for the practical training of British and international students in modern aquaculture techniques, as well as operating on a small commercial basis. The University of Stirling holds an extensive archive on Howietoun, which provides a unique resource on the history of aquaculture. It is a testimony to Maitland that the fishery and hatchery have received little modification but continue to successfully function as originally intended. Howietoun Fishery has been upgraded from Category B to A, August 2003.

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