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Latitude: 57.5816 / 57°34'53"N
Longitude: -4.1124 / 4°6'44"W
OS Eastings: 273792
OS Northings: 856581
OS Grid: NH737565
Mapcode National: GBR J86P.BZD
Mapcode Global: WH4FY.SPXR
Plus Code: 9C9QHVJQ+J2
Entry Name: Former Black Isle Combination Poorhouse, Ness House, 1, 2, 4, 5 and 6 Ness Road, and Boundary Wall (Excluding 5 Ness Road East)
Listing Name: Former Black Isle Combination Poor House, Ness House, 1, 2, 4, 5 and 6 Ness
Listing Date: 31 August 1983
Source: Historic Scotland
Source ID: 373173
Historic Scotland Designation Reference: LB31832
Building Class: Cultural
Electoral Ward: Black Isle
Traditional County: Ross-shire
This is a good, early example of a former rural poorhouse building by local architect, William Lawrie built in 1859. The appearance of Ness House was based on guidelines for poorhouse design and was purposely meant to appear domestic in scale and style. Closed in 1941 and later converted to flatted accommodation, the building still retains its symmetrical, gabled front elevation and its H-plan form is little altered, clearly demonstrating its former function. The building forms a good group with the associated staff cottage to the southwest of the site which is also listed. (See separate listing)
Situated on the Ness east of the village of Fortrose, the building was constructed as the Black Isle Combination Poorhouse and served the 7 nearby parishes of Avoch, Cromarty, Killearnan, Knockbain, Resolis, Rosemarkie and Urquhart At this time no single parish in the area had sufficient population to have their own large poorhouse, therefore parishes grouped together to finance and run poorhouses together (www.workhouses.org.uk/BlackIsle).
The poorhouse at Black Isle is similar in design to the former combination poorhouse at Migdale (see separate listing) which is attributed to Mathews and Lawrie. Single storey cottages located to southwest at entrance would have been for the staff, likely containing the porter's quarters, a committee room and further accommodation. The larger principal block at the southwest was a corridor plan building with a central portion that would have contained the Master's quarters. The poorhouse dining-hall and chapel were also located in the central block at the rear. The two wings of the front block contained male and female accommodation, probably with the elderly at the front side and able-bodied or "dissolute" inmates at the rear. Children's quarters were usually placed at the far end of each wing. In the rear range of single-storey buildings (not covered by this listing) were found various work and utility rooms including a bake house on the men's side and laundry on the female side (www.workhouses.org.uk/BlackIsle).
The property is surrounded by a garden with high stone walls. The garden grounds were subdivided for each group of inmate with a privy placed in the far corner. The subdivision remains evident and the privy to the southwest yard is still extant, though in poor condition (2012). During WW1 part of the poorhouse was used for billeting army and navy personnel. After 1930, the poorhouse became the Ness House Poor Law Institution. By the time it was scheduled for closure in 1941 the Poorhouse had '54 beds including 12 for the chronic sick and 4 for maternity cases' (www.workhouses.org.uk/BlackIsle).
A small number of poorhouses were built in Scotland between the years of 1848 and 1870, after the introduction of the 1845 Scottish Poor Law Act. Although there had been some poorhouses built before this, there was no national overseeing body and the care was inconsistent across the country. The Act instituted a central Board of Supervision to oversee the provision throughout Scotland. As a result, model plans were published for the construction of both rural and town poorhouses. Black Isle poorhouse is close in style to the model plans drawn up by the Board of Supervision which encouraged an H-plan layout.
William Lawrie (d. 1887) worked as an assistant to James Matthews, and was in charge of an Inverness office established in October 1854. Although he was not made a partner until 1864, Lawrie was given a free hand in the design work and for some years the Inverness office was the more prosperous. As a result, Lawrie's contribution to late 19th century Highland architecture is significant. After 1877, when Mackenzie's son came into practice, James Matthews ran the practice as two separate partnerships - Matthews & Mackenzie in Aberdeen and Elgin, and Matthews & Lawrie in Inverness. At the time of review (2013), the northwest piended block to rear (NW) parallel to main block (forming 5 Ness Road East) is much altered and is not considered of special architectural or historic interest. Statutory Address formerly 'Fortrose Ness Road Ness House'. List description and statutory address updated and category changed from B to C (2013).
Minor updates to Description and Statement of Special Interest sections in 2017.
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