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Former Cone Kiln, Cawdor Estate, Cawdor

A Category C Listed Building in Cawdor, Highland

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Latitude: 57.5265 / 57°31'35"N

Longitude: -3.9291 / 3°55'44"W

OS Eastings: 284578

OS Northings: 850118

OS Grid: NH845501

Mapcode National: GBR J8NT.YRL

Mapcode Global: WH4GF.M27Z

Entry Name: Former Cone Kiln, Cawdor Estate, Cawdor

Listing Date: 6 December 2016

Category: C

Source: Historic Scotland

Source ID: 406553

Historic Scotland Designation Reference: LB52411

Building Class: Cultural

Location: Cawdor

County: Highland

Electoral Ward: Nairn and Cawdor

Parish: Cawdor

Traditional County: Nairnshire

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Circa 1931. A 2-storey, square-plan, former seed-drying or 'cone' kiln located to the north side of Cawdor village, near Nairn. The kiln is built of concrete with a white harl finish. There is a porch outshot to the east elevation and an external timber stair to the west elevation accessing the upper loft floor. The pyramidal roof is slated and topped with a louvered timber ventilator with a slated pyramidal cap and a pointed finial. The doors are timber. The fixed, multi-pane windows are irregularly arranged and all have white metal frames. The building has metal rainwater goods.

The interior, seen 2016, has been remodelled following repair and change of use in 1998. The two room layout at the ground floor with a loft above survives.

Statement of Interest

Seed drying kilns played an important role in effective estate forestry management in Scotland during the early twentieth century. The Cawdor Cone Kiln is a rare and architecturally distinguished example of a purpose-built, former seed drying kiln associated with a significant foresting estate. The plan form and design of the building continues to indicate its former function.

Age and Rarity

This former seed extraction kiln was built by the Cawdor Estates fir tree nursery around 1931 as part of a wider programme of forestry planting at Cawdor during the interwar period (information courtesy of Highland Council).

The importance of forestry to large landowners in Scotland from the 18th century through to the present day is historically significant. Cawdor Estates became involved in nurseries for their timber business from the middle of the 18th century. The 2nd Edition Ordnance Survey map (surveyed in 1904) shows the extent of the Cawdor and adjoining woodlands at that time, covering an area of more than 4 square kilometres.

Moss-side Wood is a 75 hectare plantation of Scots pine, established at Cawdor during the 1920s. The cone drying kiln was built around ten years later. Prior to this, the Cawdor estate initially used local meal kilns to warm their fir cones to accelerate the seed extraction process. The former cone kiln was internally altered and externally repaired in 1998 for use as an art restoration centre. As part of this work, an earlier corrugated metal roof was replaced with grey slate. The arrangement of the windows and door openings, timber stair, and the design of the pyramidal roof and ventilator otherwise remains the same and the building remains in the ownership of Cawdor Estates (2016).

The seed extraction kiln or 'cone kiln' is an unusual but notable building type in Scotland, and is important for its connection to the commercial forestry industry often associated with larger country estates. Seed kilns have served larger forest estates across Europe since at least 1820. Early examples were often associated with botanical gardens, such as the 1831 example at Eberswalde near Berlin. In his 1919 book 'Forestry Work', W H Whellens noted that 'on very few estates is there a seed-kiln for extracting the seeds of conifers, and unless a large quantity of any particular conifer seed, such as Scots Pine, is annually required, the expense of erecting a kiln is not warranted. It is better to send the seed collected at home to a nurseryman to extract and clean' (Whellens, p.30). Purpose-built cone kilns housed braziers with sieved trays or wire cloth suspended above them. Pine cones were piled in to a depth of around 14 inches and, as they opened in the heat they released their seeds which fell into containers below and were then removed for planting.

It is not currently known how many kilns were built specifically for seed extraction in Scotland and it is understood that the number of surviving examples is relatively low. The examples that survive are a tangible remnant of commercial estate forestry practices during the earlier 20th century, and of silvicultural practice more generally. Due to increased automation after the Second World War, seed extraction and cleaning was more likely to be sent for processing externally, rather than on site by individual estates or nurseries.

Surviving examples of former cone kilns that have not been relocated or significantly altered externally or in plan, are known to be rare. The Cawdor Estates Cone Kiln is among the most architecturally substantial former seed drying kiln known to survive in Scotland and remains in its original location.

Architectural or Historic Interest


The interior of the former seed or cone kiln has been remodelled following its repair and change of use in 1998. No fixtures or fittings relating to the former function of the building, such as the braziers or seed trays, are known to survive.

Plan form

This building is almost square in plan, built over two storeys with the upper floor accessed by an external timber stair. The arrangement of the window and doors is indicative of the original two room layout at the ground floor.

Technological excellence or innovation, material or design quality

The design of the building with its pyramidal roof and large ventilator cap and the timber external staircase to the first floor identify this building as a former seed kiln built specifically for the extraction of conifer seeds. The use of hardwearing concrete as the principal building material would have helped withstand the constant heating and cooling of the building. The building is painted in the white and red colours associated with many buildings across the Cawdor Estate.


The cone kiln is located on the edge of a grassed area within the Cawdor conservation area to the north of the Cawdor woodland. The village setting has altered little since the kiln was constructed circa 1931. The building is prominently visible from the B9090 road on the northern edge of the village.

Regional variations

There are no known regional variations.

Close Historical Associations

There are no known associations with a person or event of national importance at present (2016).

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