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Souter's Shop, Muir Croft, Ballogie

A Category A Listed Building in Birse, Aberdeenshire

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Coordinates

Latitude: 57.0554 / 57°3'19"N

Longitude: -2.6992 / 2°41'57"W

OS Eastings: 357687

OS Northings: 796253

OS Grid: NO576962

Mapcode National: GBR WV.9FRW

Mapcode Global: WH7NK.HXXN

Entry Name: Souter's Shop, Muir Croft, Ballogie

Listing Date: 30 March 2000

Last Amended: 16 August 2017

Category: A

Source: Historic Scotland

Source ID: 406880

Historic Scotland Designation Reference: LB47119

Building Class: Cultural

Location: Birse

County: Aberdeenshire

Electoral Ward: Banchory and Mid Deeside

Parish: Birse

Traditional County: Aberdeenshire

Description

The building is a purpose-built soutar's shop and workshop, constructed around 1897. It is a single storey, two-bay, and rectangular-plan building to the southwest of Muir Croft cottage (see LB47118).

The building is built of vertically boarded timber panels with timber dressings, with a granite rubble base course and simple timber bargeboards. The roof is gabled and covered with corrugated iron, and there is a small brick chimney stack to the northeast gable.

The entrance is to the northwest elevation and has a boarded timber door, with a two-pane fanlight above, which is accessed by granite steps. There is a single window to the left. There are two windows to the southeast elevation. All the windows are timber and are predominantly 12-pane sash and case. The southwest gable (facing the road) has a large, fixed nine-pane window with decorative margin-paned etched glass.

The interior is lined with boarded timber. There are two rooms, consisting of a shop and workshop. The shop is in the front section of the building, to the southwest and has timber shelving on timber brackets on all the walls. The workshop to the rear is separated by a timber partition and has timber shelving and a small iron stove set in a simple fire surround. The shop counter, and the fixed soutar's equipment and machinery survive.

Statement of Interest

The former soutar's shop in Ballogie is an outstanding and rare surviving example of a rural shop purpose built before the early expansion of commercial shoemaking in Scotland. While the design of the building is relatively simple and plain, it is largely unaltered. There are no other known examples of this building type with this level of preservation in Scotland It is significant that it retains its original fixtures, fittings and other contents related to shoemaking which adds to our understanding of the building and historical trade of shoemaking. It is an important and rare example of small industry and local life in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

Age and Rarity

The soutar's (or shoemaker's) shop was purpose-built and established in around 1897 by James Merchant, shoemaker, who lived in the adjacent cottage, Muir Croft. The soutar's shop building is seen on the 2nd Edition Ordnance Survey map (surveyed in 1899). The 1901 Scotland Census transcription for Muir Croft in Birse has Merchant listed as Shoemaker and Crofter. The building continued in use until Merchant died in 1941. The contents of the building were left undisturbed and the building was used as a store for items from the croft house. The contents were rediscovered in 1999 when James Merchant's daughter died. While the building is currently not in use, its contents are still in place and have been well documented (2017).

Boot and shoe-making was predominantly based in small workshops until the end of the 19th century. The trade and the type of premises which it occupied was well established by late medieval times. The Factory and Workshop Returns of 1871 listed 3,266 boot- and shoe-making premises in Scotland (Shaw, p.496). Many of these premises were located in the larger burghs, however most rural area parishes would also have had one or more local soutars. They were amongst the most common trade skills, along with weavers and tailors. These rural soutars may have also had another source of income, as with James Merchant and his croft.

Boot and shoe making used simple, traditional craft methods and materials and the trade was carried out in a small premises, often positioned inside or detached alongside or near a dwelling. In the 18th and 19th century 'the marketing function of retail trades gave rise to buildings in which the manufacturing workplace operated as an adjunct to shop premises' (Shaw, p.498). It was around the time just after the First World War that traditional local shoemaking, as other small cottage industries, expanded into mass market production and small workshop premises were gradually no longer viable.

Buildings known to have been used specifically as soutars' shops are rare. There is one known listed example of a soutar's shop and workshop in Scotland: the cottage of John Davidson in Kirkoswald, South Ayrshire (listed at category A, see LB7586). Davidson was the 'Souter Johnnie' who features in the Robert Burns poem Tam O'Shanter. The contents in that workshop are understood to be reconstruction (rather than original) for museum and educational purposes.

This shop and workshop building at Ballogie is one of the only purpose built soutar's shops known in Scotland. The survival of shoemaking fixtures and fittings, including tools, stock and ledgers found in their original place is considered very rare. While rural soutar's shops were commonplace and widespread in Scotland until the end of the 19th century, the shop at Ballogie is the only known building of this type in Scotland which has remained unaltered. While the design of the soutar's shop is relatively simple and plain, it dates to shortly before the expansion of commercial shoe making which completely changed the industry. The soutar shop at Ballogie is representative of the closing period of small industry and local life in the late 19th and early 20th century in Scotland. The building is considered to be an extremely rare surviving example of its type.

Architectural or Historic Interest

Interior

The interior is of special interest for the survival of its late 19th and early 20th century fixtures and fittings which are specifically used in shoemaking and the display and storage of shoes. The internal layout of the rooms, which are also timber boarded, is considered typical for a small workshop building.

Plan form

The plan form of the building is rectangular. The internal plan form of the building typifies the smaller rural shop and workshop premises of the late 19th and early 20th century. The plan form of the soutar's shop is unaltered with the trading counter and stock shelving located to the front of the building and the functional workshop area to the rear.

Technological excellence or innovation, material or design quality

The design characteristics of the building reflect the special nature of Scottish rural shops.

The construction in simple materials is typical of late 19th and early 20th century workshop premises in rural areas (Shaw, 499). The soutar shop at Ballogie adopts the same vernacular style as domestic and agricultural buildings in the area using available materials, such as timber boarding for the walls. It also uses materials sometimes considered too basic for domestic buildings, such as corrugated sheet metal used in its roof cladding.

The internal rooms are designed to support the function of the building, such as the large window to allow light into the shop area. In the workshop area additional windows located on the southeast side of the building near the work space provided light to work from. The small stove in the workshop area provided heat, both for comfort and for the shoemaking process, such as heating wax for shoemakers' thread.

The gable end facing the road has a large window with decorative etched glass. While this is not a conventional design for a retail building, the large decorative window may have highlighted that the building had a commercial purpose, setting it apart from typical sheds or other outbuildings. There is evidence on the outside of the building that there may have been an awning that could be pulled out over the top of the window.

Setting

The soutar's shop is located beside the B976, to the north of Marywell, the principal village on the Ballogie estate in rural Aberdeenshire. The soutar's croft and steading ancillary building is located in a separate building just to the northwest. The location of the shop, next to the tradesman's house, is not unusual historically, however the survival of both buildings in this group is of interest in listing terms.

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 (2017).

Statutory address, category of listing and listed building record revised in 2017. Previously listed as 'Muir Croft, Souter's Shop'.

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