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Cnoc an Dùdain, 7b Ruisigearraidh, Beàrnaraigh na Hearadh / Cnoc an Dudain, 7b Ruisgarry, Berneray, Isle of North Uist

A Category B Listed Building in Beinn na Foghla agus Uibhist a Tuath, Na h-Eileanan Siar

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Coordinates

Latitude: 57.7209 / 57°43'15"N

Longitude: -7.1625 / 7°9'45"W

OS Eastings: 92744

OS Northings: 881845

OS Grid: NF927818

Mapcode National: GBR 88Q9.S3H

Mapcode Global: WGW2T.Y6FD

Entry Name: Cnoc an Dùdain, 7b Ruisigearraidh, Beàrnaraigh na Hearadh / Cnoc an Dudain, 7b Ruisgarry, Berneray, Isle of North Uist

Listing Date: 17 April 2019

Category: B

Source: Historic Scotland

Source ID: 407012

Historic Scotland Designation Reference: LB52480

Building Class: Cultural

Location: Harris

County: Na h-Eileanan Siar

Electoral Ward: Beinn na Foghla agus Uibhist a Tuath

Parish: Harris

Traditional County: Inverness-shire

Description

7b Ruisgarry is a single-storey, roughly rectangular-plan, rubble-built Hebridean-type cottage, likely dating from the late 18th or early 19th century. The roof is thatched and building has thick, battered rubble stone walls with slab-capped wallheads. The window openings are small and deeply recessed. It stands on the north side of Bays Loch on the east side of the Isle of Berneray, on the west edge of Loch Watersee.

The front (northwest) elevation is four bays wide, with an entrance to the left of centre. The rear (southeast) elevation has two window openings. There is one window in the northeast elevation.

The building has replacement side-sliding timber sash windows, and a timber ledge and braced front door. The piended roof was reinstated around 2010 and is thatched in marram grass with a continuous marram ridge. The roof is entirely netted and weighted along the eaves with stones, secured to the netting by wire. There is one stone chimneystack with a plain circular pot. Timber boards have also been used above some of the window and door openings to help keep the thatch in place.

The cottage interior was seen in 2017. The internal fabric and layout are all 21st century. The interior roof has exposed timber rafters and timber boards.

Statement of Interest

7b Ruisgarry is a late 18th or early 19th century Hebridean crofthouse. It is of a type once prolific across Na h-Eileanan Siar, but is now extremely rare. In its renovated state, the building continues to show traditional building methods and materials of Na h-Eileanan Siar, and largely retains its footprint and much of its historic fabric. It has thick rubble walls and a marram thatched roof with weighting stones and netting.

It is one only 54 buildings or groups of buildings in Na h-Eileanan Siar that are known to retain an intact thatched roof, and among a relatively small number of thatched buildings across Scotland.

7b Ruisgarry is part of a close-knit group of three traditional 19th century thatched buildings, which adds to its significance. It is a tangible reminder of the agricultural and social history of Berneray from the 18th to the 20th centuries. It is an important part of the built heritage and the historic character of the Uists.

Age and Rarity

The island of Berneray is one of 15 inhabited islands in the Outer Hebrides. The island came into the possession of the Macleods of Harris and Dunvegan in the 14th century. The Berneray Macleods descended from this branch of the family. In 1633 Sir Norman Macleod of Berneray, third son of the 15th Macleod Chief was granted a lifetime rent of Berneray (Miers, pp.314-319). By the mid-18th century, Donald Ruadh Macleod improved the land and the kelp industry boomed. The island was sold to the 5th Earl of Dunmore in 1834. Intense cultivation and an influx of people cleared from other islands, meant settlements such as Ruisgarry became very overcrowded.

The decline of the kelp industry, a succession of poor harvests, and the potato famine of 1846-51 led to a reduction in the number of crofts and large scale emigration and forced removal from crofts occurred (Rowe, p.162). As a result, the population of Berneray declined during the later 19th and early 20th centuries and crofting and cottar families turned to earning alternative livings. Crofters remaining in Ruisgarry were ordered by the Factor of Harris, John Robertson MacDonald, not to help displaced tenants (Lawson, p.7).

It is likely that 7b Ruisgarry dates from the late 18th or early 19th century prior to the collapse of the kelp industry. 7b Ruisgarry is first shown on the 1st Edition Ordnance Survey map (surveyed 1878), as part of a group of three neighbouring buildings at Cnoc an Dudain within a small settlement to the northwest of Loch Watersee.

The 1st and 2nd edition Ordnance Survey maps show the Ruisgarry area of Berneray, which extends west around Bays Loch, as being the most populated area of the island. 7b Ruisgarry and its neighbours form a cluster of buildings with road links to the other settlements, which include two churches, a manse, a glebe and a school.

A 2010 planning application records 7b Ruisgarry as a thatched dwelling until the 1950s, after which it was converted to a barn, and gables were added in the 1970s. In 2010 planning permission and listed building consent had been granted for the renovation of 7a and 7b Ruisgarry cottages (Comhairle nan Eilean Siar Planning Portal).

The use of thatch as a roofing material has a long tradition in Scotland. Thatched buildings are often single storey cottages or crofts and traditionally built, reflecting pre-industrial construction methods and materials.

The survival of this building type into the 21st century is extremely rare. A Survey of Thatched Buildings in Scotland, published in 2016 by the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings (SPAB), found that were only around 200 buildings with thatched roofs in Scotland. Those which retain their traditional vernacular character, including plan forms and construction techniques may be of special interest in listing terms. Of the thatched buildings remaining in Scotland 54 of these are located in Na h-Eileanan Siar and 14 are on Berneray (SPAB, pp.500-526).

These once prolific traditional thatched crofthouses are now extremely rare. The number and density that survive within the Ruisgarry Conservation Area is unique in comparison to the rest of the Na h-Eileanan Siar and Scotland as a whole. They are an important part of the Uists built heritage, showing cultural, ethnological and agricultural trends in this part of Scotland. 7b Ruisgarry is significant, as it shows elements of traditional construction methods and materials relevant to Berneray, in its historic fabric and its renovations (see Regional Variations section below).

Architectural or Historic Interest

Interior

The interiors of these vernacular cottages were often simple. Many of them have been refurbished and historic features no longer survive. This is the case at this cottage

Plan form

This building has a plan form typical of thatched vernacular buildings of Na h-Eileanan Siar with a narrow-bodied, thick-walled rectangular form. The battered walls are typical of this building type in that they sit low to the ground and have rounded corners to protect against high winds.

The footprint of the building has changed slightly since the late 19th century, from an L-shaped plan (as shown on the 2nd Edition Ordnance Survey Map) to rectangular. The building was lived in until the 1950s, after which gables were added and it was converted for use as a barn. Its traditional rectangular plan form, and its position as part of a group, is of interest.

Technological excellence or innovation, material or design quality

7b Ruisgarry has been constructed and renovated using traditional materials and methods that are characteristic of this part of Scotland. The interest of these vernacular buildings is discussed in the Regional Variations section below.

While authenticity of material can be an important factor in assessing the significance of thatched buildings, buildings which have been repaired over time (perhaps with new roofing material or rethatched) can also be listed. The retention of the overall traditional character of vernacular buildings is therefore important in determining their special architectural or historic interest.

The thatched roof dates from the late 2011/early 2012 and was reinstated as part of the renovation works on the cottage. The thatch itself would have been checked and replaced every few years, depending on how well the marram grass had withstood being blasted with high winds containing sand. The roof has been renewed using traditional techniques and materials.

The renovations of show how the building has been altered to accommodate improvements in needs and living standards over time. Alterations to the internal layout of 7b Ruisgarry do not significantly impact on the overall authentic character of the building, or its ability to convey its historical or architectural significance.

The overall appearance of 7b Ruisgarry is that of a late 18th or early 19th century thatched vernacular building that has been renovated. It retains a number of important features which are characteristic of Na h-Eileanan Siar, including a marram thatched roof with weighting stones and netting, and thick rubble walls.

Setting

7b Ruisgarry is located at the northeastern edge of Bays Loch within Ruisgarry, the largest settlement on Berneray. The location and setting of crofthouses provides information about changing settlement patterns and agricultural land-use. 7b Cnoc an Dudain is one of a close-knit group of three cottages which shows the regional features of traditional Hebridean-type buildings (see separate listings, LB46098 and LB46099). The immediate setting of 7b Ruisgarry remains remarkably unchanged since the turn of the 20th century (as shown on the 2nd Edition Ordnance Survey).

There are a number of other vernacular buildings nearby. These include a barn and byre (LB46108), Berneray hostel and annexe (LB46103) and Laimhrig Ruadh (LB46100, LB46101 and LB46102). The number and density of vernacular buildings that survive within the Ruisgarry Conservation Area is unique in comparison to the rest of the Na h-Eileanan Siar and Scotland as a whole. They are an important part of the Uists built heritage, showing cultural, ethnological and agricultural trends in this part of Scotland.

7b Ruisgarry contributes to this landscape. It is part of the history of this area and complement the nearby clusters of traditional thatched cottages at Baile and Laimhrig Ruadh. They show the regional methods of thatch and the techniques historically used as well as the past prominence of Ruisgarry in terms of industry and settlement.

Regional variations

The design and construction of the building, the method of thatching and the thatching material used was a distinctly localised practice. The best examples of local vernacular buildings will normally be listed because together they illustrate the importance of distinctive local and regional traditions.

Traditional thatched cottages of Na h-Eileanan Siar are usually single-storey, low-profile buildings. In the Uists the cottages typically had a room at each end of the building with a small room in the middle. They also typically had a chimney on each end wall. They were shorter than those on Lewis, because the byre was not part of the property but in a separate outbuilding. The interior walls are later additions, but the footprint of the building and window openings indicates that it broadly followed this arrangement.

The low form, thick battered rubble walls and its rounded thatched roof, with netting and weighting stones of 7b Ruisgarry, is typical of this region in protecting against Atlantic storms and sand blasts. The walls of these vernacular buildings would have been constructed with a central earth and rubble core between stone walls that were built from locally sourced stone gathered from the land. Their thickness ensured that they could support the weight of the roof, reducing the need for timber (which was scarce in the area) in the roof structure to a minimum.

The thatched roof is constructed from locally sourced marram grass and fitted according to traditional techniques. The roof is entirely netted and weighted along the eaves with stones secured to the netting by wire. The use of marram grass means it is pliable enough to create a swept ridge and the rounded form of the roof limits the effects of extreme weather conditions, by allowing wind to pass over the structure and reduce the risk of damage.

Close Historical Associations

There are no known associations with a person or event of national importance at present (2018).

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