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Taigh tuath air 472b Loch Baghasdail a Deas, Uibhist a Deas / Cottage to the north of 472b South Lochboisdale, Isle of South Uist

A Category C Listed Building in Barraigh, Bhatarsaigh, Eirisgeigh agus Uibhist a Deas, Na h-Eileanan Siar

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Coordinates

Latitude: 57.1354 / 57°8'7"N

Longitude: -7.3158 / 7°18'56"W

OS Eastings: 78529

OS Northings: 817486

OS Grid: NF785174

Mapcode National: GBR 89BV.V6N

Mapcode Global: WGW5G.LXH9

Entry Name: Taigh tuath air 472b Loch Baghasdail a Deas, Uibhist a Deas / Cottage to the north of 472b South Lochboisdale, Isle of South Uist

Listing Date: 18 April 2019

Category: C

Source: Historic Scotland

Source ID: 407069

Historic Scotland Designation Reference: LB52495

Building Class: Cultural

Location: South Uist

County: Na h-Eileanan Siar

Electoral Ward: Barraigh, Bhatarsaigh, Eirisgeigh agus Uibhist a Deas

Parish: South Uist

Traditional County: Inverness-shire

Description

A single-storey, roughly rectangular-plan, rubble-built Hebridean-type cottage located in the settlement of South Lochboisdale towards the south of the Isle of South Uist. Likely dating to around the mid to later 19th century, the cottage is currently roofless and the walls are complete to the wallhead (2018).

The southwest (principal) elevation is three bays wide, with a central door opening flanked by window openings. The (rear) northeast elevation and the northwest elevation both have a single window opening.

The cottage has two square and rubble-built chimneystacks on each end wall. There are no visible window frames remaining.

The interior has no visible fixtures or fittings.

Statement of Interest

The cottage to the north of 472b South Lochboisdale is a mid to later 19th century Hebridean-type cottage. These vernacular buildings were once prolific across Na h-Eileanan Siar, but are now extremely rare. The building is part of a close-knit group of mid to later 19th century vernacular buildings and rural crofting settlement. Although it has lost its roof, the remaining walls retain their 19th century form and show traditional building methods and materials of Na h-Eileanan Siar. Together these buildings provide valuable insights into the social and economic changes that occurred in South Uist under the estate management of the Gordons of Cluny from around the mid-19th century.

Age and Rarity

South Uist is the second largest island in the Outer Hebrides. The island was owned by the Clanranalds from the 1370s until 1838, when it was sold along with Benbecula, to Colonel Gordon of Cluny. The family owned the island until 1944.

The population of South Uist underwent substantial change under the ownership of the Gordons with the emigration of nearly 3000 people and the relocation of many others around the island. This movement of people reached its peak between 1850 and 1854 (Miers, p 337).

On William Bald's 1805 Plan of South Uist the area of South Lochboisdale is shown as three small clusters of buildings along the banks of the Loch. One of the clusters is located to the northwest of the Evat Lochs in the area where the cottage to the north of 472b South Lochboisdale now stands. This map shows that there was a pre-improvement period settlement at South Lochboisdale in the early 19th century. Due to the scale of the map it cannot be determined whether the cottage to the north of 472b South Lochboisdale is part of this settlement during this period.

From around the mid-19th century under the ownership of the Gordons, large grazing and arable farms were laid out for letting in South Uist. The majority of farms were on land that had previously been occupied by tenants in townships and settlement clusters, predominantly on the fertile west side of the island. A merchant's house with a pier and surrounding farmland was built in the northeast of South Lochboisdale around the early to mid-19th century (South Lochboisdale, Boisdale House and Post Office, LB18743). However, the undulating and rocky landscape of the rest of the district, including the area now occupied by this cottage, was not laid out for large scale farming. The existing settlement clusters in this area appear to have been split into small crofts for lease around the mid-19th century.

The Ordnance Survey Name Book describes South Lochboisdale in 1877 as a large district under the ownership of John Gordon Esq of Cluny. It notes that, apart from a farm which contains a house and offices with slated roofs, the rest of South Lochboisdale was leased by small crofters whose houses were thatched and in bad repair (OS1/18/12/99, p. 99).

A small rectangular structure at the location of this cottage is shown on the 1st Edition Ordnance Survey map (surveyed 1878, published 1881). The road along the southern edge of Loch Boisdale can be seen diverted south towards the structure. There is a second rectangular building neighbouring the building at the west with an attached enclosure. To the south are two further buildings.

Under the ownership of Lady Gordon Cathcart from the 1880s to the early 1920s farms on South Uist began to be broken up as demand for increased land and fair rents increased amongst crofters. The Aberdeen Press and Journal reported in 1887 that a hearing for the disposal of the township at South Lochboisdale was soon to be held. The article described the area at that time as a township of eighteen 'very small crofts' lying along the south shore of the loch.

The passing of the Crofters Holdings (Scotland) Act in 1886 also gave crofters security of tenure for the first time. These events in the late 19th century had an effect on many crofthouses in South Uist, the majority of which were traditionally built cottages, as they were improved, abandoned or rebuilt on new crofts.

On the 2nd Edition Ordnance Survey map (surveyed 1901, published 1904) the cottage is shown with the same footprint as the previous map. The neighbouring building to the west has been demolished.

On the 1969 Ordnance Survey map the cottage is shown with the same footprint as it exists today (2018) and the previous map. A smaller rectangular structure is shown beside it to the southeast.

An image from of the cottage taken in 1975 or 1976 (CANMORE SC 1655330) shows the cottage with a thatched roof. Beside the cottage at the southeast is a small outbuilding which is also thatched. This outbuilding is no longer there.

The use of thatch as a roofing material has a long tradition in Scotland. Thatched buildings are often single storey cottages or crofthouses that are traditionally built, reflecting pre-industrial construction methods and materials. While the practice of thatching had started to recede by the early 20th century, traditional thatched buildings were still being built in the Highlands and Islands, and in a few sparse rural communities on the mainland up until the Second World War in much the same way as they were always built.

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. 19 thatched buildings survive in the Isle of South Uist, the highest number of any island in Na h-Eileanan Siar (SPAB, pp.568-618).

These once prolific traditional buildings are now extremely rare. Although the cottage to the north of 472b South Lochboisdale is currently roofless, enough historic fabric remains to show traditional construction methods and materials relevant to South Uist. These include the retention of its traditional footprint and its thick rubble walls with curved corners. It is part of a close-knit group of vernacular buildings.

Architectural or Historic Interest

Interior

A site visit was made as part of the SPAB survey in 2014. This recorded the cottage as a "roofless ruin" with no description of surviving interior features (SPAB Report, p.618).

The interior has not been seen and therefore has not been assessed.

Plan form

The cottage has a rectangular plan form typical of thatched vernacular buildings of Na h-Eileanan Siar with a narrow-bodied, thick-walled rectangular form.

It is common for traditional cottages to have been altered with the addition of porches and extensions. The footprint of the building appears unchanged from that of the building depicted on the 1st and 2nd Edition Ordnance Survey Maps. The lack of alteration to the footprint of the building is therefore rare and the survival of its plan form is of interest.

Technological excellence or innovation, material or design quality

The building has been constructed using traditional materials and methods that are characteristic of this part of Scotland. The interest of this vernacular building 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 condition of a property is not a factor in the evaluation unless it detracts significantly from the architectural or historic interest so that it can no longer be defined as special. In this case enough of the historic fabric and form survives to show that it is characteristic of 19th century Na h-Eileanan Siar vernacular building traditions, and it remains part of a close-knit group of similar buildings.

Setting

The cottage is on the southern edge of Lochboisdale, a district at the southeast of the Isle of South Uist. The cottage is by a road that runs along the southern edge of the Loch.

The landscape is undulating and rocky and rises up behind the cottage at the south. There is a 20th century house approximately 40m to the east of the cottage and on the same croft. Apart from this the historic setting of the cottage in a rural landscape is well retained.

The location and setting of crofthouses provides information about changing settlement patterns and agricultural land use. The cottage is located towards the east of South Uist in rocky landscape with hills and uneven ground. Unlike many settlements in the more fertile west of the island, the area around the cottage was not laid out as large farms during the estate developments by the Gordons in the 19th century. The settlement appears instead to have been divided into small crofts that covered the landscape in an informal layout. The scattered, small scale nature of the settlement at South Lochboisdale demonstrates how traditional styles of settlement survived into the later 19th century in areas unsuitable for large scale farming.

There has been some development in the wider area in the late 20th or early 21st century with the construction of a storehouse to the southwest and a single-storey house to the east. The scattered, unplanned layout of the settlement around the bay of South Lochboisdale has however remained remarkably unchanged since the later 19th century (as shown of the 1st Edition Ordnance Survey map).

The cottage is part of a group traditional cottages located to the west of the Eavat Lochs in South Lochboisdale. These include the traditional thatched cottages to the north at 472 South Lochboisdale (LB18745) and 472 South Lochboisdale and Byre and Shed (LB18746) and a thatched cottage to the east at 466 South Lochboisdale (LB18744). The remains of a number of other 19th and early 20th century rubble-built cottages and outbuildings can be seen around the settlement of South Lochboisdale. The survival of this group of cottages contributes to the historic setting of the cottage to the north of 472b South Lochboisdale.

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 cottage has no surviving interior walls so it is not possible to determine the layout of the interior.

The low form, thick battered rubble walls and have rounded corners. This construction 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 cottage is roofless and there are no traces of a former thatch covering remaining. A photograph of the group of properties in South Lochboisdale show this cottage with a thatched roof (Comhairle nan Eilean Siar, 2019) and the thick rubble walls indicate that the building would have been thatched. The thatched roof would sit on the outer wall with the thatch material hanging slightly over the edge of the wall. This allowed the rainwater to run off away from the gap between the double wall construction, therefore keeping the loose rubble that sits within the thick walls dry.

Close Historical Associations

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

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