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Taigh Bhoraraigh, a' gabhail a-steach frith-thogalach tughte, Clachan Shannda, Loch nam Madadh, Uibhist a Tuath / Boreray Cottage including thatched outbuilding, Clachan Sands, Lochmaddy, Isle of Nort

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

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Coordinates

Latitude: 57.6588 / 57°39'31"N

Longitude: -7.2483 / 7°14'54"W

OS Eastings: 87106

OS Northings: 875338

OS Grid: NF871753

Mapcode National: GBR 88HH.2S7

Mapcode Global: WGW2Z.MRMK

Entry Name: Taigh Bhoraraigh, a' gabhail a-steach frith-thogalach tughte, Clachan Shannda, Loch nam Madadh, Uibhist a Tuath / Boreray Cottage including thatched outbuilding, Clachan Sands, Lochmaddy, Isle of Nort

Listing Date: 16 April 2019

Category: C

Source: Historic Scotland

Source ID: 407076

Historic Scotland Designation Reference: LB52492

Building Class: Cultural

Location: North Uist

County: Na h-Eileanan Siar

Electoral Ward: Beinn na Foghla agus Uibhist a Tuath

Parish: North Uist

Traditional County: Inverness-shire

Description

Boreray Cottage is a single-storey, roughly rectangular-plan, rubble-built Hebridean-type cottage dating to around 1920. The cottage was renovated for use as holiday accommodation in the late 20th or early 21st century. The roof is thatched and the thick and battered rubble walls are whitewashed with rounded corners. The window openings are small and deeply recessed.

The front (southeast) elevation is three bays wide, comprising a central timber door with diamond-shaped glazing in the upper part, flanked by single windows. The wall to the northwest (rear elevation) has a single window opening. The southwest elevation has a single window to the left of the chimneystack. The northeast elevation has one window to the right of the chimneystack.

The windows are timber sash and case frames. The building has end chimney stacks topped with replacement clay pots with built-in flue vents.

The piended roof is thatched in marram grass and has a continuous thatched marram grass ridge. The entire roof has been netted and weighted along the eaves with stones tied to the netting with string. The string of stones continues around the chimney stacks at either end. The construction of the roof is in the Uist style of thatching with the thatch sitting on the outer wall and the thatch going over the edge.

The outbuilding to the northwest of the cottage has low dry-stone rubble walls with a recessed timber door opening. The roof is thatched in marram grass and is netted and weighted along the eaves and around the door opening with stones tied to the netting with string. There are no window openings in this building.

Statement of Interest

Dating from the early 20th century, Boreray Cottage is an unusually late Hebridean-thatched crofthouse, demonstrating that the vernacular building tradition survived longer here than in other parts of Scotland. It is of a type once prolific across Na h-Eileanan Siar, but is now extremely rare. The building shows traditional construction methods and materials of Na h-Eileanan Siar, including the thick rubble wall structure, and the marram thatched roof with weighting stones and netting.

It is one of only 54 buildings or groups of buildings in Na h-Eileanan Siar that are known to retain an intact thatched roof, and is among a relatively small number of thatched buildings across Scotland. This traditional cottage adds to the built heritage and the historic character of the Uists.

Age and Rarity

A crofting township at Reumisgarry, Clachan Sands, with around seven buildings, appears on the 1st Edition Ordnance Survey Map (surveyed 1878, published 1882). The 2nd edition Ordnance Survey map shows little change at Reumisgarry by 1901. Boreray Cottage and the outbuilding to the northwest, first appear on the Ordnance Survey 1:2,500 map (surveyed 1968), confirming they were built sometime after 1901. The outbuilding is shown on this map and connected to another rectangular building and enclosed by a wall. These buildings would have formed part of the croft.

Boreray Cottage was built around the 1920s by the brother of Donald McDougall who built the neighbouring cottage, Tigh na Boireach. The McDougall family relocated to Clachan Sands from Boreray. This building is an example of crofting resettlement in the early 20th century and the continuation of Hebridean building traditions. Crofters would often move between islands in search of land bringing with them their own local traditions which may have been taken up by existing crofting communities (Tigh na Boireach).

The island of North Uist was sold to Sir John Powlett Orde in 1855 who saw the potential of North Uist as a highland sporting retreat for wealthy visitors. Since 1469, the island had been owned by the Macdonalds of Sleat and the Clanranalds, a cadet branch of the MacDonald family (Glendinning and Martins, p.63). North Uist was bought in 1945 by the Duke of Hamilton, and since 1960 it has been owned by the Granville family (Miers, 2008, p.321).

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. 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 form and construction techniques may be of special interest in listing terms. Na h-Eileanan Siar has 80 thatched buildings, of which 19 are on North Uist (SPAB Report, 2016, pp.494-498 and 528-552).

These once prolific traditional thatched buildings are now extremely rare. Boreray Cottage and its outbuilding is a vernacular dwelling built using traditional building methods and materials in the early 20th century. It shows that traditional building craft was in use far longer in Na h-Eileanan Siar than in other parts of Scotland.

Architectural or Historic Interest

Interior

The interior was not seen and has not been taken into account in this assessment.

Sales particulars produced by Anderson Banks (date unknown), show the interiors as fully renovated and no fixtures or fittings from the early 20th century are apparent.

Plan form

Boreray Cottage has a plan form typical of thatched vernacular buildings of Na h-Eileanan Siar with a narrow-bodied, thick-walled rectangular form. Cottages on the Uists were shorter those on Lewis, because the byre was not part of the property but in a separate outbuilding. The thatched outbuilding, shown on the 1: 2,500 Ordnance Survey Map (1968), may have been used as a byre and dates from the early to mid-20th century.

The walls have rounded corners, which is characteristic of this region, to protect against high Atlantic winds. The footprint of the building is that of traditional crofthouse, with a lack of extensions and additions.

Technological excellence or innovation, material or design quality

Boreray Cottage 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 building was repaired and renovated in 2002. This work included the removal of the roof structure and its replacement following traditional methods, form and materials of thatching. The thatched roof on the outbuilding was reinstated in 2003. The renovations of Boreray Cottage show how the building has been altered to accommodate improvements in needs and living standards over time.

The overall appearance of Boreray Cottage and its outbuilding is that of a vernacular crofthouse, built in the early 20th century 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. Boreray Cottage informs our knowledge and understanding of vernacular building traditions of Na h-Eileanan Siar and its long term use in this part of Scotland.

Setting

Clachan Sands is located approximately six miles northwest of Lochmaddy, the largest settlement on North Uist. The location and setting of crofts provide information about changing settlement patterns and agricultural land-use. Boreray Cottage is closely related to Tigh na Boireach, situated further along the road to the east, in both form and style. The brother of Donald McDougall, of Tigh na Boireach, built Boreray Cottage around the 1920s (Tigh na Boireach). These two cottages show that some families moved to find work together and adapted to new surroundings.

The immediate setting of Boreray Cottage is well-retained. The thatched rubble outbuilding to the northwest of the cottage is still standing, but the remnants of the former croft are now gone. Both Tigh na Boireach and Boreray Cottage stand out as traditional buildings in the landscape which is interspersed by later dwellings and agricultural buildings.

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 of this early 20th century thatched cottage has been reconfigured, but the sales particulars show the modernised interiors follow this arrangement (Anderson Banks).

The low form, thick battered rubble walls and its rounded thatched roof, with netting and weighting stones of Boreray Cottage, 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 walls are now limewashed. This was common to protect the stone against seawater and sand blasts.

Boreray Cottage shows the Uist-style of cottage with the roof sitting on the outer wall and the thatch hanging slightly over the edge of the wall. This allows rainwater to run off away from the gap between the double wall construction, therefore keeping the loose, insulating rubble that sits within the thick walls dry. The roof is in a rounded form, as is common in Na h-Eileanan Siar to limit the effects of extreme weather conditions, by allowing wind to pass over the structure and reduce the risk of damage.

A wide range of thatching materials have traditionally been used in Na h-Eileanan Siar from randomly placed eel grass, seaweed and straws to directional materials such as rush, marram grass, heather, bracken, broom and iris. The thatch is marram grass, which would have the traditional material because of its proximity to the machair and is fitted according to traditional techniques.

Close Historical Associations

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

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