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Unroofed outbuilding, 379 Garrynamonie, Isle of South Uist

A Category B Listed Building in Isle of South Uist, Na h-Eileanan Siar

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Latitude: 57.123 / 57°7'22"N

Longitude: -7.3832 / 7°22'59"W

OS Eastings: 74350

OS Northings: 816435

OS Grid: NF743164

Mapcode National: GBR 895W.T6Q

Mapcode Global: WGV4H.K7F7

Plus Code: 9C9J4JF8+6P

Entry Name: Unroofed outbuilding, 379 Garrynamonie, Isle of South Uist

Listing Name: 379 Geàrraidh na Mònadh, a' gabhail a-steach dà fhrith-thogalach, Uibhist a Deas / 379 Garrynamonie including two outbuildings, Isle of South Uist

Listing Date: 26 April 2019

Category: B

Source: Historic Scotland

Source ID: 407080

Historic Scotland Designation Reference: LB52489

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


379 Garrynamonie is a single-storey, Hebridean-type, thatched cottage with two rubble outbuildings, all likely dating to the mid-19th century with later alterations. 379 Garrynamonie is located at the far western end of the township of Garrynamonie, which is located on the southwest coast of South Uist between Loch an Eilean and Loch Fada.

The thick walls of the cottage are harl-pointed rubble with rounded corners. The windows openings are small and deeply recessed. The front elevation faces east and is three bays wide, with a central entrance flanked by windows. The entrance has a later lean-to porch, which is harled and has a corrugated iron roof. There is a window opening to each side of the porch. The rear (west) elevation has one small, central window opening. The end walls have no openings and each has a later chimneystack, built in rubble and with short pots.

The windows have timber sash and case frames. Those to the front have a four-pane glazing pattern.

The piended roof is thatched in marram grass in the Uist style with the thatch sitting on the outer wall and the thatch going over the edge. It has a continuous thatched marram ridge. The entire roof has been netted and is weighted along the eaves and around the chimney stacks with stones tied to the netting with wire. In addition, small metal tubes secure the thatch further around the stacks. There is some missing thatch at the rear of the roof exposing the roof timbers and interior of the cottage.

Two outbuildings stand to the northeast of the cottage. That nearest the cottage is probably a byre and has a small henhouse attached to the north elevation. It is gabled and harled, and has a corrugated iron roof with a rooflight. It has an off-centre door and two small windows in the east elevation.

The smaller square outbuilding has rubble walls and a central door. It is unroofed (2015).

Statement of Interest

379 Garrynamonie is a rare example of a traditional Hebridean crofthouse. These vernacular buildings were once prolific across the highlands and northern isles of Scotland, but are now extremely rare. The cottage shows traditional building methods and materials such as the thick rubble walls and the marram thatched roof with netting and weighting stones.

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 crofthouse and associated outbuildings adds to the building heritage and the historic character of the Uists, and is a tangible reminder of the 19th century township of Garrynamonie.

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 whose 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; Rowe, p.187).

On William Bald's 1805 Plan of South Uist, Garrynamonie is shown as a clustered settlement close to the coast. Symonds points out that nucleated settlements were common in machair-based townships such as Garrynamonie (p.111). This shows that the area has been cultivated and lived upon for centuries. From around the mid-19th century, under the ownership of the Gordons, large grazing and arable farms were laid out and let in South Uist. The majority of these farms were on land that had previously been occupied by tenants in townships and settlement clusters, predominantly on the west side of the island.

The 1st Edition Ordnance Survey map (surveyed 1878, published 1881) and Ordnance Survey Name Book shows that by 1878 the township at Garrynamonie had developed from a clustered to a linear settlement running east to west. The land was almost entirely under cultivation and divided into numerous smallholdings under the ownership of John Gordon Esq. The township comprised of around 63 structures, one of which was a boys and girls school, suggesting it was a sizeable settlement.

The croft at 379 Garrynamonie is shown on the 1st Edition Ordnance Survey map at the far western end of the road that runs through the township of Garrynamonie. Three rectangular structures of different sizes are shown, one is a long and narrow, crofthouse and two outbuildings to the northeast. This suggests 379 Garrynamonie dates to at least around the mid-19th century, but could be earlier. The 2nd edition Ordnance Survey map (revised 1901, published 1903) shows the site as unchanged.

The 1968 Ordnance Survey map (1:2,500) shows a porch was added to the front (east) elevation sometime between 1901 and 1968, and the location of the outbuildings changed slightly during this time. It is thought the roof of the byre was previously thatched before the corrugated iron roof was added. The smaller outbuilding was also thatched previously but only the rubble walls now remain.

Aerial photographs show the rubble remains of a number of former blackhouses close to the main road through the township. The majority of dwellings now in Garrynamonie are whitehouses (later, traditionally-built dwellings) and 20th century housing.

Comparisons between aerial photography and historic Ordnance Survey Maps show that 379 Garrynamonie is one of very few remaining traditional cottages within this township and the only example retaining its thatched roof. As such it is an important and rare survival.

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. Thatched houses remained the norm for much longer in South Uist, with many being built in the 20th century (Miers, p.338). 379 Garrynamonie is of interest because it is a largely intact example of a mid-19th century thatched crofthouse.

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-Eilean 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).

379 Garrynamonie is a rare survival of a traditional building type that was once prolific across the highlands and northern isles of Scotland. In use from at least the mid-19th century this crofthouse and associated outbuildings retain a significant amount of historic fabric, showing elements of traditional construction and materials relevant to the Uists (See Regional Variations section below). Its survival in the township of Garrynamonie is of further interest because it stands surrounded by the rubble remnants of other crofthouses that once made up the earlier township and a reminder of its historic past.

Architectural or Historic Interest


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

Plan form

379 Garrynamonie 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 often seen in Na h-Eileanan Siar to protect against high winds. The cottage was purposely built facing an easterly direction to allow rough weather to hit the back of the house, where there are minimal openings, a common feature on Na h-Eileanan Siar.

The footprint of the cottage itself has changed little, except for the addition of a small porch and a shelter, in the early to mid-20th century. It is understood that this addition contained a toilet and a sink, and was a practical addition to increase the living accommodation rather than simply to shelter the entrance against the weather. This alteration does not significantly detract from the interest of this building and its traditional 19th century form is still visible.

The survival of its outbuildings is also important in understanding how a croft functioned.

Technological excellence or innovation, material or design quality

379 Garrynamonie has been constructed 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 marram thatched roof of the cottage has been renewed, as is regularly required, and was reinstated using traditional techniques and materials. The building was last rethatched in 2009.

The simple, local nature of such buildings meant that they could be altered to suit changes in building methods, the availability of materials and the needs of those using the buildings. This is reflected in the small alterations that were carried out in the 20th century, in particular the addition of a harled porch, the chimneystacks and the reroofing of the byre. The overall appearance of 379 Garrynamonie is that of a mid-19th century thatched cottage with associated croft buildings. 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 battered rubble walls with rounded corners.


This croft is located at the west end of the township of Garrynamonie. Garrynamonie sits just inland from the southern tip of the South Uist machair, a designated Special Area of Conservation (SAC) and the most extensive cultivated machair system in Scotland (Joint Nature Conservation Committee). Its setting, close to the machair, is of interest because this is likely the source of thatching material, and a tangible reminder of traditional methods of construction using locally sourced material.

The location and setting of crofthouses provides information about changing settlement patterns and agricultural land-use. The scattered cluster settlement pattern of the early 19th century was replaced with a more linear arrangement by 1878 with crofthouses on either side of the road through the township (as shown on the 1st edition Ordnance Survey). There are a handful of vernacular buildings, to the east of 379 Garrynamonie, in use as dwellings and stores. These have corrugated iron roofs, however their style and form indicate they are altered crofthouses. There are no other thatched examples in Garrynamonie.

The late 20th and early 21st century has seen development in the immediate vicinity of 379 Garrynamonie with the construction of whitehouses to replace the traditional blackhouses, bungalows and some two-storey houses. Aerial photographs show that remnants of blackhouses now dot the landscape.

379 Garrynamonie is one of the few largely intact crofthouses in this township including its associated outbuildings. It is prominently positioned at the west end of the township and a reminder of the area's historic past.

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 low form, thick battered rubble walls with rounded corners and its rounded thatched roof, with netting and weighting stones of 379 Garrynamonie, 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.

379 Garrynamonie shows the Uist-style of cottage with the roof sitting on the outer wall and the thatch material 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.

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 likely to be marram grass, which would have the traditional material because of its proximity to the machair and fitted according to traditional techniques.

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. Marram grass is pliable enough to create a swept ridge which minimises wind-lift. It has been netted and weighted along the eaves and around the chimney stacks with stones tied to the netting with wire. Small metal tubes secure the thatch further around the stacks.

The byre also shows traditional building techniques and materials, including low rubble walls. It has harled gabled ends rather than the typical rounded piended roof more commonly used on the Uists.

Close Historical Associations

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

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