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Lydsurach Crofthouse, Balblair Estate, near Bonar Bridge

A Category B Listed Building in North, West and Central Sutherland, Highland

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Coordinates

Latitude: 57.9258 / 57°55'32"N

Longitude: -4.3454 / 4°20'43"W

OS Eastings: 261187

OS Northings: 895350

OS Grid: NH611953

Mapcode National: GBR H7NS.08Q

Mapcode Global: WH3C5.61ZT

Entry Name: Lydsurach Crofthouse, Balblair Estate, near Bonar Bridge

Listing Date: 6 November 2019

Category: B

Source: Historic Scotland

Source ID: 407264

Historic Scotland Designation Reference: LB52528

Building Class: Cultural

Location: Creich (Highland)

County: Highland

Electoral Ward: North, West and Central Sutherland

Parish: Creich (Highland)

Traditional County: Sutherland

Description

A remarkably unaltered single storey and attic, three-bay, former crofthouse probably dating to around the mid-19th century. It is remotely sited to the north of Bonar Bridge at a location approximately 300m above sea level. It has been built in a small dip in the land to provide shelter and the entrance faces downhill (southwest).

It is constructed of local rubble stone, roughly shaped at the corners, and slaister pointing. It has a red corrugated iron roof with three rooflights to the principal elevation. There is a chimneystack on each gable. The principal elevation has a central basic two leaf boarded timber door. There is a small window opening to either side with timber sash and case windows with four pane glazing. The rear elevation has one small central window opening, now unglazed.

The interior survives largely as it was when built with no electricity, running water, sanitaryware or other modern interventions. The last period of decoration appears to have been in the 1930s. The interior consists of a small flagstoned entrance lobby with a room on either side. That to the left is the former parlour and has a timber floor and ceiling and some timber boarding surviving to the walls. There is a plain timber fire surround and a cast iron horseshoe-shaped fireplace. To the right is the kitchen which has a cast iron range from the Rose Street Foundry in Inverness set into a plain timber fire surround. To the left of this is a part-glazed cupboard. The walls and ceiling are covered in layers of wallpaper but are likely to be timber lined. The floor is also probably timber, now with subsequent layers of other flooring materials. A timber stair is set at right angles to the front door and is accessed from the kitchen. The stair provides access to the corresponding two bedrooms above. Behind the stair is a timber boarded storeroom accessed from the kitchen and there is a similar small room on the floor above. The timberwork in the crofthouse varies from very broad planed floorboards to small trees which have been simply cut in half and used with their bark to provide areas of walling.

Historical development

Vernacular buildings of this type are difficult to date accurately because their form and construction tended to change little over long periods of time, and there are less likely to be historic records about these modest buildings.

Lydsurach Crofthouse is shown on the 1874 Ordnance Survey map (as Ledsaurich) and the Rose Street Foundry where the range in the crofthouse was made was set up in the 1830s. This suggest that crofthouse was built around 1850-1870 during a period of relative prosperity. A newspaper dated 1952 in the crofthouse suggests that it was inhabited until around then. It was latterly used as an agricultural store and bothy. Some furniture and possessions belonging to the last inhabitant (possibly Charles MacKinnon) survive.

Lydsurach Crofthouse appears today largely as it was when built. There have been no apparent alterations or additions to its exterior or, apart from cosmetic redecoration, to its interior, since it was built. Its immediate setting has changed as the other buildings associated with the crofthouse appear now in various states of ruination or just as foundations in the landscape. Similarly, the wider landscape has changed from a much more populous one with many crofts to a more sparsely inhabited one.

Statement of Interest

Statement of Special Interest:

Lydsurach Crofthouse meets the criteria of special architectural or historic interest for the following reasons.

Architectural interest

Design

Lydsurach Crofthouse is an important example of an unaltered survivor of a crofter's cottage, once a common building type. It is a practical design carefully situated in a dip in the landscape to give it the best protection from the severe weather found in this location.

It is an example of the successor to the longhouse (now a nearby ruin) where people and animals lived in one building. It demonstrates the evolution of crofthouse buildings in the 19th century. Lydsurach shows the move to a separate building for people only and a level of prosperity and permanence for crofters in its timber flooring, range and bedrooms, replacing the earth floors, hanging lums and box beds found in longhouses. It's squared corners and wall height indicate a mid 19th century date.

Local materials and traditional building methods have been used in its construction, with the importation of the range from Inverness and the other cast iron fireplace as well as the corrugated iron roof being the only parts of the building not sourced in the immediate vicinity.

It is difficult to definitively determine if Lydsurach Crofthouse was originally thatched. There are no obvious thacktanes on the chimneystacks and there is not the usual depth between the corrugated iron and the skews that one would expect to see on a previously thatched roof. Corrugated iron became available from around 1850 so it is probable that Lydsurach Crofthouse had a corrugated iron roof from the beginning which has been replaced as required. Further on site research would be able to answer this question.

While buildings such as these (three bay single storey and attic rural cottages) do survive in Scotland, almost none survive as they were built, without any modernisation or additions whatsoever. The plan form is as it was built as is the interior. It is this lack of alteration which is exceptional.

Setting

Lydsurach Crofthouse is remotely situated on a steep hillside of heather and rough grassland at around 300 metres above sea level. This remoteness has largely ensured its survival. It remains largely hidden in its immediate landscape due to its intentional construction in a dip in the landscape. It has exceptional views across the Dornoch Firth and to the surrounding Highland landscape.

The 1874 map shows a collection of similar crofthouses, outbuildings and livestock enclosures across the wider landscape. Where these survive now they are generally only as rubble foundations or a few courses of wall. Immediately to the north of the crofthouse is the foundations of what was probably its longhouse predecessor. There are also remains of walled enclosures likely used for livestock.

The historic homes and buildings of previous neighbouring crofters are largely no longer extent, the remnants of these buildings show that historical development of the wider setting.

Historic interest

Age and rarity

As mid 19th century 3-bay single storey and attic cottages are prolific building type, they survive, albeit altered and modernised, in reasonable numbers across Scotland. Lydsurch Crofthouse is exceptional because it is an unaltered example of a mid 19th century crofter's cottage. Roofed crofthouses of this date and type which have not been altered or extended and which retain their interiors also unaltered to this exceptional degree are extremely rare. It is probable that only a handful of buildings like Lydsurach Crofthouse remain in Scotland.

Social historical interest

There is considerable social historical interest here. There can be very few other surviving examples of mid 19th century crofthouses which can so clearly show how crofters lived at this time. While the furniture and possessions remaining in the crofthouse are not covered by the listing they provide the potential for further important research into crofting life and the family who lived here. Crofting is a significant part of highland and island life in Scotland and unaltered examples like this building are exceptionally rare.

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