History in Structure

Ale House, Souter Johnnie's Cottage, Main Road, Kirkoswald

A Category A Listed Building in Girvan and South Carrick, South Ayrshire

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Latitude: 55.3301 / 55°19'48"N

Longitude: -4.7759 / 4°46'33"W

OS Eastings: 224008

OS Northings: 607516

OS Grid: NS240075

Mapcode National: GBR 43.6BM4

Mapcode Global: WH2QD.L9Z6

Plus Code: 9C7Q86JF+2J

Entry Name: Ale House, Souter Johnnie's Cottage, Main Road, Kirkoswald

Listing Name: Souter Johnnie's Cottage including Ale House, Main Road, Kirkoswald

Listing Date: 14 April 1971

Last Amended: 9 June 2021

Category: A

Source: Historic Scotland

Source ID: 407464

Historic Scotland Designation Reference: LB7586

Building Class: Cultural

ID on this website: 200407464

Location: Kirkoswald

County: South Ayrshire

Electoral Ward: Girvan and South Carrick

Parish: Kirkoswald

Traditional County: Ayrshire


Built 1785. Single-storey, four-bay, L-plan cottage. Two entrances at the centre of the street elevation. Limewashed, coursed rubble walls. Wheatstraw thatched roof with a cedar roof ridge. Chimneystack on east end gable and straight skews.

Interior, seen in 2017, comprising two rooms with single room in attic and former workshop in rear outshot. Each room has a flag stone floors, a stone hearth with timber fire surrounds.

In the rear garden is a single-storey, square plan ale house, built of rubble stone and with a heather thatched roof. Inside the ale house are a set of four statues believed to have been sculpted around 1830 by the self-taught Ayrshire-born, mason sculptor James Thom

Statement of Interest

The cottage was built in 1785 by John Davidson, the village shoemaker. Davidson is believed to be the inspiration for 'Souter Johnnie' immortalised by Robert Burns in his well-known epic poem Tam o' Shanter (Souter was the local Scottish term for a shoemaker). Davidson lived in the cottage with his family, until his death in 1806 and the cottage remained in the family until 1920, when it was handed over to the Souter Johnnie's House Restoration Committee which oversaw its restoration. It was then passed to the National Trust for Scotland in 1932.

These vernacular buildings were once common across Scotland, but are now extremely rare. Souter Johnnie's Cottage is a remarkably unaltered example of a late 18th century cottage, showing distinctive regional building methods and materials. Notable features include the thick, coursed rubble walls and a wheatstraw thatched roof with a cedar roof ridge. These buildings are important in helping us understand traditional skills and an earlier way of life.

It is among a relatively small number of traditional buildings with a surviving thatched roof found across Scotland. A Survey of Thatched Buildings in Scotland, published in 2016 by the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings (SPAB), found there were only around 200 buildings of this type remaining, most of which are found in small rural communities. The industrial and agricultural revolution of the 18th and 19th centuries transformed this part of Scotland in a very short period of time. Consequently, thatch was replaced with slate roofs and few buildings with thatched roofs survive. Other thatched buildings nearby are also associated with Burns including Burns Cottage (see LB21476), Burns Bachelors' Club (see LB19689) and Tam O'Shanter Inn (see LB21638).

The interiors of this type of traditional cottage were often simple. Many of them have been refurbished and historic features no longer survive. The building retains its traditional plan form of two large rooms (unusually each with a separate entrance from the street to separate clients from the family) with a single room in the attic. The outshot at the back of the cottage was Davidson's workshop. The interior retains some traditional fixtures and fittings, including stone hearths with timber fire surrounds.

In the rear garden is a single-storey, square plan ale house, built of rubble stone and with a heather thatched roof. This ale house is shown on the 1st Edition Ordnance Survey map (surveyed 1856) as part of a linear run of buildings attached to the rear of the cottage. These 'backland' buildings tend to be subject to more alterations than the buildings fronting the main street, and those that survive predominantly in an early 19th century form or earlier and retain a significant amount of their historic fabric are increasingly rare and may be listed. The ale house is only a small part of the original run but remains an important ancillary component of the cottage.

Statutory address and listed building record revised in 2021. Previously listed as 'Souter Johnnie's Cottage.'

External Links

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