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Tarradale Abandoned Settlement

 

In April 2018 the house and kailyard sites of an abandoned township just north of Tarradale Mains farm were surveyed and partially excavated. Several houses of poor tenants (mailers) are shown on the 1788 estate map but all had disappeared by the time of the first edition of the Ordnance Survey.  In February and March 2018, NOSAS volunteers cleared scrub vegetation from the site revealing the footings of five or six buildings, some of which coincide with building shown on the 1788 map (below).

 

All that survives of these buildings is their outline traced in irregular blocks of stone and round field-gathered stones. Our present understanding, subject to further investigation and evaluation, is that the foundations were of stone but above that the walls were made of layers of clay and turf interspersed with field gathered stones.

Fairly small irregular plots of rig and furrow are divided by unploughed ground, possibly pathways with a row of five or six buildings scattered along the centre of the settlement.  There are four small enclosed fields or kail yards.  Immediately to the south of the settlement a ditch is drawn and that is still there today.   Beyond the ditch the map identifies an area of moorland which today is a well cultivated field.  Interestingly beyond the moorland the rig and furrow fields are much larger than those beside the settlement. During the 1780s the landowners in Ross-shire were very involved in the modernising of farming practices so it is possible the ground to the south of the moorland already been ‘improved’.  The creation of large fields around a single farm house and ‘modern’ farm buildings was considered to be the way forward.  It allowed for commercial production of grain and cattle and sheep.

The large developing markets in England and central Scotland provided a large and hungry market for the produce of the Black Isle from the 1780s onwards.  The process of reorganisation meant that lots of poorer people were squeezed out of the old communally worked farms (fermtouns) and the buildings we see on the 1788 map represent the resettlement of these poorer people on to the marginal land. These tiny holdings were hopelessly uneconomic and within a couple of generations the yards and houses were all abandoned.  The map notes that 19 mealers had holdings to the north of Tarradale Mains and we appear to have the houses possibly belonging to 6 of the people named on the map.  There are 3 MacIvers, a Glass, a Grant and a McKenzie.

Further information on the settlement can read on the blog post.