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Bressachoil farmstead, Glen Ernan

A Scheduled Monument in Aboyne, Upper Deeside and Donside, Aberdeenshire

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Coordinates

Latitude: 57.2023 / 57°12'8"N

Longitude: -3.1508 / 3°9'2"W

OS Eastings: 330567

OS Northings: 812977

OS Grid: NJ305129

Mapcode National: GBR W9.0BSJ

Mapcode Global: WH6LM.K7TH

Entry Name: Bressachoil farmstead, Glen Ernan

Scheduled Date: 20 March 2007

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Source ID: SM11499

Schedule Class: Cultural

Category: Secular: farmstead

Location: Strathdon

County: Aberdeenshire

Electoral Ward: Aboyne, Upper Deeside and Donside

Traditional County: Aberdeenshire

Description

The monument comprises the remains of Bressachoil, a farmstead that originated in the 16th century or earlier and developed over a period that ran into the 20th century, when it failed. It lies on the N slope of Glen Ernan (referred to in the 16th century as 'the sunny side') and is marked as Bressachoil on the current 1:10,000 map, which depicts two unroofed buildings.

The first historical mention of Bressachoil is in 1559. Several 17th- to 20th-century documents also mention Bressachoil. General Roy's map of 1747-55 shows it as Braschicle, a group of seven buildings with a small plantation of trees immediately to the W. The Ordnance Survey (OS) First Edition 6'' map of 1869 shows it as a group of three roofed buildings, two unroofed buildings, two enclosures and a limekiln. The limekiln was probably built between the early 1790s and the late 1830s. The OS Second Edition 6" map (1902-03) shows three roofed buildings, three unroofed buildings and an old limekiln, which had obviously gone out of use in the intervening years. The sheepfold is no longer marked and the other enclosure has been built over.

The monument consists of the remains of 12 buildings, including a threshing mill and a limekiln, and enclosures. RCAHMS (unpublished) has identified at least three phases of development from the field remains. The historical texts reveal two phases of improvement. The buildings range in length from 6 m to 39 m and in width from 2 m to 11 m, within walls up to 1 m in thickness. Four are sub-rectangular with rounded ends, and may represent the earliest phase of settlement on the site. Several associated enclosures remain and these are included in the scheduling. The limekiln (external diameter 5.6 m) is fairly well preserved, surviving to 2 m high at its front face, and has an intact draw-hole. Its external diameter is 5.6 m, its bowl diameter is 3 m, and its draw-hole is 1.7m high by 1.4m wide.

The area proposed for scheduling is irregular on plan, to include the remains described and an area around them within which related material may be expected to be found, as marked in red on the accompanying map. Specifically excluded from the scheduling to allow for their maintenance are: the above-ground elements of the fence running across the monument; the top 30 cm of the modern track; and a single wooden trap set into the monument by the current fenceline (in the western part of the proposal area).

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Statement of Scheduling

Cultural Significance

The monument's archaeological and historic significance can be expressed as follows:

Intrinsic characteristics: The monument is a well-preserved example of a post-medieval township/farmstead with upstanding remains dating from the 16th to 19th centuries, and possibly earlier. Despite some extensive stone robbing, this monument retains well-constructed drystone walls and diagnostic architectural features. It includes a relatively well-preserved threshing mill and a limekiln. Given the site's current use as pastureland, it is likely that archaeological significant deposits relating to the construction, use and abandonment of the structures remain in situ. Although there has been some damage caused by the sinking of rabbit traps within the area to be scheduled, these affect a very small proportion of the site's area and there is a strong likelihood of the preservation of sub-surface archaeological deposits for all phases of the settlement, possibly back into the medieval period.

The site has considerable potential to enhance understanding of pre-Improvement farmsteads and the daily lives of the people who occupied them. Bressachoil represents the accumulated remains of repeated building on a single site and therefore has the potential to provide information relating to five centuries.

Contextual characteristics: The monument is a good representative of a once numerous class; Glen Ernan contains the most complete pre-Improvement agricultural landscape in Strath Don. Together with Auchnahaich, the remains of Bressachoil retain the potential to provide information on post-medieval settlement development and the process of Improvement in Glen Ernan. The survival of rental and other documents relating to these farmsteads at Aberdeen University and elsewhere, and census returns for the period in which they were occupied, enhance this potential. Comparison of the local vernacular architectural features in this area with those on other Scottish historic rural settlement sites may enhance our understanding of regional variation in rural settlement between the medieval period and the 19th century. The existence of several phases of occupation, potentially spanning 350 years or more, together with many surviving primary documents, provides a unique opportunity to obtain a better understanding of the development of vernacular architecture and agricultural life on a single site, over the entire post-medieval period.

Associative characteristics: The monument is the product of post-medieval agricultural activities. Developments in agricultural practice since the medieval period have affected the form of the site; in particular, Bressachoil assumed the lands of Auchnahaich and Lynmore in the 18th century, with the associated farmsteads being cleared. The farmstead was rebuilt in 1855 and then again, probably around 1882. The predominance and expansion of sheep farming following the Clearances can be observed in the historical sources, where the farmer at Bressachoil is described in 1871 as having 300 acres, of which 30 (10%) were arable. Ten years later, he had 4000 acres, of which 40 (1%) were arable. Occupation of the farmstead ceased at some point prior to 1906, but it continued in use for animal shelters etc.

The Clearances remain a prominent part of Scotland's national consciousness and that of countries to which those who had to leave there homes migrated, notably Canada, USA and Australia. The quality of the surviving documentary evidence means that it is possible for living descendants to identify the farmstead as where their ancestors lived. The sites in Glen Ernan therefore have potential in terms of genealogical tourism as well as academic research and education for schoolchildren and students in the UK.

National Importance

The monument is of national importance because it has an inherent potential to make a significant addition to the understanding of the past, in particular the pre-Improvement period and the Clearances. Its relatively good preservation and the survival of extensive historical records directly related to the monument's occupation enhances this potential. The loss of this example would impede any future ability to understand these issues and the history of Glen Ernan in particular. The monument also has a place in the national consciousness, given the strong continued interest in the UK and abroad in the Clearances of the 18th and 19th centuries

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Sources

Bibliography

RCAHMS record the township/farmstead part of this monument as NJ31SW101. The limekiln is recorded as NJ31SW100.

Aerial photographs:

NJ31SW101 2000 Bressachoil, farmstead D69240CN.

References:

Cruickshank K, Nisbet J and Greig M, THE LIMEKILNS OF UPPER DONSIDE: A FORGOTTEN HERITAGE.

Harrison J unpublished 2005, REPORT ON HISTORICAL RESEARCH FOR STRATHDON FIELD SURVEY, report for RCAHMS.

RCAHMS unpublished 2005, STRATHDON FIELD SURVEY REPORT.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

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