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Ruthven, depopulated township 600m south of

A Scheduled Monument in Inverness South, Highland

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Latitude: 57.3668 / 57°22'0"N

Longitude: -3.9716 / 3°58'17"W

OS Eastings: 281515

OS Northings: 832420

OS Grid: NH815324

Mapcode National: GBR J9K7.X1Y

Mapcode Global: WH4H5.Y3YC

Entry Name: Ruthven, depopulated township 600m S of

Scheduled Date: 7 November 2007

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Source ID: SM11901

Schedule Class: Cultural

Category: Secular: settlement, including deserted, depopulated and townships

Location: Moy and Dalarossie

County: Highland

Electoral Ward: Inverness South

Traditional County: Inverness-shire


The monument comprises a depopulated township visible as upstanding ruins. It lies 600m S of the occupied farmstead at Ruthven, to the south of the River Findhorn on a raised platform above the flood plain, at around 260-90m above sea level.

The township comprises two main areas of settlement that are partially separated by a copse marked on the Ordnance Survey First Edition mapping of 1871-5. The first group consists of 15 structures and a small enclosure. These structures are spread out in a widely linear fashion, covering an area of 240m by 100m, and could possibly be grouped into three smaller clusters of buildings. The structures consist of stone footings that have been partially covered by turf with only the four main corner stones visible on some of the structures. There was no evidence of bonding on any of the masonry and it is likely that the stone footings are of drystone construction. The first cluster of five buildings is orientated ENE-WSW and consists of two long houses, measuring between 21m and 25m in length and 4.7m to 5.2m in width. These structures are probably dwellings, as they both retain more complex architectural elements than the other buildings, such as internal divisions and more complicated floor plans. One of these buildings has an alcove that measures 4.5m by 2m and is possibly interpreted as a bedneuk, where the family would sleep, although archaeological evidence from other townships, such as Easter Raitts, has interpreted similar architectural additions as dairies and even stalls for the cattle. The other three buildings have no internal divisions and measure between 10m to 12.5m in length by 4m to 5m in width. The lack of architectural features and internal compartments may indicate that these structures are either barns or possibly even industrial buildings. However, this is again difficult to ascertain from the form alone, as simple buildings, such as these, have been interpreted as dwellings in the past. This cluster of structures has a trapezoidal-shaped enclosure to the west, probably for animals. It measures 17.1m in width and narrows to 12.4m, with a length of 16.2m.

The second cluster of five structures, to the east, consists of a similar mix of possible dwellings and barns orientated NW-SE. There are three possible dwellings, one of which is slightly different from those described above. Although it has an internal division, the building is shorter and only measures 15.9m in length. It is also simpler in design with no additional alcoves. The other two structures measure between 10.8m and 11.7m in length and 4.7m and 5m in width. They are similar in design and size to the structures in the first cluster that were interpreted as barns. There is a further structure approximately 50m to the N of this group, which measures 17m by 4.7m. It has no evidence of internal partitions but the measurements of this building are very similar to the more 'simple' dwelling noted in this cluster of structures.

The third cluster consists of three dwellings to the E of the second group. All of these buildings are slightly different. The first building is orientated N-S and measures 15m by 5m with no internal partitions. The second building is orientated NE-SW and measures 13.1m in length by 5.3m wide with one internal partition. The third building measures 18m by 5m and also has one internal partition. This building is orientated ENE-WSW in parallel with the track. The second group of seven buildings seem to be more formalised and is situated around a large rectangular enclosure. These buildings sit on the high ground above the first group of structures, to the east of the copse. These structures appear to be better preserved as the stone footings, of drystone construction, are visible above the ground and stand to a height of approximately 0.7m high. The buildings consist of three possible dwellings, measuring approximately 24m in length and 5 m in width with two internal partitions. The dwellings appear to be more formulaic in comparison to the first group of structures and are orientated NE to SW. The other four structures have no internal divisions and vary in length from 12.5m to 20.5m and 4.5m to 5m in width. One of the structures is outwith the main group. However, it is aligned with the two dwellings to the SE of the enclosure and so is likely to be associated.

The township also has other features that are commonly associated with this type of settlement, such as rig and furrow down on the floodplain, a head dyke separating the second group of structures from the common grazing land, cultivation beds or lazy beds within the settlement and a kiln barn. The kiln barn is situated to the NW of the settlement on a lower terrace next to a small spring. It measures 12.8m by 6.3m and the interior of the kiln bowl measures 2.2m. There is also an additional enclosure, measuring 4.6m by 4.1m, abutting the kiln barn to the east.

The monument is a good example of a well-preserved post-medieval early township in this region. It is a complex site and the levels of preservation between the two groups may suggest that there are at least two phases to this particular settlement. It includes evidence of how townships were constructed. The form of the township exemplifies how its inhabitants used and perceived the land. This is illustrated by the divisions of land within the township, such as 'outfields' (on the floodplain),

'doorland' (lazybeds within the settlement), enclosures for animals, and the head dyke, dividing the township from the wild common summer grazing land immediately above the settlement. It is an example of a way of life that was eradicated by changes in land divisions and agricultural techniques. Although in some parts of Scotland this way of living lasted until the 19th century, this type of communal township had largely come to an end. This is partly attributable to the change in land ownership from common to private in the Highland region, the push to tie single people to the land through crofting tenures and the agricultural revolution, which dramatically changed the way people farmed the land.

The area to be scheduled has two parts - one is irregular on plan (the boundary to the SE follows, where applicable, the copse's boundary), and the other rectangular on plan - to include the remains described and an area around in which evidence for their construction and use may survive, as shown in red on the accompanying map. Both scheduled areas specifically exclude the above-ground elements of fences and gates and the enclosure that abutts the sheepfank to the east, to allow for their maintenance.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Statement of Scheduling

Cultural Significance

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

Intrinsic characteristics: This well-preserved early post-medieval township contains many different construction styles and architectural elements. It shows a level of complexity, both in its layout and building types, as well as the potential for two phases of occupation. This site therefore adds to our understanding of how people laid out rural townships and what was important to the people who lived and worked on the land at this period. The monument also has the archaeological potential to add to our understanding of how people in the Post-Medieval Period worked and lived within the limitations of the landscape and how they adapted to accommodate those limitations. It could also add additional information to the historical sources that already exist.

Contextual characteristics: This monument is representative of the way the rural population lived and worked in early townships in the Highland region prior to the changes in land management that led to the demise of this type of settlement. It is also part of a wider complex settlement pattern associated with historical influences such as tenure, common grazing rights and population growth. It has the potential to allow us to add to our understanding of the differing types of settlement pattern and farming styles, both geographically and historically

Associative characteristics: This settlement exemplifies a way of living commonly associated with the Pre-Improvement Period, prior to land and settlements being divided into consolidated holdings. This type of monument is set within an important and turbulent part of Scottish history. Its demise marks major political changes as the clan system begins to fade and a union with England brings major change to Scotland's traditions. The end of the old clan system and the role of the clan chief as a father figure brought major changes in the perception of who owned land and subsequently how this land could be used by the lower levels of society. Therefore this type of settlement may add to our understanding about this important aspect of the region's and Scotland's history.

National Importance

The site is of national importance because it has the inherent potential to make a significant addition to our understanding of later rural settlement in the Highlands as well as in wider Scotland. The retention of structural and architectural elements to a marked degree also allows us to understand how these settlements were constructed and how people lived and worked in rural Scotland in the Pre-Improvement Period. This type of settlement is integral to understanding how the rural population exploited the landscape in the Post-Medieval Period and adds to our understanding of the history of that period.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland



RCAHMS record the monument as NH83SW 10. The monument is recorded in the Highland Council SMR as NH83SW0011.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

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