by Marion Ruscoe (NOSAS)
Petty is situated on the east side of the Moray Firth and is bounded by the parishes of Ardersier, Croy and Inverness, although the boundary has changed on occasions. It’s around 8 miles by 4 miles in size but originally was cut in two by the Moss of Petty, which was drained in the late C18. The Old Statistical Account (1792) notes that ‘there are no towns, no villages, no manufactures in this parish’ (p.25), and the main occupation was farming and crofting, but some also followed other occupations – ‘taylors, weavers, shoemakers etc.’ (p.25). The account also mentions four mills and some fishing. The situation is well summarised in the New Statistical Account (1845):
Pettie may be described as an entirely agricultural parish, since the whole population, with the exception of the fishers, are employed directly in agriculture, or the subservient arts (p.398)
In 2012, Anne Coombs of NOSAS suggested that we might consider recording evidence of industries in the Highlands. At that discussion meeting some brainstorming produced a list of industries which might be relevant for such a study. The time scale suggested was Mediaeval to World War 2, and Anne identified 3 questions which might/should be considered –
- How do we go about raising the profile of the Industrial Highlands?
- What qualifies as an industry?
- How can we identify the remains?
Following that suggestion, I decided to look at the industrial history and archaeology of Petty Parish.
To clarify the second point above, I defined industry as an activity which processes raw materials. It’s clear that most industrial activity in Petty in the past has been to service the produce of the farms or provide the necessities for the people living in the parish. As far as remains on the ground, since the area has been intensively farmed, it’s likely that archaeological sites will be few.
Any agricultural society requires mills to process the grain produced and most landowners took advantage of this situation by providing mills and requiring tenants to use, and pay for, the services of particular mills. It was no different in Petty where, according to the Old Statistical Account, there were four mills at the end of the eighteenth century (p.25) – at Connage, Culblair, Tornagrain and the salt-water mill on the shore near Castle Stuart. These four mills probably reflected the four estates which held land in the parish. By the time of the New Statistical Account, only one mill remained – that at Connage. Since the area had become no less agricultural in the intervening years, some farmers must have been using mills in neighbouring parishes by this time.
The place name, Milton, indicates the historical existence of a mill, though names can move, so this evidence should be treated with caution. In Petty Parish there are two Milton place names recorded in the 1st edition 6” OS map – Milton of Connage and Milton of Breachlich which has become Milton of Gollanfield in the present OS Landranger series, 2016. Culblair, mentioned in the OSA, is the neighbouring farm to Milton of Breachlich, though where the historic mill was actually situated is difficult to establish. But there is a substantial water management system at Milton of Breachlich where a sluice with adjoining ponds is marked on the 6” 1st edition OS map and the modern Landranger map indicates a water course running into a pond at the farm and then onwards towards the firth between Treeton and Ardersier. However, this is not clear on the aerial photograph which merely shows a patch of rough ground (NH791 521) where these features were. There is also a sluice marked on the 1st edition 6” OS map at Culblair (NH790 520), but this might refer to the water system created for the thrashing mill (see below).
The site of the salt-water mill (NH735 497 MHG36425) was surveyed in 2001and the HER records it as ‘a rectangular building with sluice and an associated dyke and possibly two other structures’. Today the site is very nearly inaccessible because of the Castle Stuart Links and the trees which have grown up around Petty Old Parish Church make even viewing the site impossible. It was built by Cromwell (there is an entry in the Kirk Session records for Petty Church indicating that in 1682 the two millers were charged with running the mill on a Sunday) and had two wheels, but ceased working around 1826, though it continued as a dwelling and is recorded in the 1841 census as being occupied by two elderly women. It disappears from the record in 1851 and is shown as a roofless building on the 1st edition 6” OS map.
The mill at Connage is memorialised in the name Milton of Connage in the 1st edition 6” OS map, though other maps do not use this name, but no mill building is identified on this or later maps. However, Thomson’s map of 1832 clearly shows the mill as further into Stewarton of Ardersier than the current location of Milton of Connage would indicate and Stuart Street has a row of cottages where the mill building would have been. The New Statistical Account notes that the boundary of the parish on the east was a burn which had been diverted ‘beyond the recollection of anyone now living’ (p.377) to serve a mill, and thus emptied into the Firth on the west, instead of the east side of Stewarton. The Ardersier web-site indicates that the burn entering the Firth at the Ship Inn drove the mill at Connage, but there’s no sign of this watercourse today. But if this is accurate, the location of the mill and its water system on the Thomson map must reflect the comment in the New Statistical Account since the Ship Inn was located according to the HER at NH78117 55246, while Thomson shows the mill further west and closer to NH781 545. There appears to have been a complex of mills at Connage, and the report of the fire at the meal mill of Connage in January 1850 mentions that the neighbouring saw mill, which was situated at the junction of the B9039 and B9092, was saved, though the meal mill and kiln were both destroyed.
There’s no evidence of a mill at Tornagrain, but as there was also a distillery in that area (see below) evidence for which there is only one documentary reference it’s clear that many features of the life of the parish have not been clearly recorded for later historians and archaeologists.
In 1817 an advert appeared in the Inverness Advertiser regarding the sale or let of malt and meal mills, worked by four horses, at Poletown of Flemington but they were clearly related to the adjoining farm and distillery.
Many of the farmers had thrashing mills, taking advantage of the burns which ran down from the Braes (the area between the Moss and Croy) to the sea and it’s possible that remains of some of these may exist on the modern farms. Associated with this were the water systems to power these mills, though for the most part they have disappeared in the modern landscape.
In 1835 there was an advert for carpenters and masons to build a thrashing mill, powered by water, at Culblair Farm and a sluice and substantial pond are identified on the 6” 1st edition OS map (NH778 511) but the aerial photograph shows no indication of these features. The tragic death of John MacLennan, while driving the horses at the thrashing mill at Kerrowgair Farm was reported in 1869 but the three farms at Kerrowgair (Wester, Mid and Easter Kerrowgair) were on the site of the Dacross Industrial Estate and the airport and have since disappeared. Jonathan Wordsworth identified a mill leat near Kerrowaird farm (MHG18472) and what looks like a mill pond with a sluice and lade is recorded on the 6” 1st edition OS map at NH761 491. The ghost of these features can be seen on aerial photographs. When Poletown distillery and farm was advertised for sale or let in 1817, a thrashing mill was included but there is no indication on the 6” 1st edition of this or any water system to power a mill or feed the distillery, which would, in any case, have been long gone by the second half of the C19.
Macrae records the existence of querns for making meal in Morayston farmhouse garden and there is a complex water system on the C19 OS maps with the Rough Burn running down from the High Wood through a large pond and sluice and down to the farm buildings where there is another sluice and a waterfall with a lade running past the farm buildings. On the modern map something of the mill dam remains at NH753 483 and the burn still runs
from the High Wood to the Firth behind Castle Stuart. Macrae also comments on a small mound beside the duckpond at Newton of Petty Farm which he believed to be the site of a horse-driven water mill which fell out of use about 1885. The area that is marked as a pond on the 6” 1st edition OS map has been drained in very recent times (I remember seeing the pond with geese within the last 30 years) and planted as a garden.
At Balmachree the early map shows a pond and sluice at NH737 475 which have completely disappeared and at Hillhead a mill dam with a sluice (NH 777 499) was probably also to provide power to a thrashing mill for the farm, but they, too, have disappeared.
Given the amount of timber being grown in the parish, it should be no surprise that there were sawmills to process the wood, even though in the early C19 they served primarily local needs. In 1850 a small sawmill at Petty was advertised for sale, but there is no indication where exactly it was.
The 1st edition 6” OS map shows only a sawmill at Seafield Cottage, Ardersier, and, as noted above, the report of the fire at the meal mill of Connage in 1850 mentions a neighbouring saw mill. The site of this is at the junction of the B9039 and B9092 but today the site is an empty space. An advert for the sale of sawn timber at Tornagrain sawmill appeared in 1898, with the auctioneer’s address being given as Gollanfield Sawmills, Fort George Station but this isn’t identified on any of the maps.
Corn kilns are ubiquitous in the townships of the highlands, so it’s likely that they existed in the pre-improvement landscape of Petty parish. However, the effect of intensive agriculture may well have destroyed obvious evidence of these on the ground. A circular pit with an arched passage at Morayston Farm may be a kiln (MHG3055) though the HER records that ‘no knowledge of this structure was encountered at Morayston’ when it was visited in 1962. At Balmachree there are the remains of a building incorporating a corn-drying kiln. (MHG2953).
A requirement for any agricultural society is the smiddy and between 1841 and 1901 the censuses record 9 to 16 blacksmiths in the parish. By the time of Slater’s Directory in 1911 Archibald Dunbar was working as a farrier at Gollanfield Crossroads, and three other blacksmiths are listed – at Gollanfield Mains, Tornagrain and Stuarton.
The 1st edition 6” OS map shows the smiddy at Gollanfield Crossroads (called the Lower Crossroads), and this building still exists at the junction of the A96 and the B9090, having been for many years the Culloden Pottery and then a fast food outlet. The interior still had some of the fitments for the smiddy while the pottery was there, but has been extensively remodelled since and a fire some years ago probably put paid to anything that might have survived.
The smiddy at Gollanfield Mains was at NH811 534 on the 6” 1st edition OS map. By the 2nd edition the access road to Pooltown Farm had been changed and the smiddy had moved to NH811 535. Today there are houses on both sites.
The OS name books describe Tornagrain as a village with ‘several cottages with a smith’s and carpenter’s shops….one storey high, partly slated and partly thatched.’ Tornagrain Smiddy was located at NH767 499 and today there is a single storey building which is being used as a garage. One of the cottages in the row near the junction with the A96 is named Smithy Cottage.
The smiddy at Stuarton is shown on the 25” 1st edition at a site on the High Street, but by the 6” 2nd edition it’s shown on Stuart Street at NH781 546. A farm and forestry equipment outlet is now on this site.
There was also a smiddy at Newton sited at NH743 488 but 1881 is the last time the census records a blacksmith there. Newton as a community has all but disappeared and though there is a derelict cottage in the area where the smiddy would have been, the whole site is very overgrown and on the A96 making access difficult.
The 6” 1st edition OS map also records a smiddy between Wester and Mid Kerrowgair and there are entries for blacksmiths at Wester Kerrowgair (1861 & 1871) and Upper Kerrowgair (1881 & 1891) in the censuses. Since Upper Kerrowgair is not identified on any of the early OS maps, we must assume that these entries relate to the same place which has disappeared under the Dalcross Industrial Estate at NH762 519.
Although several quarries existed in the surrounding area, there is little evidence of large-scale quarrying within Petty. On the 1st edition 6” OS map (1874) there is a reference to Hillhead Quarry, with an accompanying note in the OS Name Books that it is ‘a small quarry situated a few chains south of Hillhead from which stones are obtained for the repair of roads and building of dykes’. Bain indicates that it also produced sandstones, flagstones and shales but Macrae, in 1973, notes that it is dormant and a new quarry has been opened at Cullaird. There is a huge modern quarry there now. The quarry at Hillhead was always within the woodland and its site is still in woodland at NH777 498. C19 OS maps also identify a gravel pit in High Wood at NH772 494 and in Tornagrain Wood there was an ‘old gravel pit’ at NH767 502 and another ‘gravel pit’ on the other side of the road at NH769 502. There was also a sand pit at NH766 500. By 1938-39 there was a sand and gravel pit at Alturlie Point which is identified on the modern Landranger OS map (2016). Another sand pit was located between Newton and Morayston but that and the nearby cottage have disappeared under a ploughed field. These various sites were probably established to address specific and short-term needs and most are now covered with trees. Only one “quarrier” is listed in the censuses between 1841 and 1901 and that is at Culblair.
Following the amalgamation of smaller farms into larger units, one of the farmers on the Braes, John Collie of Morayston, established a distillery which continued till his death in 1824. Collie’s will and inventory listed the distillery items which were valued by James Strother of Balmachree and John Clounas who is described as a Licensed Appraiser at Tornagrain Distillery. This source, therefore identifies not just Mr. Collie’s distillery but also another one at Tornagrain, for which there is no other evidence. The inventory recognises that ‘the Distillery articles……..having been long used are consequently almost worn out and are comparatively of little value, not being such as could be used with safety’.
Another distillery was established at Poletown of Flemington (now Pooltown), but this appears to have not been too successful an enterprise, since there are notices in the local press about sales of distillery items to pay excise duty, including a considerable quantity of aquavitae and large parcels of malt and barley in 1816, and a quantity of dry malt, stills and worms in 1819. This distillery was advertised for sale or let in 1817, along with the farm, thrashing mill, malt and meal mills, and was capable of producing between 80 and 40,000 gallons of spirits a year. In addition, the produce could easily be shipped from the nearby shore. In 1823, James Falconer was described in the Inverness Journal as ‘late farmer and distiller at Flemington’ and this might refer to the distillery at Pooltown though it is possible that a farm on the other side of the A96 from Gollanfield in the area of Loch Flemington also operated a distillery in the early years of the C19.
The area also seems to have had its fair share of illegal activity and in 1842, as reported in the press, an excise officer discovered a well-concealed illicit still ‘at the side of the new Nairn road, about four miles and a half from Inverness’. It was an extensive site – ‘an excavation which seemed to have escaped detection for many years, and formed the most complete concealment. The entrance to it was from the inside of an old house, and the water was conveyed in pipes from a distance of some hundred yards. It contained six tuns as large as those used in some legal distilleries, a still, two still heads, several casks, and a considerable quantity of malt. It was so artfully constructed that a person might walk over it without discovering it’.
Morayston and Pooltown are still working farms but the other two (or three) sites can’t be identified.
Culloden Brick and Tile Factory
Of all the industrial activity in Petty Parish, this is the one unequivocal example of a “manufacture” (see OSA) in the history of the parish to WW2, though the Fiddler’s Burn, which was the boundary of the parish on the south, cuts through the site, so this particular example perhaps better belongs to Inverness parish. It was established by Sir Arthur Forbes of Culloden following the Drainage Act of 1846, taking advantage of a local supply of suitable clay at Lower Cullernie and access to the Firth for shipping out the product at Alturlie Point. A pier was built at Brecknish (NH713 487), with the intention of providing a railway with horse-drawn wagons to take the tiles from the factory to the coast, though there is no evidence that the railway was ever constructed. Instead the finished product was taken by cart across the field by the Hemp Loch to the pier. The 25” 1st edition OS shows the brickworks as a collection of buildings at Lower Cullernie (centred on NH727 478) including three long buildings which were the drying sheds. By the 6” 2nd edition all the buildings have disappeared, though the area is still marked as ‘Tileworks’ and the only building to survive is the cottage at NH725 478.
A notice appeared in the Inverness Journal in May 1847 anticipating completion of the buildings for Culloden Brick and Tile Works by the middle of July and there was a series of tenants running the works, the first being a partnership of Daniel Campbell and Kennedy McNab, which was dissolved in 1852 when McNab became bankrupt. Campbell continued as tenant but in 1859 he too became bankrupt and William Brodie took over in 1860 with the intention of fitting ‘improved machinery’. The works were advertised to let again in 1873 but were recorded as vacant in the Valuation Rolls of 1874-75, though by the following year John Hendrie and son had taken over as tenants and in 1880 they sued William Ross and the estate of Arthur Forbes of Culloden for the value of the ‘steam engines, machinery, tools etc.’ in the works. They had signed a ten-year lease in 1874, but became bankrupt in 1878 and renounced the lease thus allowing the landlord to re-let the works to Ross. In 1891 Hector McKaskill is recorded in the census as the brickwork manager but it ceased trading around this time.
The works produced drainage tiles and bricks – ‘25 per cent larger than the usual size’ – but it doesn’t seem to have been plain sailing, since in 1851 an apology appeared in the Inverness Advertiser for having run out of pipes and tiles at the end of the previous season. To avoid such a circumstance happening again, an extension was built and ‘every species of brown ware’ could be added to the items being produced. In 1849 a yard was opened in Petty Street, Inverness, where small quantities of bricks, tiles, chimney cans, flower pots, etc. could be purchased and a yard was established at Balintraid in 1850 to serve customers in Easter Ross.
In the early years production seems to have stopped for the winter months. Bricks and tiles were made by hand initially, but by 1850 hand operated moulding machines were being used. and kilns at the end of each shed were fired by Newcastle coal. The notice in the Aberdeen Journal in 1857 indicates that the machinery was by then driven by steam power.
All that remains is a large depression where the clay was extracted and a single cottage. There is some evidence of the Pier at Breaknish. Keeping an eye on the tide, it’s possible to walk along the coastline at Alturlie Point and note the point where the shards of pottery and broken bricks become more numerous just north of the buildings at Brecknish. The site at Lower Cullernie is more difficult to access because of the A96 and the best view of the depression created by the extraction of clay is from the train.
The Brick and Tile Works don’t seem to have ever been particularly profitable, but their closure was probably as much to do with the local source of clay being exhausted and by the 1890s the brickworks had ceased operation.
Information on cottage industries is best got from the census where we can see that inhabitants of Petty were engaged in a variety of activities.
The number of shoemakers recorded in the censuses suggests that this was a sizable cottage industry which decreased as the century wore on. 23 are recorded throughout the parish in 1841, 19 in 1851, 17 in 1861, 10 in 1871 and 1881, 2 in 1891 and 1 in 1901. In Slater’s Directory, 1911, only Peter Morrison at Lochflemington remains as a boot manufacturer.
The Old Statistical Account notes that some tenants grew flax which was spun and manufactured into linen (p.27) and the New Statistical Account suggests that the cultivation of flax was important to the small farmers of the area. Bain, too, mentions the importance of flax cultivation. Spinning was exclusively done by the women and the fine linen was sold. The Old Statistical Account notes that there was a flax mill on the lands of Rose of Holme in the parish of Croy and Dalcross, where the flax was processed for Croy and the surrounding parishes. However, no mention is made of this in the New Statistical Account but the reference to the Hemp Loch (so far I’ve not been able to identify this feature, though it must be one of two lochans on Alturlie Point) suggests that there was some retting going on and a former inhabitant of Alturlie Point in the 1970s offered this comment – ‘an old lady who lived at Alturlie Point used to work at a rope works in Inverness in her youth…… presumably the rope was made from hemp? In the First World War years I think a lot of clothing was made from nettles probably because of lack of access to cotton at the time. Nettles were also soaked before retting and made into fibre to spin and weave but maybe not strong enough for rope’. Wool was woven and spun for ordinary use though at least one woman claimed to be a knitter in 1891.
In 1841 4 weavers were living in the parish – at Lakerie (somewhere between Alturlie and Upper Cullernie), Balcaldrech (hand-loom weaver), Loch Flemington Side and the Crossroads. By 1851 that number had been halved. John McIntosh was still living at Lochside of Flemington and Charles Clark is recorded at Balspardon. From 1871-1901 in the censuses 1 weaver is recorded in the parish – a worsted weaver at Upper Cullernie (1871) – and John Clark, a wool weaver, was at Balspardon in 1881, 1891 and at Loch Flemington Croft in 1901 (was he related to Charles Clark above?). There is no mention in the censuses of linen weaving specifically. In 1851 there were 5 spinners at Connage, Fishertown of Petty, Balnaglach and Kerrogair.
Associated trades are tailoring and dressmaking. 7 tailors are recorded in the parish in 1841 and 1851, 9 in 1861, 1 in 1871, 3 in 1881, 7 in 1891 and 3 in 1901. As for dressmakers, 1 is recorded in 1851, 8 in 1861 & 1871, 3 in 1881, 9 in 1891 and 2 in 1901. One woman put her occupation as sewing maid in 1891. In addition, there is one bonnet maker at Stuartown in 1851, a milliner in Stewart Street in 1871 and one at Culblair in 1901. There was also a glover at Balnaglach in 1841
The building trades were represented by builders, carpenters, joiners, slaters and thatchers.
Archaeology on the ground
From an archaeological point of view Petty Parish is rather disappointing. Very few remains of the industrial activity can be identified, and the A96 makes exploring particular sites difficult. Side roads are narrow with few places to stop. There may be the relics of the thrashing mills at some of the farms and perhaps some remnants of mills, converted to other uses. Cottage industries, by their very nature are unlikely to leave many remains. Some of the smiddies may well be disguised as private homes and only the Smiddy at the Lower Crossroads on the A96 can clearly be seen in close to its original form.
Answering the questions
To answer Anne’s questions Petty parish is perhaps not the best example to choose. However, let’s give it a go.
What qualifies as an industry?
This is a hot potato since the word industry can be applied to almost any human endeavour, e.g. care industry, leisure industry, and we could spend a lot of time and effort trying to find a definition which is acceptable to everyone. Any definition should not be too narrow nor too wide, but should be flexible enough to take account of unexpected features. But I think that to apply a definition which might be what the ordinary man in the street might expect to find in a study of industry would probably work well. For myself, I’m happy with my definition as given above which is flexible but avoids the survey becoming too diffuse.
How can we identify the remains?
The example of Petty parish shows that though there may not be many remains on the ground, that doesn’t mean that there hasn’t been industrial activity in the past. I made use of maps and place-name evidence, and the facility offered by the National Library to superimpose old maps on the modern landscape was very helpful in this. The evidence to be found in the Statistical Accounts was also helpful and a good starting point and the census records are invaluable especially when identifying cottage industries. Am Baile too provided some access particularly to newspaper reports, though this is not by any means exhaustive and the index is limited. The HER records, while not very extensive for industry in Petty parish, are likely to be more useful for other areas. And it doesn’t hurt to browse either on the internet or in the reference library. Some industries, by their very nature, are unlikely to leave any footprints, so the documentary evidence will be the only record. Of course, at some point it’s necessary to get out and see what we can find and I’m grateful to Beth for helping me with this even though we didn’t find much!
How do we go about raising the profile of the Industrial Highlands?
What do we do with any result of our efforts to identify the industrial heritage of the Highlands? The NOSAS Blog is a good way of making any survey available to a wider public. In some cases it might be possible to create a walk which engages with the industrial remains of an area. Or perhaps we should consider creating a gazetteer of surviving industrial sites. And certainly, any remains which are reasonably substantial and not recorded on the HER should be reported, something which NOSAS is well practised in.
Bain. G. (1925): The Lordship of Petty. Nairn, Nairnshire Telegraph
Macrae, K.A. (1973): Highland Ways and Byways. Inverness, Cullernie Crafts
Macrae, K.A. (1955): Northern Narrative. Edinburgh, Moray Press