Tag Archives: Discovery and Excavation Scotland

The Discovery and Recording of a Victorian Hydro scheme at Orrin Falls, Ross-shire

by Meryl Marshall (NOSAS)

Aultgowrie, west of Muir of Ord, is a favourite area for short walks and I have been aware of a hydro scheme at Orrin Falls for many years but never given it much thought. However when I was browsing the Fairburn Estate website looking for something else I came across a photograph c1900 (below) and the following comment:

John Stirling used estate workmen to build a turbine house at the Orrin Falls and one further up river under the supervision of Mr Bagot from Glasgow and electric light was installed (in Fairburn House) in 1898.

The hydro-scheme was much older than I had thought and was worthy of more attention! For many years it had been overgrown with rhododendrons and overhung with trees however a few years ago the estate had carried out a programme of clearing these and it was more accessible. The site is marked on the current OS map as “weir” but there was obviously much more to it than that. It was unrecorded on the Local database http://her.highland.gov.uk/ and on the National database https://canmore.org.uk/.  So 18 months ago I set about gathering more information.

falls-of-orrin-1883

The Orrin Falls, GR NH 469517, are (or were) a series of attractive waterfalls (see painting above) within a gorge of the River Orrin. The natural rock is conglomerate and the total height drop from top to bottom of the gorge is roughly 15m. The hydro scheme is on the south bank of the gorge and comprises

  1. A dam
  2. The remains of an earlier dam
  3. A lade or channel
  4. A generator house.

And several other features;

  1. A rock-cut channel (on the north bank) probably intended as a salmon ladder
  2. The abutments of a footbridge
orrin-falls-hydro-c1900

The early photograph of the dam circa 1900 – reproduced with the permission of Fairburn Estate

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SHED: Report on the Implementing Scotland’s Historic Environment Data Strategy meeting, November 2015

By Susan Kruse (NOSAS and ARCH)

All archaeological projects should ensure that the results are distributed in a number of ways, so that the information will be available after the project finishes. In particular, we submit information to the local Historic Environment Record (the Highland HER) and Scotland-wide Canmore databases, and sometimes to Discovery and Excavation Scotland (DES) for new projects. Individuals should do so as well. Unless we share information, it will be lost. And information on the HER informs planning applications.

Over the past years the HER and Canmore have increasingly diverged, so that one needs to input separately to both, and needs to consult both when researching. During the consultation for Scotland’s Archaeology Strategy, this was raised at several Highland meetings as an issue people would like changed.

The SHED Project (Scotland’s Historic Environmental Data Strategy) is looking at these issues and others, on ways to share and link digital records. They are made up from a number of representatives from various organisations, though few with community archaeology perspective. They published a Strategy in April 2014 and are now working on ways to implement it.

At the beginning of the whole process a report suggested centralisation of data, but this was rejected as ‘not workable’. Instead, the main activity resulting from the Strategy so far is Pastmap (pastmap.org.uk) where you can used map-based searching techniques to see both Canmore and the HER data (and others  as well). However, you still need to look at both records, and cannot search by keywords.

pastmap strathpeffer

A screenshot of the Pastmap website

The SHED group is now consulting on how to implement its strategy, and held a meeting in November. Susan Kruse of ARCH and NoSAS attended, and these notes are a personal reflection on where matters stand after attending the meeting. Continue reading