MHG1729 - Bridge - John O'Groats Mill


A mid-C17 bridge at John O'Groat's Mill, Caithness.

Type and Period (1)

  • BRIDGE (17th Century - 1651 AD? to 1651 AD?)

Protected Status

Full Description

A mid-C17 bridge at John O'Groat's Mill, Caithness.

The bridge was listed at Category B with the adjacent mill in 1984. It is believed to be the oldest military bridge in the Highlands.

In 2013 AOC Archaeology Group was commissioned by the Princes Regeneration Trust in association with the North Highland Initiative to undertake the first phase of works of a much wider vision for the future of the abandoned John O'Groats Mill. These works, undertaken between 4th-8th March and 14th March, included: a desk-based assessment and walkover survey of the land within the ownership of the mill owner; a detailed measured survey of the mill; a general topographic site plan of the area including the mill pond and its associated waterways; a detailed written and photographic survey of the mill, the mill cottages and the abandoned cottages to the north-west, as well as the adjacent 17th century Cromwellian Bridge; an inventory of all the moveable artefacts inside the mill and a geophysical survey on the ground surrounding the mill (carried out by Rose Geophysical Consultants).

The Cromwellian bridge is thought to date to 1651 and is a plain single span bridge over the main burn standing over bedrock to both sides. The top of the bridge has evidence that the walls either side were a lot more substantial than they are today, with an outer wall of stones to either side and an inner core of rubble, the whole approximately 0.75m in width to both sides, flanking the main road span about 1.90m wide. The voussoirs are cut from tall thin stones and have stood the test of time, although there does appear to be some evidence of slippage to the centre, where the stones have slightly slumped out of alignment with the arch.

The geophysical survey uncovered nothing but land drains to the field adjacent to the mill to the east, although there were some anomalies to the west of the present mill which may represent what remains of an earlier 1818 mill and/or pre-1818 mill (dating to at least the mid-18th century, probably earlier).

It was recommended that the next phase of works centre on excavations to the area to the west of the mill in conjunction with a general cleaning up of the area of the bridge in conjunction with the conservation plans of the mill. In addition, a closer examination of the artefacts within the mill has provided a general strategy for conservation and display. There is a huge scope for future community involvement in both these stages of the process, including visits, open days and oral history projects. <1> <2>

NOTE: Reference is made in <1> to an estate map of the lands of Duncansby dating to 1817. However, this map does not show this bridge, though it does show and label another bridge which used to carry the former county road over the burn to the southeast. It is possible that the latter bridge is shown because it carried a road whereas there does not seem to be any suggestion or evidence that the 'Cromwellian' bridge ever did so [IS-L 18/03/2022].

Sources/Archives (2)



Grid reference Centred ND 3717 7334 (12m by 15m)
Map sheet ND37SE
Civil Parish CANISBAY
Geographical Area CAITHNESS

Finds (0)

Related Monuments/Buildings (1)

Related Investigations/Events (1)

External Links (3)

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