MHG1947 - Farmsteading, Osties Hill


No summary available.

Type and Period (1)

  • FARMSTEAD (18th Century to 19th Century - 1750 AD to 1876 AD)

Protected Status

  • None recorded

Full Description

The remains of this farmstead are situated on a low rise within a field that was once cultivated but is now given over to permanent pasture. The steading is L-shaped on plan, open to the N and E, and comprises a range of four comp artments (YARROWS04 009) on the S, and a building (YARROWS04 010) of two compartments on the W. A former garden enclosed by a stone wall lies immediately S of the steading. The range measures about 18m from ESE to WNW by 4.5m transversely over stone walls up to 0.7m in thickness and still standing to a maximum height of 2.3m at the ESE end. The presence of butt-joints at various places seem to indicate that the two central compartments are the earliest components of the structure, belonging to a cottage m easuring 10m from ESE to WNW by 4.5m transversely overall. The principal entrance was probably an opening at the SSW end of the WNW end and the compartments were linked by a doorway at the SSW end of the stone partition. The WNW compartment contains the o nly window that is visible in the range in its SSW side. The ESE compartment also has a blocked doorway in its SSW side but this probably dates to the time when another compartment, measuring 5.6m in overall length, was added to the ESE end of the buildin g. The building of this compartment necessitated the demolition and rebuilding of the SE corner of the original cottage, so that it could be linked to the adjoining compartment by an opening at the SSW end of the former end-wall. The presence of a firepla ce in the thickness of the wall dates this part of the range to post-1800, and all three compartments were in place when the range is depicted roofed on the 1st edition of the OS 6-inch map (Caithness 1877, sheet xxix).
Sometime after 1877 a fourth compartment was added to the WNW end of the cottage. This compartment, which has an entrance in its SSW side close to its SE corner, was probably built about the same time as the two compartment building on the W (YARROWS04 010). Both it and the range are shown roofed, and conjoined, on the 2nd edition of the map (1907, sheet xxix). The building measures 9.6m from NNE to SSW by up to 5.6m transversely over clay-bonded stone walls up to 0.7m in thickness and 1.6m in height. There is an entrance in the WNW side, which is offset to the NNE, and two entrances in the ESE side, one offset to the NNE and one to the SSW. The former leads onto an L-plan partition wall that directs one either into a small compartment at the N end or a compartment twice the size at the S end.
Situated some 53m SE of the S range there are the remains of a small building (YARROWS04 011) that is not shown on either the 1st or 2nd edition of the map. It measures 5.7m from ESE to WNW by 3m transversely over a stone wall reduced to fo otings 0.7m in thickness and no more than 0.1m in height.
Around the steading, in the improved area of pasture, which measures about 135m from NNE to SSW by 90m transversely, there are traces of rig-and-furrow cultivation that is clearly earlier in d ate than the steading. The rigs, which are aligned NNE and SSW, are best preserved about 20m NNE of the steading, and here they measure about 4m in breadth by no more than 0.1m in height. Around the edge of this improved area there are a number of low sto ne clearance heaps, some no more than a couple of metres across, but others forming linear heaps up to 17m in length and 5.5m in breadth
What may be the remains of a building, now reduced to a platform (YARROWS04 012), are situated on the lower E sl ope of Osties Hill some 50m WSW of the farmstead, at a point where the 1st edition map appears to depict a roughly C-shaped enclosure. The platform measures about 22m from NNE to SSW within low stony scarps up to 0.5m in height where it has been dug into the slope at either end and along the WNW side. The front of the platform is also marked by a low scarp about 0.4m in height, but the breadth varies from 5m at the SSW end to 3.5m elsewhere. The foundation course of the NE corner of the building occupying the broader end is possibly represented by two large slabs. On the NNE, the scarp marking the end of the platform extends some 1.8m to the WNW onto what is either a natural exposure of rock or a quarried face, and may indicate there was a small outshot a t this end of the building. The SSW end of the platform is partly obscured by a heap of small boulders and slabs.
Immediately S of the platform is a disused quarry (YARROWS04 339), which is marked by an uneven exposure of rock measuring about 14.5m in length from N to S by little more than about 1.5m in height. Another quarry (YARROWS04 340) is situated 95m ESE of the farmsteading, on the E side of a low grass-grown knoll. Overall, the area of quarrying measures about 23m from NE to SW by 16m transver sely and it comprises two conjoined pits up to 1m in depth, lying E and NE respectively of a smaller, shallower, excavation.
One of the most notable features of the archaeological landscape between Osties Hill and Ulbster Station (ND34SW 268) is a tr ackway that takes the form of a hollow way but was formed after the construction of the Wick to Lybster branch of the former Highland Railway in 1903. The trackway extends from a point on the NE side of the field (ND 31665 40629), where it springs off ano ther track running along the edge of the field. Having entered the field, the trackway gently meanders to a point on the S edge of the field, where it is crossed by a modern fence (ND 31823 40789), a distance of about 225m. Its course is marked by a shall ow hollow about 2m in breadth and up to 0.3m in depth. Only the southern end of the trackway is depicted on the 1st edition map, when it formed part of a network of trackways linking the farmsteads on and around Osties Hill with those further to the E. Th at network was broken by the construction of the railway, and the new length of track was constructed to link the existing trackways on the E and W sides of the railway via an official level crossing immediately N of the station-master's house (ND34SW 268 ).
(YARROWS04 009, 010, 011, 012, 339, 340)
Visited by RCAHMS (JRS) 13 May 2004

GR given to substantial farm buildings on 1st ed OS. Remain as gable high ruins in pasture field. See photo - HAW 24/05/2005 <1>.

Visited 09/02/2007 & 07/11/2008. As described by previous authorities. Outline Planning Permission is currently being sought to demolish the building and redevelop the site <2>. The buildings and enclosure were photographed. The features dexcribed by RCAHMS (2004) outwith the famrstead were not visited <3>.

Sources/Archives (3)



Grid reference Centred ND 3171 4079 (21m by 30m) (2 map features)
Map sheet ND34SW
Civil Parish WICK
Geographical Area CAITHNESS

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