MHG52985 - Loch Croispol school and garden, Balnakeil


A mid 18th century school buiding and attached garden which was in use until the1860s. The site has recently been the subject of research excavations on behalf of the local community.

Type and Period (2)

  • SCHOOL (In use, 18th Century to 19th Century - 1761 AD to 1870 AD (between))
  • GARDEN (In use, 18th Century to 19th Century - 1761 AD to 1870 AD (between))

Protected Status

  • None recorded

Full Description

A schoolhouse, now roofless and partly ruined, dating from the 1760s. The building is thought to have been commissioned by the Scottish Society for the Propagation of Christian Knowledge (SSPCK) and was operated by the parish church. In the late 18th century the school had a roll of 45 pupils and consisted of at least two rooms: a room for the master and the school room. A dispute around 1841 involving the schoolmaster and the local community appears to have left to school without pupils and the schoolmaster was finally removed in 1861 after which the school was most likely abandoned.
The building was surveyed by GUARD in August 2009. It is carefully proportioned, measuring exactly twice as much in length (36 ft or 11m externally) as in width (17 1/2 ft or 5.3 m). It is built of roughly shaped stone blocks of limestone and quarzite, with both coursed and random rubble construction and lime mortar pointing. The interior wall construction appears to comprise stones packed into a light brown sandy silt material. The roof was latterly covered in pantiles. A stone dyke defines the schoolhouse garden to the west. A full description of the building and its surroundings is available in the 2009 fieldwork report.
As part of the fieldwork in 2009, eight trial trenches were opened including four within the schoolhouse, three in the school garden and one to the south of the school over a low earth bank. The trenches within the building were positioned to give an east-west profile across the building and to investigate the fireplaces and the southern doorway. A range of 19th and 20th century artefacts were recovered during the excavations, as well as a chance find of a black chert barbed and tanged arrowhead in the schoolhouse garden.
The archaeological evidence from the schoolhouse points at three distinct phases of use defined by alterations to the internal space. The construction is consistent with the 1760s date suggested by the historical records. The roof was originally thatched and the building had a clay floor. There is possible evidence for a third small room against the north western wall. A timber floor appears to have been constructed in the large north-eastern room during the second phase and this seems to have become the better of the two with a finer fireplace and a lath and plaster lining to the walls and ceiling. Artefacts relating to the use of the building, such as a piece of writing slate and an inkwell, were recovered from both rooms. During the final abandonment phase a process of collapse began, preceded by the salvage of materials including the timber floor, interior timber work and roofing materials. Rubbish was subsequently dumped in the structure. <1>

Sources/Archives (1)



Grid reference Centred NC 39064 67685 (29m by 21m) (Centred)
Map sheet NC36NE
Geographical Area SUTHERLAND
Civil Parish DURNESS

Finds (0)

Related Monuments/Buildings (0)

Related Investigations/Events (1)

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