MHG9120 - Late C18 fishing station - Tanera Mor


Remains of a substantial late C18 two storey building and quay which lies in a sheltered position on the east side of the island of Tanera Mor.

Type and Period (2)

  • FISHING STATION (Built, 18th Century - 1785 AD to 1785 AD)
  • STOREHOUSE (Built, 18th Century - 1785 AD to 1785 AD)

Protected Status

Full Description

Remains of a late C18 fishing station on Tanera Mor.

A view of the associated pier and its immediate surroundings to the east of the station buildings was engraved by William Daniell in the early C19. <1> (see links)

The buildings were listed at category B in 1989. Substantial 2 storey range fronted by high walled courtyard entered entered through segmental-headed archway. Rubble with tooled ashar rubble dressings. 12 bays in courtyard elevation. The 3 seaward bays a former dwelling house (manager's house). Roofless. QUAY: 1785, repaired 1939-40. Rubble pier with wall at seaward face; slightly curved to partially enclose shallow basin.

The buildings were visited and described by the North of Scotland Archaeological Society during a survey of the island in 2007:

The building is situated just 14.5m to the SW of the pier and is in alignment with it. It is entered through a wide arch and appears, at one time, to have been two buildings lying parallel to each other, just 4.9m apart. The walls are of weathered and dressed red sandstone. They are mortared and there is evidence of external rendering not necessarily contemporary with the original construction. The walls are in a reasonable state of preservation although there are two lintels in the upper windows of the managers house that are in a precarious state. To the rear, northwest, of the managers house there are the remains of a further building which is contiguous with it but which has no connecting access. A modern single storey bungalow has been built next to this, using part of its wall. An enclosed garden lies to the west of the site. Inside all the buildings there is an assortment of wooden sheds and general detritus.

The building has 2 parts to it:
1. The main part is a long building to the NW. It is roofless, 2 storeys in height and measures 34m x 6.5m overall. The managers house occupies the N end and the curing house the S end.
2. The courtyard, which is surrounded by a wall of 1 storey in height and measures 34m x 10.9m overall, comprises the remains of a building lying parallel and to the SE of the main building. The internal/NW wall of this building appears either to have been demolished or never to have been completed, possibly the former since there are small sections of the wall at each end remaining. Two walls, each with an entrance, have been constructed in the intervening gap connecting it with the main building.

The Manager's House
Occupies the northern third of the main range of the building and has overall measurements of 11.5m x 6.5m. The external north wall is 0.95m thick, but otherwise the walls are 0.65m thick. There is a central entrance in the SE wall with a small window above it and 4 windows, 2 up, 2 down, on either side of the entrance. One of the windows is completely blocked with stonework. The NE wall has a partially blocked entrance at its W end with a window above, a small window at its E side and 2 fireplaces, 1 up and 1 down, in the centre. Of all the walls in the building this NE one is in the poorest state of preservation. The only feature in the other 2 walls is a fireplace in the upper level of the SW wall. All the windows and the entrances have external stone lintels and internal timber lintels.

The Curing House
The curing house occupies the southern two-thirds of the main range of buildings. It is divided into 4 ?curing rooms with ?later partitions between them, 1 of the partitions is abutting a blocked window. The rooms are roughly similar in size, the smallest being 4.8m x 5m internally and the largest 5.3m x 5m. Each room has one window and an entrance in the lower storey facing SE into the courtyard, there are no windows in the upper storey and no windows in any of the other walls. Three of the rooms have entrances in the rear/NW wall, 2 of which have been completely blocked up and the third has been increased in height with a makeshift timber lintel. There is a blocked up fireplace in the SW external wall and also a blocked entrance here which does not have a lintel. All the entrances and windows in the curing house have external stone lintels and internal timber lintels. The joist sockets for the timbers of the upper floor are a particular feature on both the internal front/SE wall and the rear/NW wall.

The Courtyard
The courtyard is to the SE of the main range of the building and is completely enclosed by a wall of roughly 2.5m height, probably constructed to provide a sheltered work area. The wall is 0.65m thick and has the same construction as the main building, although there are two sections of rougher stonework each adjacent to the main building and each having an opening to the outside. The north opening or entrance is arched and 2.45m wide, the south entrance is 1.2m wide. The internal dimensions of the whole courtyard is 32.3m x 10.3m. As mentioned above it may be that the courtyard has originally started out as a separate building as there is a return at both the north and the south end. The north return is just ?0.5m in length (height?). The south return is 4.65m in length and forms the wall of a roofed shed, it has a blocked window halfway along. A more roughly constructed dividing wall in the southern half of the courtyard may be a later addition. There are two other features in the courtyard wall - halfway along the SE wall there is a tapered slit window, just 0.2m wide on the outside (0.5m inside) and in the NE wall there are 2 blocked ?fireplaces back to back, indicating that the external wall of 6.2m length and 1m height here may have been part of an abutting building. <2>

The buildings were recorded and the history of the fishing station was researched by C Dagg in 2017 ahead of proposed restoration/redevelopment. <3>

An analytical historic building survey of the former herring station was undertaken by Addyman Archaeology in late 2017. This survey was commissioned by Summer Isle Enterprises Ltd in order to provide a reliable basis for the understanding of the structure and to inform the development of proposals for its repair and re-use. The works comprised a drawn, photographic and written record, supported by laser scanning, drone survey and photogrammetric processing. A photographic survey was also conducted of the graveyard immediately north-west of the herring station. Much of the historical research was drawn from the earlier work of C Dagg (see <3>). Several broad phases of use to the complex were identified. The two long ranges were either contemporaneous, or built in quick succession in the later 18th century. Between the late 18th century and the early 19th century this complex was augmented by several ancillary buildings, likely to facilitate the herring curing process. Historical evidence strongly indicates that herring curing at Tanera Mor had ceased or else suffered a precipitous decline by the mid 19th-century. A later ancillary building attached to the north range would appear to be contemporary with several inserted openings in the long ranges, suggestive of the re-appropriation of the complex, although it cannot be determined whether herring curing was still taking place at the station at this time. The period between the mid-19th century and the mid-20th century is characterised by the progressive abandonment and collapse of the complex, leaving only the east end of the north range roofed by the time the naturalist Frank Fraser-Darling moved to the station with his family in the late 1930s. The Fraser-Darlings consolidated the ruins, while converting part to agricultural and pastoral use. Thereafter, several dwellings were built immediately to the north of the herring station, culminating in Tigh-an-Quay Cottage, erected in the 1980s. <4>

A conservation statement for the building complex was produced by Simpson and Brown in 2018 to support a planning application for their potential restoration and re-use. <5>

A structural appraisal of the building complex was produced by David Narro Associates in 2019 to support a planning application for their potential restoration and re-use. <6>

A fabric condition survey of the building complex was produced by John Renshaw Architects in 2019 to support a planning application for their potential restoration and re-use. <7>

Test pits and small trenches to Investigate the depth and nature of the foundations of the structures of the former fishing station were undertaken out by C Dagg in 2019 in advance of proposed restoration and conversion of the buildings. This was carried out as phase 1 of a planned 2-phase series of investigations. These were carried out in eight locations, demonstrating the presence or absence of broad footings, the variable depth of foundation course, relationships with internal partition walls and the nature of the natural subsoil. Small investigative excavations were carried out within three areas of the complex, providing information on original flooring of brick or stone and identifying a stone-lined pit originally uncovered by Fraser Darling in 1940 and of as yet unknown function. <8>

Excavations were carried out by C Dagg within compartments A, B and C of the north range of the former herring station on Tanera Mor in late 2019 in advance of proposals for the restoration and conversion of the buildings. Compartment D, which had been covered with a concrete floor in the 1940s, was cleared down to the brick floor without archaeological monitoring. This work was carried out in wintry weather conditions with low light. As a general rule, excavation stopped once the brick floors were exposed. These were recorded photographically, but only details within compartment A and the entire floor of compartment C were subject to measured drawing. One of the main expectations for the excavation of the interior of the north range was evidence for the herring curing industry, which historical documents indicate was carried out for up to 30 years. However, there was effectively no direct evidence for burning on a large scale. The areas in each compartment where some burning had taken place, or a dark deposit interpreted as the remains of hearths was identified, more likely dated to events during the approximately 100 years of occupation and use between the abandonment of herring curing and the collapse of the roof. The function of a broad, stone-lined trench in Compartment C is unknown. This, too is interpreted as post-dating the herring curing and therefore associated with crofting or fishing activities. The simplest interpretation is as a drain for a byre, possibly originally stone-lined on both sides. Although there is no outflow it is possible that the trench functioned as a sump. A dark deposit (context 011) could be interpreted as the decayed organic material building up on the floor of a byre. As there is no present proposal for alterations to the building, it was felt that any more detailed recording could be carried out at a later date if required and the priority should be to cover and protect the floor surfaces from the damaging effects of winter weather. <9>

Sources/Archives (9)



Grid reference Centred NB 9898 0736 (37m by 34m) (2 map features)
Map sheet NB90NE
Geographical Area ROSS AND CROMARTY
Civil Parish LOCHBROOM

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Related Monuments/Buildings (1)

Related Investigations/Events (5)

External Links (3)

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