Images of the excavation site at Brora

Old Salt House: 1598-1617  |  New Salt House: 1767-1777 1812-1828  |  Historic Maps

Historic Maps

Detailed plans of Brora surveyed in the late 18th and early 19th centuries provide an extremely useful record of the location and layout of each episode of salt pan activity. An overview of the available map evidence is given in the 2004 Brora Survey report.

The earliest detailed map is John Kirk’s 1772 ‘Plan of Part of the Estate of Sutherland’. This shows four roofed buildings and ‘An Intended Waggon Road’ related to John Williams and Messrs Robertson and Co’s 1767-1777 saltworks. At the shoreline, the largest structure is annotated as 'Salt Pans’. A circle drawn just to the east of this building may represent a salt water reservoir also known as a bucket pot.

Thirty six years after the closure of the 18th century salt works, John Farey’s 1813 ‘Mineral Map of the Coal field at and near Brora in the County of Sutherland’ records the site of the New Salt House, including an unroofed building annotated as ‘Ruins of Salt mans House’, not shown on the 1772 plan, and so likely to have been built after Kirk’s survey. Farey also records the site of Jean Gordon’s 16th-17th century salt pans, annotated as the Old Salt House.

Geo-referencing of these maps has enabled us to identify the archaeological remains recorded in the excavations with buildings and features depicted on the plans. For the site of the New Salt House, depicted on John Kirk’s map, the largest building annotated ‘Salt Pans’ and the structure lying at right angles to the coastline, have succumbed completely to erosion. The building in Trench 4, excavated in 2007, 2008 and 2009 is the westerly of the furthest inland pair of buildings aligned parallel to the coast edge. A concentration of stone, brick, mortar and tile eroding out of the coast edge was confirmed by excavation in 2010 to be the only surviving remains of the eastern structure. The ‘Ruins of the Salt mans House’ lie within Trench 2, excavated in 2007 and 2009. Our excavations of 2010 confirmed the identification of two buildings on the site of Farey’s Old Salt House, the seaward one of which is now almost completely eroded. The result of the correlation of the archaeological evidence with the map evidence is described in detail in part 2 of the 2009 excavation report.

A ‘Plan of the Town & Harbour of Brora with the Salt Pans situated in the Parish of Clyne on the South East Coast of Sutherland. Constructed by the Marquess of Stafford, K G in 1811-1813’ produced in 1820 by William Forbes shows the planned layout of the buildings proposed for the salt pan complex built by the Duke of Sutherland in 1812.

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