Images of the excavation site at Brora

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


Salt was made in coastal salt pans in Brora during three short-lived episodes: 1598-1617; 1767-1777; and 1812-1828. The initiation and demise of each episode was the result of a unique set of local and national circumstances. We are extremely fortunate to have the Sutherland Estate Papers, deposited in the National Library of Scotland, for first hand accounts covering all these periods and for detailed historic maps that depict the sites. Chris Whatley’s book, The Scottish Salt Industry, is essential reading for the national context. William Brownrigg’s The Art of Making Common Salt… published in 1748 provides valuable contemporary information and observation of 18th century processes.

Although the local sources are often frustratingly brief, they bring to life some of the individuals of history behind the salt pan enterprises, such as Jean Gordon, Countess of Sutherland who built the first salt pans in Brora in 1598, and John Williams, the Welsh minerals surveyor who was commissioned to develop Bora’s coal mining industry and who re-established salt pans in 1767.

As for the salters and other workers who worked and lived in Brora, they remain largely invisible in the historical record. It is here that archaeology can provide us with insights into their lives together with specific information about the buildings, technology, local conditions and organisation of the salt industry in Brora.

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