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Port Henderson

Corn Drying Kiln (Period Unassigned), Croft (Period Unassigned), Fishing Site (Period Unassigned), Township (Period Unassigned)

Site Name Port Henderson

Classification Corn Drying Kiln (Period Unassigned), Croft (Period Unassigned), Fishing Site (Period Unassigned), Township (Period Unassigned)

Canmore ID 104957

Site Number NG77SE 23

NGR NG 755 737

NGR Description Centred NG 755 737

Datum OSGB36 - NGR

Permalink http://canmore.org.uk/site/104957

Ordnance Survey licence number 100057073. All rights reserved.
© Copyright and database right 2017.

Digital Images

Administrative Areas

  • Council Highland
  • Parish Gairloch
  • Former Region Highland
  • Former District Ross And Cromarty
  • Former County Ross And Cromarty

Archaeology Notes

NG77SE 23 centred 755 737

A crofting township comprising forty-five roofed, three partially roofed and twelve unroofed buildings is depicted on the 1st edition of the OS 6-inch map (Ross-shire 1881, sheet lvi).

Thirty-eight roofed, three partially roofed and fifteen unroofed buildings are shown on the current edition of the OS 1:10560 map (1968).

Information from RCAHMS (SAH), 25 April 1996.

Activities

Reference (1 October 2009 - 28 February 2011)

Archive research and oral history recording.

Field Visit (1 October 2009 - 28 February 2011)

Detailed survey of ruins and fieldwalking survey of crofts.

Srp Note (23 April 2011)

The settlement of Port Henderson is scattered around the edge of a bay on the southern shore of Loch Gairloch. It is centred on NGR NG 7542 7379.

Now one of the many crofting townships that form part of the Gairloch Estates, it was originally created as a fishing village in 1815 by Sir Hector MacKenzie, 4th Baronet of Gairloch. At this time, because it was evident that crops alone were not sufficient to feed the population, fishing was being promoted on the West Coast. Both the British Fisheries Society and the Highland Destitution Board were operating in the area and although Sir Hector ran a private funding scheme for his fishermen, documentary evidence shows that both organisations also had influence in the area. Sir Hector’s second wife was Christian Henderson and we conclude that this is the origin of the name Port Henderson. Early maps show no prior settlement in the area, although Old Parish Registers record a baptism in 1808 in the area known today as Port An Sguman, a small bay which lies within the township boundaries.

Details regarding the formation of the fishing village are contained in a Minute of Settlement dated Whitsunday 1815 (copy held by Gairloch Heritage Museum). The land was leased on a twenty year term to twenty-two tenants from nearby settlements on the Gairloch estates who were “on condition of occupying the same by building their houses two and two joined and as lotted out, for the first five years to pay no rent but to build their march dykes, make a port and road from the houses to the same and for the next fifteen years to pay one guinea each of yearly rent beginning the first years payment at Martimas eighteen hundred and twenty and so on yearly. To be removeable by the decision of a majority of the neighbours their fellow labourers in the place before the Proprietor or Factor for the time. The ground must be laboured and laid regularly by draining and each man is to enclose one hundred feet back the breadth of his front ground or each two for a yard or garden between them.”

By 1845 the Gairloch Estates were putting into practice the ideas of Sir Francis MacKenzie (d1843) who succeeded to the estate in 1826. His vision was to improve both the agriculture and living conditions of tenants on his estates by creating crofting townships. Crofts were laid out in a square grid pattern averaging 4.5 to 5.0 acres and allocated to tenants who then had to build a croft house and ‘work ‘ the croft. The estate map for Port Henderson, 1844 (Gairloch Heritage Museum), shows the fishing village occupying the land along the shoreline, superimposed on which are twenty-two crofts that were to form the new crofting township. There was no head dyke around the township, but its boundary was marked by an iron fence, parts of which still survive on the ground. Access between the crofts was through ‘pasaidean’ or rights of way, but it is known that the sea was used to travel to Gairloch or other neighbouring settlements in preference to the rough track around Loch Gairloch. Our research has shown that most of the crofts were allocated to the existing fishing families, but oral history tells us that the Port Henderson men remained fishermen first, with crofting always a secondary occupation.

The 1st and 2nd Edition Ordnance Survey maps of the 1870s and 1890s show the development of the crofts in the late nineteenth century. Many of the buildings shown on these maps are still occupied today, but the fishing village is completely ruinous, spread over three crofts (numbers 9, 21 and 22) and the peninsula of An Sguman. Associated with the village were four ports/slipways, a salmon bothy and a boat-builders shed. It also had an S.S.P.C.K. (Scottish Society for the Propagation of Christian Knowledge) school, with 64 pupils in attendance in 1824: its location is believed to be under a modern garage on Croft 22. There are also four ruinous corn drying kilns, with three built into the raised beach that runs around the bay, and on the shoreline in front of the village are the remains of a paved track.

In the early 1900s the community had two shops, visiting travelling shops, a garage and petrol pumps. Water was provided by wells, succeeded by water tanks joined to some of the croft houses by copper piping. Eventually mains water was installed in 1961 and electricity in the early 1950s. The main fuel was peat and there are extensive peat cuts to the SW and SE of the township, with evidence of peat cutting also found on the crofts. Access to the township is by side roads leading off the B8066 that runs between Kerrysdale and Redpoint.

Today the township is still a thriving community and most of its residents have local connections, some tracing their roots back to the fishing village. There are no longer any arable crops grown although some crofts are cut for hay. Livestock farming is still practiced, including cattle, sheep, pigs and poultry, and some crofts have apportionments of the common grazing assigned to them to allow for larger numbers of animals.

A detailed survey of the township was undertaken during 2009 – 2010, which involved extensive archaeological fieldwork, historical research and oral history. The results of this work are attached to this site record. We are particularly grateful to the people of Port Henderson who generously gave us a wealth of oral and written history, and to Magaidh Wentworth who has kindly allowed her late husband, Roy Wentworth’s place name research on Port Henderson to be included.

Information from SRP Port Henderson, April 2011.

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