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Distillery (19th Century), Farmstead (19th Century)

Site Name Blackmiddens

Classification Distillery (19th Century), Farmstead (19th Century)

Canmore ID 106031

Site Number NJ42NW 11

NGR NJ 4257 2600

Datum OSGB36 - NGR


Ordnance Survey licence number AC0000807262. All rights reserved.
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Administrative Areas

  • Council Aberdeenshire
  • Parish Rhynie
  • Former Region Grampian
  • Former District Gordon
  • Former County Aberdeenshire

Archaeology Notes

NJ42NW 11 4257 2600

(Location cited as NJ 4255 2600). This large farmstead with a horse-engine and platform is situated with several other buildings around a central courtyard. To the SW there are ten rick-bases, while in one building (to the NE) there is a large fireplace of cut granite which reportedly came from Lesmior Castle (NJ42NE 2).

NMRS, MS/712/23.

Architecture Notes

NJ42NW 11 4257 2600

This is an early 19th century farmsteading with an associated range of now ruinous dwellings. The steading is also in a dilapidated condition, and was constructed from roughly squared rubble, with both hipped and gabled slate roofs. Significant features include the horse-engine platform adjacent to a threshing barn, within which there is a mostly intact fixed-barn horse-powered threshing mill (with wooden peg drum). The dwellings contain impressive fireplaces with large granite lintels.

This was photographically recorded due to a possible afforestation threat.

Visited by RCAHMS (MKO), 16 December 1997.


Publication Account (2009)

The website text produced forBlackmiddens webpages on the Forest Heritage Scotland website (

Introduction: An 19th century farm

On the outskirts of Clashindarroch Forest, there are the ruins of an old farmstead called Blackmiddens.

In the 19th century Blackmiddens was a farm with over 100 hectares of land. Today, the land is part of another farm and the buildings at Blackmiddens stand derelict, grouped around a central courtyard. Some of them still have their roofs, which are mostly of slate or corrugated iron, though one building has a turf roof. Turf roofs consisted of inverted slabs of turf laid across wooden roof beams. When covered with thatch they provided good insulation, keeping the buildings warm and dry over the winter.

In 1820, one of the buildings was used for making whisky. However, this enterprise? did not last long probably because there was no immediate fresh water supply, essential for whisky making. During the 19th century, there were many innovations in farming, including new techniques and equipment. Inside one of the farm buildings, you can find one such innovation, a horse powered threshing machine, known locally as a “tumbling tam”.

Threshing involved separating the grain on crops from the inedible seed cases, known as “chaff”. Threshing machines began to appear in 1790s and were common place by the mid 19th century. Prior to this, it was a time consuming and labour intensive job.

Blackmiddens was located on the Duke of Richmond’s estate. The1864 Evaluation Rolls record the occupier as William Smith; later the farm is associated with the Sharpe family.

It is unknown when the Sharpe family left but the farm was included in the land bought by the Forestry Commission in 1920.

Excavation (8 April 2019 - 11 April 2019)

Peter Bye-Jensen - Cabrach Trust

NJ 42551 25905 and NJ 42546 25894 Excavations of the farm distillery at Blackmiddens were carried out, 8 – 11 April 2019.

Archive: The Cabrach Trust

Funder: The Cabrach Trust, Forestry and Land Scotland

Measured Survey (8 April 2019 - 12 April 2019)

A survey of Blackmiddens farmstead and distillery was undertaken by HES in April 2019 at the request of the Cabrach Trust, as part of a broader initiative researching distilleries in north-east Scotland. The survey, involving plane-table survey and dGPS mapping, resulted in an overall site plan at a scale of 1:500, a plan of the courtyard steading at 1:100 as well as ground photography. A description of the site, presented as a PDF publication (WP007489), is based on the survey of the remains, evidence from historic maps, and information gleaned from a limited amount of documentary research.

Visited by HES Survey and Recording (JRS, AM, HLS, KLG) 8-12 April 2019


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