TownshipsIn its simplest and earliest form, a township was home to a small group of families who lived on and farmed a portion of the land under the control of their clan chief. Their inhabitants lived collectively – the land and livestock were held or owned jointly by all members of a group.
In medieval times, tenants would have paid tribute (in the form of produce, labour, or military service) to the clan chief who owned the land they lived on. Over time, this evolved into more formal tenancy arrangements, and clan chiefs became landlords. However, rent was often still paid in a form similar to the earlier tribute payments.
The land was often poor quality, wet or mountainous. The arable land was worked runrig. It was divided into narrow strips – rigs – which were allocated to the individual families on a regular cycle. This gave everyone an equal chance of getting the better or worse ground. There was also some ‘inbye’ land (usually at a lower altitude), which was used to grow oats, barley, peas and later, potatoes.
The township’s buildings were placed in a convenient location within the arable (crop growing) land, close to a water supply. Their main farming activity was breeding cattle, which were sold each year through a drover, who would take them to market.
To find out more about the longhouse (Building W), click here.