Building a HomeBefore around 1800, the township’s buildings had timber frames, turf walls and thatch roofs. After this, stone instead of turf began to be used for the walls. From the 1890s, corrugated steel replaced thatch on the roofs.
Timbers, set together in pairs forming a line of arches down the length of the building, were set on low stone walls. These timbers were called crucks, and held up the building’s roof. Turf – blocks of earth and grass from the fields – was then stacked between the crucks to complete the walls.
To create the roof, lengths of timber were fixed horizontally between the crucks. A layer of straight tree branches was then laid on top of these, running from the top to the bottom of the roof. These were called cabers – just like those ‘tossed’ during modern Highland Games.[caption id="attachment_22864" align="alignnone" width="800"] The interior of this small building at Auchindrain clearly shows the structure of the crucks and cabers, and a dry stone wall.[/caption]
Roofs at Auchindrain were originally thatched with rashes (rushes) or bracken. Straw was too valuable as winter feed for animals to be used for thatch. Bracken and rushes were also used as bedding and floor coverings.
Around 1800, stone replaced turf for the walls. Tenants were encouraged to do this by their landlords. Stone walls took more skill to build, but they lasted a lot longer than turf.
A lot of the stone used for building at Auchindrain was gathered from the township’s fields. The soil here is full of stones, because the glen was formed by the movement of glaciers. When the ground was first cleared for farming these stones were piled up at the edge of the field. Rocks and boulders still come to the surface as the ground is ploughed, and you can see them around the township.[caption id="attachment_22865" align="alignnone" width="800"] The way we thatch today is not that different from how it has always been at Auchindrain. This is Bell’s house being re-thatched in 2015.[/caption]
When the township’s people first began to build here, they used this stone. When it ran out, the people of the township opened a small quarry. Looking carefully at the walls of the buildings, you can see two types of stone. Those from the fields have rounded corners and edges, from being tumbled around in ice and water by the glacier. Stone from the quarry has cleaner edges, flat faces, and is easier to use for building.
Stone can be built up into a wall without using mortar to bind it together. This is called ‘dry stane dyking’ in Scots. The earliest stone walls and buildings at Auchindrain were made this way.
Until the 20th century mortar was usually made of lime and sand. This began to be used here sometime in the early 19th century, but at first only for houses – for a while, outbuildings were still built of dry stone. A number of dry stone structures survive in the township. They were all abandoned before 1900.