When the new corrugated steel roofs were put on, in many cases the timber crucks that had supported the thatch were sawn off at the top of the walls, and replaced by a roof structure that allowed the rooms in the houses to be given ceilings and, in one case, an attic. At present, we have chosen to keep the roofs as they were in the early 20th century, not least because of the huge amount of work that would be required to create and maintain so much rush or bracken thatch! The photograph below was taken from the west around 1920, and shows most of the buildings with corrugated steel roofs.
The township has two main groups of buildings, the West and East Townships. Sometime between 1790 and 1870 dry stone dykes (walls) were built around each of them. For parts of the year when no crops were growing, cattle were kept on the land and the dykes kept them away from the buildings. A few sheep and goats, and the township’s hens, would probably always have been kept inside the enclosed areas: no land was left unused.
The township contains four types of buildings. One type is known as a “longhouse”. Longhouses were occupied by families who were part of the joint tenancy, not cottars. One end of a longhouse is for the people, the other a byre for cattle in the winter, and a stable for working horses. There are six longhouses at Auchindrain, although two of them, Buildings G and S, are quite small and no-one lived in them after the mid 19th century. The other four, Buildings A, D, H and W, all date from between 1790 and 1870, although all but one (W) is on the site of an earlier building.
As built, these longhouses would have had a central hearth, no chimney, and timber partitions to divide the interior into living and sleeping areas, and the byre. Later in the 19th century, all were modernised. The timber partitions between the house and the byre were replaced by stone walls, and these included fireplaces and chimneys to replace the open central hearth. Fireplaces and chimneys were also added to the gable at the opposite end to the byre. Internally, these longhouses evolved to have three rooms for the family. The “Kitchen” was the main living space. The “Room” contained the second fireplace, and was for guests and as sleeping space for some adults. The “Closet”, between the Kitchen and the Room, could be used as a “milkhouse” for making butter and cheese, or as another bedroom.
Each of the longhouses also has a “barn”, sometimes but not always next door: these are Buildings B, J, N and Y: the photograph shows N in 1963.
The design of these barns dates to between 1790 and 1840, although Building J was built in the 1860s on the site of a house. They are set across the wind (which usually comes from the west at Auchindrain), and have two doors opposite each other. The floor between the doors was used to thresh grain – oats and barley – by hand, with flails. The threshed grain was then thrown into the air, and the wind would carry away the chaff whilst the heavier grain would fall back to the floor. Later on, three barns were extended to provide space so that more cattle could be kept indoors over the winter.
Another type of building is a “house”. Some houses, like Buildings O and R, are quite large: others, for example Building M, are much smaller. The key difference between a house and a longhouse is that a longhouse includes space for animals under the same roof as the people, and a house does not. Lastly, the township includes a number of utility buildings, such as stores and cart sheds, now mostly in ruins.
Each house and longhouse had a small piece of enclosed land known as a “kailyard”. This was used to grow vegetables, and also herbs for use in cooking and as medicines. One group of buildings shared a communal kailyard. The township also contains a number of “stackyards”, enclosed areas used to store hay and corn for use in the winter. You can identify a stackyard by the presence of “stackstands”, circular platforms made of large stones on which the hay or corn was piled up ready for use.
Only one of the township’s structures is not within the existing museum boundary. This is the dry-stone “fank”, or sheepfold, built sometime between 1840 and 1870, used when the sheep were “mustered” for dipping or clipping, to check them for foot rot or other ailments, or to separate out those to be sold. It is high on the hillside above the township.