The Corn Kiln
The bowl of the kiln is still visible within what would have been a raised platform at one end of the original structure. The hole at one side of the bowl is the end of the flue from the fire. The rest of the flue and the fireplace were removed when the existing building was constructed.
The bowl would have been covered with sticks, then a layer of straw, and then a thin layer of newly-threshed grain (called corn by the people of the township). Workers had to know how hot to make the fire, and how long to leave the corn so that it would be dry enough to store but not burned: this was particularly important with the seed corn for next year. The smoke from the kiln came out through the roof. This was the case in longhouses like Martin’s House before they got chimneys.
Corn kilns go back to the Bronze age, and were an identifying feature of joint tenancy townships. The kiln here could date from the 16th century or earlier. It may have been constructed as an early piece of agricultural improvement, on the site of a smaller, much older kiln. Corn kilns started to go out of use after 1800.
In a place like Auchindrain the parched corn was ground by hand using a rotary quern. Each family produced what they needed, when they needed it. This was time-consuming, hard work, and when commercially-produced flour and meal became cheaper and easier to obtain, people started to buy it instead of producing their own.
Most of the corn grown at Auchindrain was for animal feed. Evidence from the 20th century suggests that it was used whole, with the grains of corn still in the ears on the stalks. When the people of the township started to buy in their flour and meal, and possibly their seed corn, they wouldn’t have needed a corn kiln. We’re certain that this is why the kiln barn went out of use: what we do not know is when.