Baile Sear, North Uist - August 2005  The SCAPE Trust
Reports
Clyne Heritage Society: Saltpans at Brora
Nick Lindsay, chairman of the Society, using a planning frame to draw an archaeological plan.
Nick Lindsay, chairman of the Society, using a planning frame to draw an archaeological plan.
The Clyne Heritage Society is based in Brora, Sutherland. It collects information and objects to do with the village and its surroundings and displays these in its heritage centre. Society members also work on archaeological projects, recording features on the beach and in Strath Brora.

Brora was once an important industrial town and much of the industry was based on coal. This was originally extracted from bell pits and the scars of some of these are still to be seen within the dunes close to the beach.

Lady Jane Gordon expanded the industry and mines were sunk to chase the coal seams. As the fishing industry grew, the mine owners branched out into the production of salt. This was made by evaporating seawater in huge metal trays, heated by enormous coal fires.


Documents show that the first saltpans were established by 1598. A plan dated to 1812 and made by John Farey shows the position of an old saltpan and a new one. The old structure is located close to the beach and notes indicated that it had become abandoned.
Work at the site of one of the buildings at the saltpans, showing the length of one of the structures.
Work at the site of one of the buildings at the saltpans, showing the length of one of the structures
A set of structures has been seen eroding from the dunes for at least the last twenty years. When first noted by group members, the walls of one building were over two metres high, but recent storms have washed away most of the building.

The group has started to make a record of the buildings before they are totally destroyed. They talked to older members of the community to see if anyone had photographs of the buildings, and were delighted to find that someone had made a sketch plan of one structure in the 1970s. They used this to help determine the extent of one building.


Although part of the building still remained in the dune, most had been washed away and the lowest courses covered by sand. They planned the remains using tapes and with a Total Station Theodolite. Taking care not to touch in situ archaeological layers and under supervision from trained archaeologists, they removed some of the beach sand to reveal the lowest course of the building.

Nick Lindsay, chairman of the Society, using a planning frame to draw an archaeological plan.
Members of the group working on the foundations of a wall. This wall stood over two metres high until recently.

They also cleaned up around the doorway, visible in the face of the sand dune. This is highly vulnerable to storms and is likely to be destroyed in the near future.

The group have started to excavate other buildings. Click here to find out more about their work.
Clyne Heritage Society group member planning the doorway of the structure. This lies exposed on the edge of the dune and will probably be lost in the near future.   
Clyne Heritage Society group member planning the doorway of the structure. This lies exposed on the edge of the dune and will probably be lost in the near future.
Preparing for a day's recording, in the background is the Total Station Theodolite.
Preparing for a day's recording, in the background is the Total Station Theodolite.
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