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Farm Steadings Scotland

Farming was by far the largest industry in 19th-century Scotland, and one in which the country led the world. For all the changes that the industry has seen over the last 100 years, ample evidence of its development can still be found in the buildings associated with it. With few exceptions, the oldest buildings within Scottish Lowland steadings date from the late 18th and 19th centuries, period of rapid change known as the Agricultural Revolution. The Agricultural Revolution brought a greater diversity to farming, from region to region. Thanks partly to better transport, each region could specialise in whatever type of farming best suited it, beef-rearing 'crofts' in the northeast, substantial arable steadings in the southeast or whitewashed dairy farm steadings in the southwest.

From the simplest to the most complex, farm steadings served three main purposes: shelter for livestock and the horses that worked the land, processing facilities for crops or animal produce and storage for food, implements and manures. Most livestock buildings were for cattle. In the byre they were tethered in a line, separated by upright trevises. In dairy byres the cows were both housed and milked; in feeding byres beef cattle were over-wintered. Farms in crop-rearing districts bought in cattle and fed them over the winter in courtyards, accumulating their manure and straw bedding to fertilise the land the following spring. Adjacent to the courtyards there were covered sheds, often with arched openings, where cattle could take refuge.

When not at work the horses, like the cattle, were kept in stalls divided by trevises, although the stable was generally a grander building than the byre. It was better lit, with larger fittings and often had more elaborate ventilation to prevent the horses from over-heating.
Perhaps the most characteristic farm buildings were those associated with processing grain by threshing and winnowing. The invention of the threshing machine revolutionised the process and during the late 18th and 19th centuries threshing machines were installed on
almost every farm. In order to house them the old hand-threshing barns, seldom much higher than the byre or stable, were heightened to two storeys or rebuilt from scratch. The power to drive the machines came from horses, water wheels, occasionally windmills and, from the early 1800s, steam engines.  Each of these had its own distinctive housing: round or octagonal buildings for horse mills, small lean-tos for water wheels, a very few windmill towers and engine houses with their tall brick stacks for steam engines.

Elsewhere in the steading, space was found for other kinds of processing such as preparing food for animals or slaughtering animals for local consumption. Even in arable districts farms often had their own domestic dairies where cheese and butter could be made, but in
central, west and southwest Scotland many farms specialised in commercial dairying. Part of the dairy had to be cool and well-ventilated so that the milk could gradually separate out without going off. Where cheese was made there had to be extra space for warming the curds and pressing the cheeses.

The farm steading's third function was as a store.  Space was needed for supplies of animal foodstuffs and the threshed straw destined for animal bedding. One particularly common building-type housed carts, in open-fronted bays, with a granary above, well away from damp and vermin. Further open-fronted bays were needed in the mid to late 19th century, as housing for an ever-widening range of field equipment. The buildings of the 19th-century steading used local stone with either slated or pantiled roofs, depending on district and function.

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