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Main Details

Primary ReferenceNJ46SW0110
NRHE Card No.NJ46SW57
NRHE Numlink 167224
HES LB No. 15546
Site Form Standing Structure
Site Condition Complete 2
Details Ice-house, depicted on the 1st and 2nd edition OS maps, currently disused. The 1st and 2nd edition maps also show a boiler circa 50 m to the east, since removed. The ice-house was built in the early 19th Century (or possibly later 18th Century) and restored in the 1970s. On the 2nd edition map it is shown as a U-plan, with two rectangular buildings projecting from the east wing. It is currently a single rectangular structure, constructed of poured concrete with modern pinkish harl. The long elevations are on the east and west sides, and an off-centre entrance in the east elevation. It has a piended turfed roof with a blocked chute. A ramp at the west leads from the road to the ice-house at roof-height. Inside, steps descend from the doorway to the ante-room (cool chamber) from which a further doorway leads to a single chambered vaulted ice-house. Its design is unusual in that it is sited on the shore and excavated, rather than being built into side of hill. It is located on the shore just west of Portgordon, on a bay where the local fishing fleet formerly ran their boats ashore prior to the establishment of the harbour in the village. Iron-ore brought from the Lecht mines (NJ21NW0003) was also loaded onto ships here for transport to the south. A Level 1 Standing Building Survey was carried out in 2017 by NB Planning and Architecture prior to proposed development. The report notes that there is a small opening, possibly an inspection hole, over the main chamber with a chamfered stone 'plug', which has now fallen into the chamber. The barrel vaulting was noted as having been later raised by circa 50 cm. A watching brief and excavation were carried out during 2019-2020 by Highland Archaeology Service prior to proposed redevelopment. An area of well preserved cobbling and an associated assemblage of mainly iron objects were revealed during the watching brief in 2019, adjacent to the northeast wall of the ice-house structure. The watching brief also included the monitoring to the northeast of the ice-house of a series of five test pits 1.5 m square, an electricity cable trench which ran parallel and adjacent to the north side of the main road, and the majority of the development area that was stripped of vegetation and topsoil. The excavations for the septic tank, SUDS and associated works northeast of the ice-house, were also monitored in 2020. No archaeologically significant deposits, features or finds were revealed during these monitoring works. Following on from the watching brief in 2019, a subsequent excavation was undertaken in 2020 to fully expose and record the cobbled yard area. The cobbled area was rectangular in plan, measuring 13.4 m by 8.6 m overall, bounded in places by a kerb of larger stones. It incorporated probable drains and an area of flagstones, which indicated that the surface overall was originally subdivided into smaller bays or units. Two areas of the cobbling were also overlain by a thin layer of solidified pitch or tar. The cobbled spread is interpreted as for fish storage and/or processing, pickling or salting, packing and possibly barrelling for transit. It was probably laid contemporary with the 19th century use of the icehouse. The large number of artefacts (183 finds were recorded), mostly of iron and copper alloy but also including fragments of glass and pottery, were recovered from the cobbled surface, many of these were small groups of objects clustered together. They appear to be of a 19th and 20th century date, probably representing the final use of the working area. In total 408 items were recovered from the site. It is possible that either herring or whitefish, cod, ling, haddock and similar, or indeed a combination of these, were brought ashore from small local clinker-built 'Skaffie' vessels, which were common in the Moray Firth until the 1880s. The ice-house remains represent a rare survival relating to the pre-industrial coastal fishing industry of North East Scotland.
Last Update12/02/2024
Updated Bycpalmer
Date of Compilation23/11/2009

Google Map for NJ46SW0110

National Grid Reference: NJ 4027 6458

Event Details

Event DateEvent TypeOASIS ID
2017 Building Recording
2019 Watching-Brief
2020 Excavation

Excavations and Surveys

Artefact and Ecofact

Date MDate YArtefact TypeFinderRecovery MethodConditionStorage LocationAccess No.
 2020 IRON NAILS HAS Excavation Complete - Good Condition  
 2020 IRON RIVETS HAS Excavation Complete - Good Condition  
 2020 IRON PINS HAS Excavation Complete - Good Condition  
 2020 IRON ROPE HAS Excavation Complete - Good Condition  
 2020 IRON STRAPPING HAS Excavation Fragmentary - Stable  
 2020 IRON RINGS HAS Excavation Complete - Good Condition  
 2020 IRON HOOPS HAS Excavation Complete - Good Condition  
 2020 CERAMICS SHERDS HAS Excavation Fragmentary - Stable  
 2020 GLASS STOPPER HAS Excavation Complete - Good Condition  
 2020 GLASS BEAD HAS Excavation Complete - Good Condition  
 2020 GLASS FRAGMENTS HAS Excavation Fragmentary - Stable  
 2020 COINS HAS Excavation Complete - Good Condition  
 2020 LEAD WEIGHTS HAS Excavation Complete - Good Condition  
 2020 BONE ARTEFACTS HAS Excavation Fragmentary - Stable  
 2020 LEATHER HAS Excavation Fragmentary - Stable  
 2020 STONE OBJECTS HAS Excavation Fragmentary - Stable  
 2020 WOODEN OBJECTS HAS Excavation Fragmentary - Stable  


Ecofact Notes

Monument Types

Monument Type 1Monument Type 2Monument Type 3OrderProbability