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Caithness Field Club Bulletin
A Bill of Material for a Barn at Stanstill Farm, Caithness.
By George Watson
This list of materials is copied from an original handwritten document, dated 10 September 1807. It is an example of how a mason measured his work and from this calculated the cost of a building.
The remains of the lean-to machine shed have recently been cleared away but the barn is still in use. A modern concrete grain silo has been constructed inside and a new roof has been fitted. However, the external walls of the barn still exhibit many of the features listed in the document.
A State of the measurement of the Barn &c built at Stanstill for Lt Collonall Williamson by Dond McBeath 19th September 1807
Tabling on ditto Shade 141/2 yds
ditto Tabling on both side walls of the barn, 40 yds
ditto in the outside of the gable per Teafae, 62/3 yds
State of Measurment continued
3400 large Slates used on ditto roof
100 used mending the roof of the main house
2200 remains cut bored & sized but not used
300 not cut or bored or used
6000 Tottall No of Banniskirk slates brought this year
Freestone. Skue Tabling from the hill of Dunnet 50 feet
& four butts or spurs of freestone from ditto hill, worth
3/- each ditto butt or spur, besides carriage
Some comments relating to the above document:-
(1) Glossary of building terms used.
Skues = Skews = The top corner stones in a gable at the point where the vertical wall changes to the angle of the roof
Scheonsions = Scuncheons = Corner stones of a building or facings of a doorway or window opening.
Levellings = where the mason is required to construct the wall to a precise level, eg for floor beams or rafters etc.
Teafae = Tee-fa'= A building which leans on another, a lean-to.
Scarsement = Scarcement = A horizontal rebate, or ledge in a wall, usually to support a floor
Tabling = Coping or finishing stonework at the top of a wall or gable, occasionally flagstone flooring.
(2) The units of measure appear to be square inches, square feet, square yards and roods. This rood is not the usual standard rood equal to 1/4 acre but a local builders measure equal 36 square yards.1 Another peculiarity of the calculation is that only 12 square inches have been used to make a square foot. It is not known whether this was another traditional builders unit, which seems quite likely for it is used consistently throughout the calculations, or just a mistake by the compiler. In fact the square inch is so small that it makes little difference to the final outcome. The square foot was the smallest practical unit for costing purposes.
(3) It was the practice at this time for masons to charge by measuring the girth of the walls, multiply this by the height, which gave surface area of the walls. By convention it was understood that the thickness of the walls would be between 2ft 3in and 2ft 6in. In effect this gave the volume of stone required from the quarry.
(4) The areas of doors and windows were calculated and charged as 'work and half'. Similar additional charges were made when the wall had to be made level to accept floor joists or rafters or indeed whenever any special stone work was required.
(5) The mason would expect the above quantity of material to be supplied from the estate quarry.
(6) Henderson also states that "The mason charges for building work, that requires one scaffolding, from 36s to £2 per rood; and if it requires two or more scaffolding, they charge from 45s to 55s per rood of rubble work, the materials of stone and clay or mortar, being laid near them."
This would make the cost of the mason work listed against the barn and engine shed, totalling 33 roods 17 sq yds and 8 sq ft (omitting the two items listed against the main farmhouse and kitchen) between £75 and £92.
(7) When measured in May 1991 the building dimensions were: -
(a) Barn, 2Oft wide by 79 ft long (externally) with a wall thickness of 2 ft. This gives an external girth of 198 ft or internal girth of 182 ft compared with the stated girth of 161 ft. (However if the conventional wall thickness of 2ft 3 in is taken the internal girth would be 160 ft).
(b) Machine Shed, 18 ft wide by 44ft long with a wall thickness of 2 ft, giving an external girth of 80 ft and an internal girth of 72 ft, compared with the stated girth of 72 ft 7 inches.
1 A more detailed account of local methods of measuring and costing building work is given in Captain John Henderson's "General View of the Agriculture of the County of Caithness" 1812, page 30.
I would like to thank Mr M Pottinger for his help in identifying the units of measure.
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