Creel houses

Investigate the remains of the township of Tarbert and you will find evidence of at least nine stone-built houses. These houses are thought to be late additions in the long history of the settlement.

Looking back at estate records, we learn that most people lived in a type of turf and wattle house known as a Creel house. They built these houses using upright wood poles interwoven with smaller branches (resembling a basket or 'creel') and then covered in turf slabs.

In 1767, a report prepared for the landlords complained that they used too much of their forest’s valuable wood.

When Murray took over the estate he tried to persuade his tenants to build in stone.

"….they make a great rout about the trouble & Expence they'll be at in building of Stone houses yet… Stone houses are mostly everywhere Cheaper than the Creel houses. They last much longer, whereby the tennents will be saved of the constant yearly Slavery they are in building New and repairing of the old Creel houses," Alexander Murray, 1725.

We do not know how successful he was in persuading his tenants to build in a new style, but a description in a 19th century estate record suggests the tenants continued building much as they always had.

"almost the whole of those occupied by the small Tenants and Crofters are miserable huts," Alex Low, 1807.

In 1849, the lease for Tarbert, signed by the Camerons, mentioned the poor condition of the houses and the need to rebuild them. Archaeologists think that the stone houses, whose ruins we see today, were built here around this time. Before this the houses at this site may have been turf Creel houses, so any evidence for these buildings has long since disappeared.