|In the National Monuments Record of Scotland Midhouse in Evie is referred to as Lower Mithouse [sic]. HY32NW 11 at HY32342911 is/was a souterrain.
Early March 1930 Midhouse farmer Maxwell Home finds an underground chamber after hitting a large slab whilst ploughing deep for the first time. Removing this slab revealed more and then the lintel about a yard deep. Edgeset stones formed an entrance some two foot square capped by a 9-10" thick flat slab. A few days later, on the 10th, C.W. Tait tells Dr Hugh Marwick of the find. Two days after that Mr Tait takes him to the site, which is on a low knoll some 500 yards E of the farmhouse and roughly a hundred from the beach. He crawled directly into a roughly 12' by 8' oval cavity dug into the subsoil and roofed by enormous slabs. The roofstones in the middle were supported by a square block with 'spinners' between. As well as this freestanding pillar three other supporting pillars abutted the clay walls, and a rock projection provided another. The cavity varied in height, with a three foot maximum at the sides.
Marwick intended to take measurements for a fuller account than that given in PSAS LXIV (in a report on the kindred Biggings earthhouse) once the cavity dried out from water incursion subsequent to its discovery. However it was J.H. Craw who did this over six evenings in June-July whilst also working at the Broch of Gurness. Now a field of oats, the farmer permitted the soil's removal and had Alexander Foulis, his byreman, support Craw. Craw describes the location as quarter-of-a-mile.SE of the farmhouse on the east shoulder of rising ground at almost 100' O.D. About fifteen inches underground the roofslabs covered an 11' by 8' unpaved p-shaped chamber 3'3" high. Two narrow slabs forming the lintel were removed to gain access. .A central pillar (the largest pillar) of rectangular section held up a large oval slab (there were fourteen roofslabs altogether). Six flat slabs struck out from the earthen wall and some of these had further slabs to complete the pillars height. As well as the seven monoliths an irregular stone
also acted as a support.
The July newspaper report places the site in the middle of the field with a north-facing entrance that needed entering backwards. It differs in saying that the oval chamber measured 9' by 15' and the flagstones were eighteeen inches below ground level. The latter is explainable by 3" thick flagstones, but how did they come up with fifteen feet instead of nine ? Actually that is not the most peculiar thing. The NMRS mentions a second souterrain in the area, specifically 350 yards NE of Midhouse, which is described as "also scheduled". Except that even the site of record is not scheduled. And the references for the relevant paragraph do not mention it. So whence comes it ?
In 1967 W.Bakie of Hestivall pointed out to the O.S. where the destroyed site had been (the grid reference used). However in 2000 farm machinery partially collapsed the roof of an earthhouse, which was then repaired with a substitute stone and the chamber backfilled with sand by the farmer under archaeological supervision. One assumes that this is the site of record as this is not specifically stated.
Posted by wideford
8th May 2011ce
wideford's TMA Blog
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