Black Isle Combination, Ross and Cromarty

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Black Isle Combination was formed in around 1855 and comprised the 7 parishes of Avoch, Cromarty, Killearnan, Knockbain, Resolis, Rosemarkie and Urquhart. The total population of the member parishes in 1881 was 12,895.

The Black Isle Combination poorhouse was built in 1859 on Ness Road to the east of Fortrose. The plain-faced building was designed by William Lawrie. The site location and layout are shown on the 1871 map below:

Black Isle site, 1871

A single-storey entrance block (now extended and altered) stood at the south of the site. This probably contained the porter's quarters, a committee room, and possibly an office for the relieving officer.

Black Isle entrance block from the west, 2001.
© Peter Higginbotham.

The main building was a typical H-shaped layout. The larger block at the front was a corridor plan building with a central portion which would have contained the Master's quarters at the centre with the kitchen and dining-hall cum chapel in the central block at the rear. The two wings of the front block contained male and female accommodation, probably with the aged at the front side and able-bodied or "dissolute" inmates at the rear. Children's quarters were usually placed at the far end of each wing. The rear range of buildings usually incorporated work and utility rooms including a laundry on the women's side.

Black Isle main building from the west, 2001.
© Peter Higginbotham.

Black Isle main building from the east, 2001.
© Peter Higginbotham.

Inside the high walls, the grounds were divided up into yards for each category of inmate (male/female, infirm/able-bodied). A privy was placed at the corner of each yard.

Poorhouse privy in south-west yard.
© Peter Higginbotham.

During the First World War, part of the Black isle poorhouse was used for billeting army and navy personnel.

After 1930, the poorhouse became Ness House Poor Law Institution. In 1946, when it was scheduled for closure, it had 54 beds including 12 for the chronic sick and 4 for maternity cases.

The former poorhouse building has now been converted to residential use.




Note: many repositories impose a closure period of up to 100 years for records identifying individuals.

  • Highland Archive Service, Bught Road, Inverness IV3 5SS, Scotland. Holdings include: Financial records (1909-30), Rules and regulations (1866).


  • None.


  • None.

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