19 September 2020
20 September 2020
Birse Community Trust (BCT) is an innovative and award winning local charity that exists to promote the common good of the inhabitants of Birse Parish and deliver wider public benefits. As part of this, the Trust manages land and buildings and a wide range of other projects on behalf of the local community.
The Trust cares for several heritage assets including the Finzean Bucket Mill and the Soutar's Shop.
The soutar's (or shoemaker's) shop was purpose-built and established in around 1897 by James Merchant, shoemaker, who lived in the adjacent cottage, Muir Croft. The soutar's shop building is seen on the 2nd Edition Ordnance Survey map (surveyed in 1899). The 1901 Scotland Census transcription for Muir Croft in Birse has Merchant listed as Shoemaker and Crofter. The building continued in use until Merchant died in 1941. The contents of the building were left undisturbed and the building was used as a store for items from the croft house. The contents were rediscovered in 1999 when James Merchant's daughter died. While the building is currently not in use, its contents are still in place and have been well documented (2017).
Boot and shoe-making was predominantly based in small workshops until the end of the 19th century. The trade and the type of premises which it occupied was well established by late medieval times. The Factory and Workshop Returns of 1871 listed 3,266 boot- and shoe-making premises in Scotland (Shaw, p.496). Many of these premises were located in the larger burghs, however most rural area parishes would also have had one or more local soutars. They were amongst the most common trade skills, along with weavers and tailors. These rural soutars may have also had another source of income, as with James Merchant and his croft.
Boot and shoe making used simple, traditional craft methods and materials and the trade was carried out in a small premises, often positioned inside or detached alongside or near a dwelling. In the 18th and 19th century 'the marketing function of retail trades gave rise to buildings in which the manufacturing workplace operated as an adjunct to shop premises' (Shaw, p.498). It was around the time just after the First World War that traditional local shoemaking, as other small cottage industries, expanded into mass market production and small workshop premises were gradually no longer viable.
The soutar's (or shoemaker's) shop was purpose-built and established in around 1897 by James Merchant, shoemaker, who lived in the adjacent cottage, Muir Croft. With this video tour you can explore the soutar's shop!Take a brief glimpse into the soutar's shop
Read further details on Finzean Bucket Mill from Aberdeenshires Historic Environment Record (HER)Discover Aberdeenshire's Historical Environment Records