Brora Heritage Centre
This red clay tile from a house is a very ordinary-looking object that gives us wonderful clues about the character who lived in it. It was uncovered during an archaeological excavation in 2022 and was probably from the summer residence of the Reverend Walter Ross, usually known as the ‘Bad Minster’.
But why was this minister of Clyne Parish from 1777 until 1825 so bad? He was well known for his love of fine living, making money through cattle rearing, aiding and abetting smuggling of spirits, and hunting. This tile shows a high-status dwelling, where most other dwellings in the parish would only have had an uncovered, earth floor. It would have been one of several which formed pairs of rows of tiles, placed either side of Caithness flagstone slabs in the vestibule of his home.
Looking closely along its upper surface, you can see the results of decades of wear from being walked on along one side, which was next to the Caithness flagstone walkway and the unworn opposite upper side, which would have been abutting against the side wall of the vestibule. In other rooms in the house, the remains of floorboards and floor joists were uncovered, again showing how comfortable the minister lived, compared to his parishioners.