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Muilinn Mhiabhaig (Meavag Mill)

A Category C Listed Building in Harris, Na h-Eileanan Siar

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Latitude: 57.8669 / 57°52'0"N

Longitude: -6.8046 / 6°48'16"W

OS Eastings: 115183

OS Northings: 896502

OS Grid: NG151965

Mapcode National: GBR 97LX.VB9

Mapcode Global: WGX3C.FJXJ

Entry Name: Muilinn Mhiabhaig (Meavag Mill)

Listing Date: 9 February 2007

Category: C

Source: Historic Scotland

Source ID: 399330

Historic Scotland Designation Reference: LB50801

Building Class: Cultural

Location: Harris

County: Na h-Eileanan Siar

Civil Parish: Harris

Locality: Na Hearadh agus Ceann a Deas nan Loch

Traditional County: Inverness-shire

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Circa 1860. Remarkable survival of tall single storey, 3-bay, rectangular plan, piend-roofed former corn mill (see Notes) converted to Free Presbyterian prayer meeting house circa 1950. Set within craggy landscape of Bays of Harris and retaining some remains of milling machinery and evidence of industrial origins in top hopper windows, and interesting interior with pews and pulpit. Roughly squared, coursed and snecked rubble with remains of harling, large squared quoins and stone lintels and cills..

FURTHER DESCRIPTION: entrance elevation to SE with broad 2-leaf boarded timber door in bay to right, windows to centre and right bays. Remaining elevations blank. Partially infilled wheel pit and remains of wheel gearing to SW.

9-pane glazing pattern (lower row comprising 3 tall vertically aligned panes) in top hopper type timber windows. Corrugated roof.

INTERIOR: simple church interior with boarded dadoes, fixed timber pews flanking centre aisle, timber pulpit and sounding board, and gas brackets.

Statement of Interest

Ecclesiastical building no longer in use as such. Meavag, or Mhiabhaig, is situated at the northern end of the Golden Road, so-called owing to the enormous construction cost. Meavag Mill, is a rare building type in the very rocky landscape of the Bays Of Harris where, until the advent of the Golden Road in 1897, the only form of transport was by sea.

Built by the Harris Estate, Meavag appears on the 1876 Ordnance Survey map as a corn mill. However, as Hume points out 'Until recently oat and bere meal were much more widely used in the Highlands and Islands than wheat flour. Hence the majority of the grain mills in the area, identified on the early Ordnance Survey maps as 'corn mills', were meal mills. Oats and potatoes were the staple crops grown in small quantities in 'lazy beds' on individual crofts. Matthew and John MacAulay were the millers, and the 1861 census records Matthew as lodging in Meavaig Village with his brother still living at the former Breasclete Mill in Lewis. There are no other listed mills in Harris (2006), even on the relatively gentle west coast from where many clearance crofters came to settle rather than accept the alternative of emigration to Canada. Shaw Grant records the terrible struggle for survival by displaced families of the clearances, and says that the fertile land was eventually given to 'alien tacksmen and their sheep, while erstwhile clansmen, ', were driven into poverty and destitution in the Bays'. He further records that in 1854 (less than a decade before this mill was built) more than 600 men, women and children sailed for Canada from Harris.

Quite when the mill was converted to a Free Presbyterian meeting house is uncertain, but it is thought locally not to have been used as such for any length of time, and almost certainly not since 1980.

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