The Black Isle Combination Poorhouse, or Ness House, located at No.s 1, 2, 4, 5 and 6 Ness Road, was designed by William Lawrie. Its doors opened in 1861. The large building combined poor house, hospital and asylum.

Historian Elizabeth Sutherland describes the Poor House as accommodating;

‘vagrants, jobless and the destitute and was run like a prison by a governor and matron under the administration of an Inspector of the Poor. A family called Gillanders, father, son and grandson held this post successively from 1845 until the law was changed.’

Image: Hand bell from the Black Isle Combination Poor House. Date: 19th Century, ROMGH.1992.16

The Poor House was similar to others at Inverness, Bonar Bridge and Nairn. They followed a model for Scottish Poorhouses that aimed to make them look less prison-like. This was to give them an air of domesticity. Nevertheless, it remained a heavily regulated institution. 

An H-block layout enabled easy separation into male and female wings. Work areas were assigned to women (a laundry) and men (a bakery). Children were removed from their parents and separated again by sex. 

Read more about life in the Black Isle Combination Poor House in Lenathehyena’s Blog

Poor Registers
Groam House Museum has registers that record the poor of the parish. The Register of Poor Persons on the roll of the Parish of Rosemarkie from the period 1845-1864 was set out in 17 columns, documenting an individual in the following terms*

No 1. Name of pauper
No 2. Present Residence
No 3. Married or single, widow or widower. If child, orphan, deserted, or bastard
No 4. Name of each dependant living with Pauper
No 5. Age/ Years No 6. Place of Birth No 7. Trade or occupation
No 8. If wholly or partially disabled No 9. Description of disablement
No 10. Means and Resources of Pauper besides Parochial Relief
No 11. Names and weekly earnings of Parents
No 12. Names, ages, and earnings of children not living with Pauper, and whether married, and number of children
No 13. Date when admitted on Roll No 14. Amount of relief in money
No 15. Amount of relief in food, clothing, fuel, lodging, or of any other kind
16. Date and removal from Roll
17. Remarks

*Please note the terminology in this historic document is of its time and includes terms today that are outmoded and offensive.

Poor House Door Key Date: 19th century. ROMGH.2009.5.2



Listen to a discussion between historian Jim Leslie and local historian Elizabeth Sutherland about life in a Scottish poor house.