1817,built as a fish curing yard.3 ranges in long flat-fronted block,centre range in neglected condition,with rear courtyard.originally offices,cooperage and red-herring house erected near the harbour by marquess of stafford.name suggests later use as customs house and warehouses;currently house and stores (1991),one store recently restored.2-storey 3-bay house,with 2 large buildings adjoining to E,separated from quayside by road.
customs house:(left-hand range) originally office,kitchen and accommodation.2-storey,3-bay house,dry-dash with ashlar margins.panel above,enlarged windows flanking at ground,3 windows at 1st floor;plate glass sashes.purple slates,3 skylights to attic,coped skews,corniced stacks.low dry-dashed front garden wall with pair of panelled ashlar gatepiers. rear:stair window,to right large lean-to;former cellar and store.later lean-to adjoining rubble wall of former outbuilding,and modern harled wall subdividing former courtyard,adjoining store to E beyond pend to give vehicle access to rear. centre range:large,rendered 2-storey store adjoining to right (E); former cooperage.2-storey, now flat-roofed in corrugated sheet metal.originally 7-bay,some openings altered/blocked;door and 3 windows at ground floor with original vehicle pend to outer left.rubble at rear,5-bay,most openings now blocked;2 boarded windows in use at 1st floor.
range to right (E) store:former red-herring house,recently restored as dwelling house,skews and stacks removed.3-storey,3-bay,rubble,4-pane sash and case windows,grey slates.
front:no openings at ground floor;3 windows to floors above.
rear:3 doors at ground floor,3 windows to each floor above.rubble walls enclosing large cobbled,rear courtyard,originally lined by open curing sheds.
Statement of Special Interest
the above plan and elevation illustrate the complex,dates the construction by the marquess of stafford,and notes that in 1820 it was occupied by messrs landles and calder of berwick upon tweed.some structures have since beenlost,the walled courtyard at rear had lean-to's,with a freestanding gutting shed in the centre (site visible in cobbles).a salt cellar adjointed the rear of the present customs house,with a lumber room and salmon boiling house beyond in the corner of the courtyard.the courtyard also contained 2 wells.this curing yard,financed by the local landlord the earl of sutherland,was built at the time of highest incentives for herring fishing,which had been in decline until the mid-18th century when 'bounty' when introduced (see bremner) between 1815 and 1826,20s a ton was granted on all vessels from 15 to 60 tons,4s a barrel was allowed on all herring gutted,packed and cured,with an additional bounty of2s8d.onexport.this period was one which saw major changes in land use;between 1811 and 1821 clearances of small-holdings by landlords for sheep-farming took place in kildonan parish as elsewhere (NSA),resulting in a population move to coastal villages in search of new employment.herring production more than doubled between 1815 and 1826,but bounty ceased altogether in 1830.bremner's figures from 1867 show helmsdale as the 5th highest producer of cured herring in scotland,and one of the major employers.wick harbour was enlarged in 1810,and was known at this time as the 'herring' metropolis,and 'the more convient creeks along the coastwere,about this time,made safe and commodious by local enterprise' (bremner).helmsdale harbour was built in 1818,designed by the engineer john rennie,also part of the sutherland 'improve-ments'.