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Whalsay, Symbister, Pier House and Hem Dock

A Category B Listed Building in North Isles, Shetland Islands

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Coordinates

Latitude: 60.3422 / 60°20'31"N

Longitude: -1.0253 / 1°1'30"W

OS Eastings: 453905

OS Northings: 1162415

OS Grid: HU539624

Mapcode National: GBR R1TD.NTC

Mapcode Global: XHF97.29GV

Entry Name: Whalsay, Symbister, Pier House and Hem Dock

Listing Date: 13 August 1971

Category: B

Source: Historic Scotland

Source ID: 352667

Historic Scotland Designation Reference: LB18593

Building Class: Cultural

Location: Nesting

County: Shetland Islands

Electoral Ward: North Isles

Parish: Nesting

Traditional County: Shetland

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Description

Probably 18th century, with alterations of circa 1830. 2-storey asymmetrical former pier house, of predominantly rectangular plan with E gable advanced (prow-like) at centre; straddling stone pier sloping down to E from shore and tapering to point at N edge; pier bounding S side of dock, open to W, and enclosed to N by N pier. Predominantly random rubble granite walls, coursed to E gable, with droved sandstone ashlar dressings.

E (ENTRANCE) GABLE: asymmetrical, vertically-boarded timber door at ground to right of rubble forestair, rising to vertically-boarded timber door to left at 1st floor.

N ELEVATION: small 4-pane fixed timber window at lower floor to left of centre; single 12-pane timber sash and case window centring elevation below eaves; deep-set vertically-boarded timber infill to full-height loading bay recess at outer right, rubble jettied out to either side support stone slab lintel and catslide-roofed canopy over timber hoist.

W GABLE: single 12-pane timber sash and case window at 1st floor to outer right.

S ELEVATION: single window at 1st floor to left of centre; ground floor continuous to right of E gable as coped buttress.

Stone slab slated roof with cut granite skew copes, block finial to E gable, and square gablehead stack with tapered cope angled to W gable.

HEM DOCK: roughly U-plan, open to W, bounded to E by retaining wall above beach; bounded to N by random rubble granite pier projecting SE from shore, with sandstone slabbed carriageway and granite steps to water at S side.

Statement of Interest

This building was the pier house for the nearby trading booth originally used by ships of the Hanseatic League. The League was a trading body of merchants and shipowners centred on Lubeck, operating from Russia to Portugal, whose influence peaked in the 14th century. In Shetland, Hansa trade lasted 500 years, first by way of the League s Kontor in Bergen, then as illicit trade became the norm, direct with Hamburg and Bremen. Stockfish (dried and salted cod and ling) was exported, and luxury goods imported. The Germans retained their trading by extending credit from one season to the next. A decline in activities at the end of the 17th century came about by the emergence of Scottish merchants and then local merchant-lairds, famine, disease, and war when the French plundered German ships. The final demise was the 1707 Act of Union which favoured local commercial activity. Restored in 1984 by Richard Gibson, the pier house is an essential element in this group of great historic value.

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