History in Structure

Sron Mor Power Station, Sloy Awe Hydro Electric Scheme

A Category C Listed Building in Oban North and Lorn, Argyll and Bute

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Latitude: 56.3371 / 56°20'13"N

Longitude: -4.9758 / 4°58'32"W

OS Eastings: 216147

OS Northings: 720056

OS Grid: NN161200

Mapcode National: GBR 03.4Q53

Mapcode Global: WH2K8.JZS9

Plus Code: 9C8Q82PF+RM

Entry Name: Sron Mor Power Station, Sloy Awe Hydro Electric Scheme

Listing Name: Sloy Awe Hydro Electric Scheme, Sron Mor Power Station

Listing Date: 11 February 2011

Category: C

Source: Historic Scotland

Source ID: 400601

Historic Scotland Designation Reference: LB51690

Building Class: Cultural

Also known as: Sron Mor

ID on this website: 200400601

Location: Glenorchy and Inishail

County: Argyll and Bute

Electoral Ward: Oban North and Lorn

Parish: Glenorchy And Inishail

Traditional County: Argyllshire

Tagged with: Architectural structure Hydroelectric power station

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James Shearer (architect for the North of Scotland Hydro Electric Board architectural panel), 1955. Tall single storey rectangular-plan rubble-faced Modernist power station with lower blocks to NW and SW corners and oversailing tailrace to SE. Prominently sited in upper Glen Shira between upper and lower Shira Dams. Random rubble with banded concrete eaves course and concrete surrounds.

NW (ENTRANCE) ELEVATION: roughly 3-bay with advanced lower blocks clasping NW and SW corners with prominent recessed canted windows in single bay returns to centre. Tall panelled teak vehicular access doorway to centre in plain concrete surround; rectangular geometric glazed fanlight with shallow triangular pediment above; North of Scotland Hydro Electric Board coat of arms to centre of fanlight. Paired rectangular windows to flanking bays of lower single storey blocks.

NE ELEVATION: roughly 5 bays with advanced single storey section to right (NW). 3 large rectangular windows to turbine hall at left (SE) with louvered vents above, all in plain concrete surrounds. Window to off-centre right with arched lintel. Slightly recessed canted corner clasping window to left (SE) of single storey block.

SE ELEVATION: roughly 3 bays with single large rectangular window to centre.

SW ELEVATION: similar to that at NE with turbine hall (to SE) oversailing tailrace on concrete piers and lintels.

Predominantly small pane metal glazing with some windows with hopper openings, all in painted metal frames. Shallow pitched platform roof. Metal rainwater goods recessed behind parapet to roof.

INTERIOR: predominantly plain, functional interior consisting of entrance vestibule and offices leading through to single large turbine hall. Large travelling gantry crane on steel gantry supported by large concrete piers.

Statement of Interest

Sron Mor power station is a key component of the second phase of development of the Sloy / Awe Hydro Electric scheme, and one of the earliest uses in the UK of pumped storage for the generation of electricity. The station exhibits the Modernist-vernacular style developed by the North of Scotland Hydro Electric Board (NoSHEB) during the late 1940s and 1950s, particularly evident in the work of James Shearer. The station is located in a remote rural location at the head of Glen Shira, and the use of vernacular materials in conjunction with a striking modernist design clearly links the building to its setting.

The Sloy scheme was the first of the major post-war hydro electric developments by NoSHEB, with this second phase of development dating from the mid 1950s. The scheme played a key role in the realisation of the social agenda of NoSHEB by providing power which could be exported via the grid to the central belt, the profit from which subsidised the provision of power to remote north Highland communities and stimulated economic regeneration. Under the leadership of eminent chairman Sir Tom Johnston the board undertook developments throughout highland Scotland and his aspirations saw the development of schemes in locations such as Loch Dubh near Ullapool and Storr Lochs on Skye. Johnstone's social aspirations and wider wishes to reinvigorate the economy of the Highlands ensured that schemes in remote areas formed a key part of the NoSHEB development plan.

All of the developments carried out by NoSHEB were subject to parliamentary approval and objections on the grounds of scenic amenity were common. In order to meet these objections the board appointed a panel of architectural advisers which included Reginald Fairlie (1883-1952), James Shearer (1881-1962) and Harold Ogle Tarbolton (1869-1947), appointed in 1943. Initially the role of the panel was to adjudicate on competition entries for designs, but by 1947 it had become one of designers. The panel had little control over the functional form of the buildings, as they left this to engineers, but they did influence the appearance and the style of the designs. The rigid views on the roles of engineers and architects during the design process resulted in the development of a style which can be characterised as vernacular modernism. This style is characteristic of many NoSHEB buildings and is a direct product of the strict role which engineers and architects played in the design process and of the increasing desire to harmonise buildings with the landscape.

Early in the life of the board, following the death of Tarbolton in 1947, and Fairlie's death relatively soon after in 1952, Shearer was able to exert more control on the direction of the architectural style. In line with increasing public concerns over the impact of developments on scenic amenity by the early to mid 1950s the designs for the board began to move away from the confident classical modernism under the control of James Shearer. Shearer spent the early part of his career in the offices of John Burnet and Son in Glasgow before commencing private practice in 1907. He gained a number of high profile commissions, and in partnership with George Annand from 1949 the practice were responsible for some iconic post-war architecture, including David Marshall Lodge in Aberfoyle (see separate listing). Shearer also produced a significant number of designs for NoSHEB schemes, the combination of rugged rubble facings and functional forms with carefully applied architectural features, many derived from vernacular styles, were a conscious effort to meld the new structures into the landscape and stylistically a number of compositions echo the work of his early mentor Burnet. The designs for NoSHEB also show the influence of Dutch architect, Willem Marinus Dudok, who Shearer visited in 1952 whilst representing the Royal Scottish Academy.

(Listed 2011 as part of Hydro Electric Power Thematic Survey)

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