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Lloyd's Signal Station: Lloyd's And Admiralty Signal Hut, Cape Wrath

A Category B Listed Building in North, West and Central Sutherland, Highland

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Latitude: 58.6233 / 58°37'24"N

Longitude: -4.9949 / 4°59'41"W

OS Eastings: 226191

OS Northings: 974484

OS Grid: NC261744

Mapcode National: GBR G51Y.2V2

Mapcode Global: WH267.7JQ3

Plus Code: 9CCQJ2F4+82

Entry Name: Lloyd's Signal Station: Lloyd's And Admiralty Signal Hut, Cape Wrath

Listing Name: Cape Wrath, Lloyd's Signal Station Including Admiralty and Lloyd's Signal Hut, Cottages and Outbuilding

Listing Date: 29 May 2013

Category: B

Source: Historic Scotland

Source ID: 401634

Historic Scotland Designation Reference: LB52037

Building Class: Cultural

Location: Durness

County: Highland

Electoral Ward: North, West and Central Sutherland

Parish: Durness

Traditional County: Sutherland

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Circa 1894-1930, signalling station complex at various levels of disrepair (2013) established by Lloyd's of London Marine and Commercial Insurers comprising signal hut, cottages for staff accommodation (by D A Stevenson) and outbuilding. 3 rectangular-plan single storey buildings, of different size but of similar construction, set in remote coastal landscape. Roughly tooled and droved, squared and coursed stone, base course, brick window surrounds and concrete render. Stone and brick stacks, some clay cans. Hut roofless (2013 - see Notes).

ADMIRALTY AND LLOYD'S SIGNAL HUT (226191 974484): circa 1894 (see Notes). Located 15m to the N of cottages and outbuilding, ruinous and poor condition (2013). Single-storey, 3-bay, rectangular-plan, gabled hut, now roofless without skews (evidence of former corrugated-steel roof covering, now collapsed inward). Coursed rubble, with cement render to exterior; cement rendered brick-lined walls to interior. Openings to SW, NE and NW gable end. Slate damp proof coursing evident. No interior features survive (2013). Later addition of stone and concrete observation platform with iron ladder, attached to building, also in poor condition (2013, see Notes). Stone lean-to to SE with door and window.

COTTAGES (226177 974456): David A Stevenson, 1903. 3-bay single storey, rectangular-plan flat roofed terrace of 3 cottages facing NW. Small flat roof outshots to rear (SE) of each cottage (all now roofless), used as main entrance and accompanied by adjacent store. Rendered coursed rubble, ashlar quoins, stone copes, basecourse, slate damp proof course. Stone cills and brick surrounds to windows. Regular fenestration to rear (SE) elevation, arranged 3-3-3. Concrete hardstanding. 5 tall coped square-plan stacks, some with clay cans extant. All openings boarded up (2013).

OUTBUILDING (226195 974462): circa 1930, possibly former laundry and store, adjacent to cottages. Single storey, 3 bays with projecting central bay, rectangular plan and of similar construction to cottages with door and window openings to the inland-facing SW elevation only. One brick stack. No interior features survive. In ruinous condition with partial collapse at S corner (2013).

Statement of Interest

Situated in one of Scotland's most remote areas and the most north-westerly point on the mainland, this cluster of buildings is a rare survivor of a formerly extensive series of similar installations erected across the entirety of Britain's coastline during the early years of radio, ship to shore, and eventually global communications. It is thought that these buildings may be one of the few survivors of their type in the UK. They form a significant grouping of communication buildings, set in a dramatic remote landscape and near an outstanding Stevenson lighthouse (see separate listing). Although in poor condition, what survives is largely in its original form and it retains its functional character. The site demonstrates the evolution of advancements in signalling in the late 19th and early 20th century. It is evidence of the importance of Lloyd's of London in shipping and ship insurance underwriting history in Britain.

The Admiralty signal hut building first appears on Ordnance Survey map of 1896, the area having been surveyed for map making in 1894. From map evidence the building appears to have been erected no later than 1894 as it does not appear on the 1st Edition OS map, surveyed 1873 and published 1882, and therefore was present prior to Lloyd's involvement with the site.

Lloyd's acquired the Cape Wrath site in January 1890 following a visit by the Secretary of Lloyd's in October 1888. This was to secure the site while Lloyd's decided whether to establish a station at Cape Wrath or at the Butt of Lewis. Subsequently, the Admiralty proposed that Lloyd's erect buildings for a joint station. As a result, the original site was surrendered in 1903. A different nearby site was leased from the Commissioners of Northern Lights, owners of the nearby lighthouse. The Commissioners also leased an adjacent site to the Admiralty where they had already installed a signal hut. In 1903, David A Stevenson was asked by Lloyd's to design and establish their offices and accommodation at Cape Wrath, and this was completed in the same year. Historic plans and drawings supplied by the National Lighthouse Board show the Admiralty Signal Hut being extant prior to the construction of the cottages. Stevenson has been documented as having made improvements to the Lighthouse at Cape Wrath in 1896 (see separate listing). It may be assumed that Stevenson was familiar with the site because of the prior involvement with the lighthouse improvements 7 years before. In 1908 Lloyd's and the Admiralty agreed that the station should be taken over by the Admiralty and signalling commenced on 1 October 1910 by the Coastguard under this agreement as a day station only.

In July 1932 the Admiralty asked Lloyd's whether it would be willing to close the Cape Wrath station as it was considered too expensive to operate. Signalling was discontinued from 31 October 1932. In the summer of 1939 the former Lloyd's buildings were reactivated as an observation post, listening station and signal station (logging station type CWHI 27a). Between 1941 and 1943 a permanent listening and radar installation was established in nearby Durness and the relevance of the Lloyd's site was diminished. In 1943 the Cape Wrath Signalling Station was down-graded to Coast Watch Station, with the main data-gathering function transferred to the newly established Royal Air Force radar, listening and transmitting facilities in Durness.

Lloyd's of London established their signal stations in the late 19th century, beginning with a station at Deal, Kent, in 1852. In 1882 Lloyd's stated that the signal stations were to give notice of vessels in distress and requiring assistance, of the state of the wind and weather, and to report to owners and others persons interested in shipping of all passing vessels that made their names known to the station. Information on the movement of ships en route from port to port was of direct benefit to Lloyd's underwriters, and made Lloyd's the recognised clearing house for global shipping intelligence. By 1891 there were 40 stations in the UK and 118 abroad, either controlled by or affiliated to Lloyd's. In the 20th century Lloyd's used wireless telegraphy to signal between ship and station. Ship owners used the signalling station network to communicate changes in orders to ships in UK and foreign waters. It was the Lloyd's network that intercepted the first distress call from the Titanic in 1912. Some stations, such as at Cape Wrath, were operated by the Coastguard (under the Admiralty, later the Board of Trade) who carried out commercial signalling on behalf of Lloyd's.

David Alan Stevenson (1854 - 1938) was a lighthouse engineer who built twenty six lighthouses in Scotland. He was educated at Edinburgh University. Part of the renowned dynasty of Stevenson lighthouse engineers he was a cousin of the author Robert Louis Stevenson and between 1885 and 1886 he built three lighthouses with his uncle, Thomas Stevenson, and over the following 50 years, built a further 23 lighthouses with his brother, Charles Stevenson.

Hut roofless and in ruinous condition (2013); outbuilding and cottages in ruinous condition (2013).

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