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This building is in the Shetland Islands Council and the Lerwick Burgh. It is a category B building and was listed on 08/11/1974.

Group Items: N/A, Group Cat: N/A, Map Ref: HU 4749 4141.


Alexander Ross, 1881-3, with design alterations by John M Aitken. 2-storey, 5-bay symmetrical Gothic and Flemish Baronial town hall, square tower to rear with flanking 2-storey and attic gabled wings giving square plan. Base course, string courses at 1st floor and eaves. Stugged squared and snecked green Bressay freestone walls with stugged and polished Eday sandstone ashlar dressings and details, droved at arrises. Base course, string courses bordering friezes at 1st floor and eaves. Chamfered arrises and sloping cills to windows of hall.

TOWER: tripartite pointed and louvered belfry openings in N and S elevation, bipartite in sides, circular clock face with moulded surround to each elevation, crenellated and bracketted parapet at eaves, crenellated bartizans corbelled out at each corner.

W (PRINCIPAL) ELEVATION: gabled bay slightly advanced at centre. Segmental-arched entrance door with deep moulded reveals centred at ground; 3-light canted oriel at floor above, pointed-arched recess in gablehead bearing burgh arms; hoodmould over. Mullioned and transomed bipartite windows in flanking bays, mullioned windows at 1st floor; cusped arched-heads with flanking circlets; carved shields in recessed aprons set in frieze. Engaged circular bartizans corbelled out at 1st floor, blind arrowslits and quatrefoils with string course above.

S ELEVATION: 3-bay symmetrical gable end of hall to left; regular fenestration at ground, string course, traceried and hoodmoulded pointed-arched windows flanking centre at 1st floor; bartizans framing; hoodmoulded circular armorial panel bearing carved burgh arms in gablehead. 2-bay wing extending to right, 6-panel timber door with 3-pane fixed-light inserted at ground to right of right bay; regular fenestration in bays at left, narrow window at 1st floor in bay to left, dormer window with gabled stone dormerhead breaking eaves in right bay.

E (REAR) ELEVATION: near-symmetrical; irregularly fenestrated lean-to wings flanking centre bay, stair window centred between; cusped arch-head with flanking trefoils; tripartite window at floor above. 2-bay flanking gables; regularly fenestration to upper floors at right, bipartite window centring gablehead at left.

N ELEVATION: mirrored image of S elevation, except for 6-panel timber door with fanlight in inner left bay, blank at floor above, large window at 1st floor centring gable end of hall comprising 4 pointed-arched windows below large hoodmoulded pointed-arched window containing rose window; carved shield (removed here from a demolished Lerwick house).

Stained glass leaded windows to main hall, stair and council chamber. Timber sash and case windows elsewhere, stained glass upper sashes and 4-pane lower sashes to ground floor windows of principal front; 6-pane at ground floor of N elevation, predominantly 4-pane elsewhere. Purple-grey slate roofs; fishscale pattern slates and lead finials to bartizans; gabled and louvered ventilators to W pitch. Stugged squared and snecked apex stacks with droved ashlar ends to rear gables; coped with circular cans. Gabled crowsteps to ashlar skew copes at principal gables; triangular ashlar skew copes to central gable and rear gables.

INTERIOR: most original internal fittings and fixtures surviving. 6-panel, 2-leaf timber doors flanking entrance vestibule; panelled 2-leaf timber doors with glazed upper accessing stair hall. Stair hall; vertically-boarded timber wainscoting, wide dado rail with quatrefoil decoration; recesses with moulded surrounds in walls above containing arms of principal cities and burghs in Scotland; plain plaster ceiling cornice. Leaded Masonic stained glass stair window of 1883 by James Ballantine & Son depicting Lord Aberdour; cusped arch-head with flanking trefoil stained glass lights. Timber upper stair with matching balustrade. 12-panel 2-leaf doors to main hall; timber floor, wainscoting and dado rail matching council chamber. E wall; entrance door at centre, flanking canopied neo-medieval stone chimneypieces; incised decoration to infill in arch-head, flanking quatrefoils over granite columns supporting splayed hood with central dormer bearing carved shield. Gothic stone wall clock by Potts and Co. of Leeds; granite colonettes and roundel with relief of Joseph Leask of Sand, erected 1884. Stained glass windows of 1883 in S wall by James Ballantine & Son, those in W and N walls of 1882 by Cox & Sons and Buckley & Co depicting early historical figures. Open timber roof; plain curved trusses bearing on corniced corbels with quatrefoils. Timber cornice at wallhead, horizontally-boarded timber ceiling, gridded with carved heraldic emblems. Council Chamber; timber wainscoting and dado rail matching stair hall; stone chimneypiece with tiled inserts and cast-iron grate; 6-panel pitch-pine doors, leaded stained glass windows of 1883 flanking centenary window of 1983 to S wall.

LAMP STANDARDS: square and octagonal red granite bases to decorative cast-iron standards with entwined dolphins and square finialled lanterns.

BOUNDARY WALLS: droved ashlar piers with pyramidal caps at principal (W) entrance gate, stugged sandstone dwarf wall surmounted by droved ashlar cope and cast-iron railing flanking, terminated to S by matching pier, curved at NW corner; matching piers to N gate, oversailing decorative cast-iron arch with lantern at centre to N gate.


The Town Hall illustrates the new corporate spirit of the burgh in the later 19th century. Before its opening, public meetings were held in a disused church, and Magistrates? Court and Town Council meetings in a room of the old Parish Kirk. John M Aitken was appointed contractor on 13th October 1881, and broke ground the next day. The original scheme did not include the tower or stained glass windows, but Ross approved a design for the tower by Aitken which was presented by a body of subscribers in 1882, at a cost of ?400. Ross had originally proposed a fleche centring the principal ridge, more in keeping with the Flemish character of the building. Prince Alfred, Duke of Edinburgh, laid the foundation stone on 24th January 1882, and the Hall was opened on 30th July 1883 by George Hunter Thoms, Sheriff of Caithness. Although the tower is not consistent with the original design, it is an important part of the burgh skyline when viewed from the harbour and Bressay.


Mike Finnie SHETLAND (1990) p26. Liv Kjorsvik and Gunnie Moberg THE SHETLAND STORY (1988) p178. Dr T M Y Manson LERWICK TOWN HALL; A GUIDE (1984). Shetland Islands Council Archive. James W Irvine LERWICK (1985) p165, plate 65. John Gifford HIGHLANDS AND ISLANDS (1992) p490. Thomas Manson LERWICK DURING THE LAST HALF CENTURY (1991) p105, 138, 230 and 232 plates 24, 25, 26, and 28. Groome?s GAZETTEER p498.

© Crown copyright, Historic Scotland. All rights reserved. Mapping information derived from Ordnance Survey digital mapping products under Licence No. 100017509 2012 . Data extracted from Scottish Ministers' Statutory List on . Listing applies equally to the whole building or structure at the address set out in bold at the top of the list entry. This includes both the exterior and the interior, whether or not they are mentioned in the 'Information Supplementary to the Statutory List'. Listed building consent is required for all internal and external works affecting the character of the building. The local planning authority is responsible for determining where listed building consent will be required and can also advise on issues of extent or "curtilage" of the listing, which may cover items remote from the main subject of the listing such as boundary walls, gates, gatepiers, ancillary buildings etc. or interior fixtures. All category C(S) listings were revised to category C on 3rd September 2012. This was a non-statutory change. All enquiries relating to proposed works to a listed building or its setting should be addressed to the local planning authority in the first instance. All other enquiries should be addressed to: Listing & Designed Landscapes Team, Historic Scotland, Room G.51, Longmore House, Salisbury Place, EDINBURGH, EH9 1SH. Tel: +44 (0)131 668 8701 / 8705. Fax: +44 (0)131 668 8765. e-mail: hs.listing@scotland.gsi.gov.uk. Web: http://www.historic-scotland.gov.uk/historicandlistedbuildings.

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