Building Work at The Weaving Shed, Hillswick


The Weaving Shed had unfortunately been severely neglected in recent years and Geoff’s vision for the building could not have come at a better time as the listed building was not far from being beyond repair. It was quite a daunting prospect back in the summer of 2015 when we first viewed the building. The roof, although still in place, had been stripped of it’s slates on one side some time ago and left to the elements for several years. It was eventually covered with corrugated sheeting to prevent it getting worse a few years ago but now even the “good” side of the roof was missing many slates, and many others precariously held on by a fishing net strung over the whole roof and tied down. The inside had not been used for a while, but was full to the brim of junk, old car parts, shop fittings and many other bizarre items! The floorboards had mostly rotted so walking around was quite worrying! Downstairs, some structural beams had been removed and it resembled a dark and damp basement. At least the structural survey showed the building to generally be in sound condition. But the potential was there, and after some great work by the architect it soon started to become a reality.

 After filling several skips and patching up the floor, we were ready to tackle the roof – in Shetland you can’t do a great deal until you have a wind and watertight building, so this was the priority before winter set in. We had a great run of weather and despite a few setbacks with finding far more rotten timber than we’d hoped, and having to wait for some of the resident sparrows to fledge, the new slates and skylights instantly transformed the building. The pile of wood removed and chucked into the building was quite a sight and we worked our way through it turning it into firewood and clearing it out, followed by ripping up the old floor and replacing it with a reclaimed sports hall beech floor, complete with marker lines (we sanded these off though – the psychedelic look was a bit intense!).

The fire lit today for the first time. Unfortunately, we had to have the windows open to vent the place so ironically was colder with the stove on!

It was a revelation to finally have a floor space to work from and the work really began to ramp up with the internal timber frames and insulation fitted. We wasted no time in getting the wood burning stove in and fired it up to warm us up a bit, and work our way through the scrap timber. At 120 square metres for each floor, it took a long time to get the upstairs insulated and plastered, especially with the complexities of a curved dividing wall right through the building and the original beams exposed above you. With new windows and doors, and a bright finish on the walls, the space really came to life and feels incredibly spacious and light, and still retains the open character of the building, something really important to the renovation.

Downstairs is the gallery and fortunately this was always going to be the simpler task, as everything is straight and plumb, well as much as it can be in a 100-year-old building! Work in the gallery is still ongoing but the floor and walls are almost finished leaving just the lighting and electrics to complete. Behind the gallery will be a small studio with a bathroom and compact kitchen and bedsit, which is still in progress. The gallery space is light and airy with beautiful original pitch pine beams running the length of the building adding a real feature.

With the building a mere five metres from the beach, we’ll also be adding some storm shutters for the winter months when the building can get lashed with spray and sometimes pebbles! With cracks in the old masonry patched the building will be painted the traditional white, as it once was according to a hundred-year-old photo, and we’ve also revealed some of the original and beautiful faced sandstone that the underlying building was built with prior to it being extended around 1900. These were thought to have been taken from an old church in the area and reused in many of the local buildings.

By Al Whitworth


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