Repair Work Starts at the Skibageo Hoose

DSC_0040Work has started on the repair project at the Skibageo Hoose – a boat house situated high on a cliff near the Brough of Birsay on the exposed north coast of Mainland Orkney.

The project is a continuation of the archaeological building recording completed in partnership with Birsay  Heritage Trust during 2016. This phase involves Orkney College construction students who will, as part of their building course, repair the damage caused by years of storms.

The building was constructed probably during the early twentieth century by fishermen DSC_0038from Birsay. It is not recorded on the 1900 revised O.S. sheet and was used up to the late nineteen sixties when commercial fishing ceased in the geo.

After falling into disrepair, a project by the local school in 1989 restored the building to a functional state enabling its use as a shelter, a place to rest and a point of interest. The present description “Fishermans Hut” was never used locally to describe this building in the past and only appeared after the upgrading by the school. It was always known as the Skibageo Hoose or the Hoose at the Geo.

DSC_10035Dry built random rubble walls consisting of land stone and beach stone on top of an excavation into clay and rock of probably an old boat house (noust). The east end is built almost entirely of stone and incorporates the doorway. The west end consists of little more than a gable with a small opening in the stonework to allow spars, rods, etc., to be stored in the roof space. A stone facing extends almost to floor level internally.  The roof on the north side is supported off the stonework whilst the south side is supported on a heavy wall plate on vertical wooden props. Seven timber couples with purlins incorporating some driftwood, support the roof covering of flagstone and turf. The floor is of beaten clay and of an internal size of approximately 4.4m x 2.5m. The building is sited approximately in a north-south direction, the doorway being on the east elevation.

Archaeological building recording and measured survey of the neighbouring nousts was undertaken during 2016 by a team from the Archaeology Institute and local volunteers. This produced a drawn, written and photographic record of the Hoose prior to the proposed renovations. This formed part of a wider programme of building survey in the Palace village area and making a 3D model of the Birsay whale bone.

The current repair work involved is considerable and includes the following:

  • Strip back turf and flagstone to both gables to allow access to stonework as required.
  • Take down West gable to ground level and set aside for reuse.
  • Take down East gable to below the level of the door lintel at the South side of the doorway and set aside for reuse.
  • Build in area of missing stone to lower South side of doorway to match existing
  • Consolidate or replace loose or missing stones to inside walling as required.
  • Rebuild both gables using existing stone, to profile as before.
  • West gable opening to be retained.
  • West gable may require the formation of a suitable foundation.
  • Build in stone lintel over the doorway.
  • Core of stonework to be reinforced with clean beach sand/cement mix.
  • Top stones of gables to be solidly bedded with bedding kept well back.
  • Replace flagstone and turf to roof making good to gables and existing roofing

When complete, the Hoose will provide a safe and secure haven for walkers who find themselves caught in one of the squalls that frequent this coast.


3 D Modelling Dissertation Survey

3D modelling is now an accepted part of archaeological analysis and interpretation. However, up until now very few people have studied how these images are used. James Bright, one of our students studying at The University of the Highlands and Islands Archaeology Institute, identified this issue and is in the process of gathering information for his dissertation – “The value of 3D models and their use in the archaeology and heritage sector”  

James writes, “The first part of research for the dissertation was spent making some 3D models of items at the Buckie and District Fishing Heritage Centre, using photogrammetry techniques and Agisoft Photoscan. This was to investigate how much time and skill was needed to make good quality models. I had got some very good advice on what does and doesn’t work from Hugo Anderson-Whymark, who makes some excellent models in Orkney. The second part of research was to design some surveys asking different groups their thoughts on the 3D models – did they learn anything from them, did they think they were of value, did they even load on their devices ! ”

 “Once I have enough results from the surveys, I can discuss the value of making the models, is it worth it and are people really learning from these models or just interested in the ‘wow’ factor of the model itself, being a relatively new technology. I want to see if this technology really brings anything to the table in terms of education and dissemination and I’d like to look at any problems or issues people may have had using this technology.”

If you want to help James in his survey then please go through to his website

https://www.virtualpasts.com/survey-for-archaeologists-and-archaeology-students/