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Historic Scotland cash for town hall repairs

Lerwick Town Hall on Tuesday - Shetland Flag Day. Photo: Shetnews

WORK TO repair water damage to Lerwick Town Hall has received a fillip in the shape of a grant from Historic Environment Scotland (HES) worth nearly quarter of a million pounds.

HES confirmed the £233,855 grant towards the A-listed Victorian building’s upkeep – amounting to 14 per cent of the estimated £1.7 million cost of the repairs to be carried out.

It emerged last summer that the sandstone surrounds of the 130-year-old stained glass windows had deteriorated to the extent that action was needed to prevent them crumbling away.

Major maintenance work carried out in 1997 appeared to have used stone material that “unfortunately hasn’t stood the test of time”, Shetland Islands Council convener Malcolm Bell said 12 months ago. 

If one pane of stained glass came away, Bell said, the fear was that “it would all come tumbling out like a pack of cards”.

Since then the building has been upgraded from B-list to A-list and now HES has coughed up funding. The council is also seeking other outside sources to minimise the financial burden on its own coffers.

HES said the funding to repair water damage would form “part of a wider project by the Shetland Amenity Trust to enhance community use of the hall, and eventually improve the tourism offering”.

Bell said on Tuesday that the local authority was delighted with the funding news.

“We said at the time that we need this expenditure like a hole in the head, but the truth of the matter was we had very little choice.

“It’s a listed building that we’re responsible for. This is a significant contribution towards the cost and we’ll continue to work hard to minimise the ultimate draw on the local public purse.”

Shetland’s main civic building, Lerwick Town Hall was designed by Inverness architect Alexander Ross to provide a concert hall, meeting place and social venue for the town.

Its clock tower was designed by local builder John M Aitken in 1882, and the impressive stained glass windows depict aspects of Shetland’s history from 870 to 1469AD.