Sanday Heritage Campus


Building owner/client:

Sanday Community Council

Architect or lead designer:

Peter Finnigan (H. Centre) and Directors of Sanday Development Trust

Local Authority Area:


Nominating Body:

Sanday Heritage Group (a sub-group of Sanday Development Trust)

Project Description

A description of the three-part ‘Heritage ‘Campus’ on Sanday, Orkney, Scotland 1. Sanday Heritage Centre Sanday’s 1894 Temperance Hall, latterly the Community Centre, held fond memories for several generations of islanders; but in the 1980s consensus was reached that all of the island’s leisure activities should be relocated to a renovated Community School. Public meetings and questionnaires about possible redevelopment of the old building always resulted in a majority favouring the establishment of a Heritage Centre. The Development Trust, working closely with the Community Council and Community Association, successfully applied for a LEADER-fund grant, and in 2013 work began when volunteers helped to demolish interior walls. Professional builders then moved in to divide the space. The largest area now contains permanent displays featuring natural history, farming, the sea, and archaeology; supplementary short-term exhibitions are also accommodated in the centre of the room. A separate room houses the island’s photographic and oral history archive and the beginning of a reference library of books and written records; another small room houses a shop stocked with locally-themed postcards, souvenirs and books. Visitors to the Centre, where admission is free, help the Heritage Group’s running costs by buying from the shop and making donations. 2. The Croft Volunteers had been able to set up their pioneering displays in two private houses in the five years before the establishment of the permanent centre. Their enthusiasm led to a project that kept them busy while the Heritage Centre funding-application was developed and processed. In the community-owned field alongside the planned Centre lay an old Croft whose last owners left in 1966. Until the move to the School, the island Sports games were held on the field and the Croft was a changing-room. Evidence of that use was apparent in the winter months of 2011/2012, when the work-party moved in. The concrete floor was taken up, revealing original flag-stones. Woodwork and fireplaces were restored; box-beds recreated. Interior decoration was completed, and furniture and household items freely given so that both rooms – But ‘n’ Ben – look as they would have done a hundred years ago. The Croft was opened in 2012. A fire was lit; authentically-dressed group members served home-brew, lemonade and oatcakes; and islanders entertained with fiddles and accordion. Subsequently, Gardening Club members planted flowers in front of the Croft; these have now become well-established. 3. The Burnt Mound and the Heritage Field Sanday’s Archaeology Group was delighted when St. Andrews University SCAPE* staff agreed to make the island the focus for one of their major community-archaeology initiatives. Their interest is in sites at risk of erosion, and a 2005 discovery was found to be one of the most complete Burnt Mounds ever found – and rapidly being lost to the sea. In the summers of 2014-2015 the team, along with keen island residents worked together to re-excavate the area – and to move some of the most significant stones down to our Heritage Field where it has been rebuilt as an authentic replica. Now it’s possible to have a good look around the various features that make up the site, and to guess its function for the original builders more than 3,000 years ago. *SCAPE – Scottish Coastal Archaeology and the Problem of Erosion

Supporting Statement

The Heritage ‘Campus’ on Sanday, Orkney – Supporting statement Sanday is one of the larger north isles of Orkney, with a population of c. 500. Like most of rural Orkney, houses are fairly evenly distributed over the land, most of which is farmed. Lady Village in the centre of the island is a focal point, containing one of two island shops, a Post Office, Fire Station, Ear Memorial, Doctor’s surgery, and approximately twenty dwellings – some privately-owned, some Council and Sheltered houses. Thirty years ago the Community Centre, which consisted of the Temperance Hall and a HORSA-type hut, was the venue for all island functions – weddings, dances, concerts, film shows, suppers for Burns’ Night, Harvest and Christmas. When the Community School was established in the 1980s, all of these events were relocated; the old Centre became a White Elephant. A hundred yards from the Centre lies The Croft, which had been deserted as a home in the 1960s then used as a rudimentary changing-room for visiting sports teams. This, too, had fallen into decrepitude. The whole area, including the Sports field (now redundant too), was owned by the Community; and everyone wanted ‘something to happen’. Just over ten years ago Sanday’s Development Trust was established, and this group of volunteer Directors accepted the challenge. In co-operation with the long-established Community Council (owners of the buildings and land) and Association, the Trust has been able to lease and transform the area which has now become a must-see attraction not only for visitors, but also island residents and schoolchildren. The project summary outlines two regeneration projects and the serendipitous archaeological reconstruction. It does not mention the parallel development of the HORSA-hut which once was the island’s dance-floor. This has been divided into two equally-sized areas: One is now a very popular Re-Use/Recycling Centre, run by another volunteer sub-group of the Development Trust. Unwanted goods are given to the staff, who display them at bargain prices with all profits going to the Trust to help with running costs of the Heritage Centre etc. The second has been leased, since September 2015, to a private entrepreneur on the island who has started a bicycle sales, repair and rental shop from the premises. He reports that the business, though in its infancy, is going far better than he’d dared hope – and we know that there will be demand for rental during the 2016 visitor season. Another fillip for Lady Village has been the 2013 revival of the Shop, which was bought and established by a young couple as a Community Shop, with shares offered to residents. In a very short time the premises have been overhauled and there has been a significant increase in customers and turnover. In short, Lady Village has been revitalised – and in large measure this has been due to the industry, enthusiasm and interest of island volunteers.