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Sound, laird's house, chapel and burial ground 220m SSE of Oversound

A Scheduled Monument in Shetland West, Shetland Islands

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Latitude: 60.2336 / 60°14'1"N

Longitude: -1.3092 / 1°18'33"W

OS Eastings: 438358

OS Northings: 1150127

OS Grid: HU383501

Mapcode National: GBR R13P.JSN

Mapcode Global: XHD2Y.C16K

Entry Name: Sound, laird's house, chapel and burial ground 220m SSE of Oversound

Scheduled Date: 7 February 2013

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Source ID: SM13049

Schedule Class: Cultural

Category: Ecclesiastical: chapel; Secular: house

Location: Tingwall

County: Shetland Islands

Electoral Ward: Shetland West

Traditional County: Shetland


The monument comprises the remains of an 18th-century laird's house, known as the Haa of Sound, and associated structures, the fishing station of Sound, including böds (fishermen's booths or huts), and a burial ground within which the remains of Our Lady's Chapel are found. The monument lies on the west side of Weisdale Voe, just above sea level.

The laird's house is Palladian in form and measures 10m by 5m. The building originally had two storeys and three bays, with rear wing to the west and courtyard to the east. The house has a symmetrical façade, which survives almost to the wallhead. There is a single storey, 3-bay cottage to the west of the laird's house, with a small barn adjacent to the southwest. There is a well to the southeast of the laird's house. The adjoining fields and gardens are formally arranged. At the shore there are böds and two piers, demarcating a small harbour. To the south are the remains of a laundry, public house and a graveyard within which the remains of a chapel are visible, set into a mound containing the remains of an earlier, medieval chapel.

The area to be scheduled is irregular in plan, to include the buildings, enclosures, piers, graveyard and an area around these within which associated remains are likely to survive. The modern gate allowing access to the field immediately to the south is specifically excluded from the scheduling to allow for its maintenance. All active burial lairs are specifically excluded from the scheduling.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Statement of Scheduling

Cultural Significance

The monument's cultural significance can be expressed as follows:

Intrinsic characteristics

This type of laird's house can be dated to the 18th century on stylistic grounds (Strachan's Type II). The relatively late date is supported by the fact that the böds are next to the harbour, rather than in the house. The proximity of the house to the fishing station indicates that this was probably the house of a merchant. The fishing station has a beach suitable for the drying and curing of fish. The formal layout of the grounds indicates that this was an important house and the associated buildings add to the interest of the complex. There is a strong likelihood that archaeological deposits associated with the complex's construction, use and abandonment survive.

Although the walls of the chapel and enclosure are denuded, they retain sufficient structural integrity to add to our knowledge and understanding of medieval and later architecture and religious practices. The enclosure may contain human skeletal remains, which could provide valuable information on life in the medieval period and later, including diet, health, incidence of disease and life expectancy.

Contextual characteristics

The Haa House developed from the 17th century as the residence of lairds and merchants, and classicism began to appear in these structures from the early 18th century. Lairds were landed proprietors who held land directly or indirectly from the Crown. As the homes of the lesser gentry, laird's houses are a crucial part of the settlement pattern in this period. They have the potential to inform our understanding of the nature of settlement and society in the early modern period. Haas were sited to suit the activities of their occupiers, with those of merchants located near harbours, sheltered voes or other trading locations for the benefit of import and export. The occupation of this laird's house seems to have been linked to the fishing station, which was likely a source of income for the laird. It has the potential to shed light on lairds' involvement in the fishing industry, which was so important to Shetland in this period.

Shetland's distinctive land ownership pattern changed in the mid 16th century. In the medieval period, there were few resident lairds and the land was mostly settled by the tenants of absentee landlords. In the 16th century, resident lairds began to consolidate landholdings and where they owned more than one estate, built more than one laird's house, leading to a relatively dense distribution of this architectural type. The Haa of Sound retains the potential to inform our understanding of this regional variation.

Lairds and merchants in Shetland often also had town houses in Lerwick which, together with the lairds' houses, can enhance our understanding of the settlement pattern and architectural developments.

Associative characteristics

The Haa of Sound was the seat of the Clunies-Ross family, which produced several eminent figures. It was the birthplace (in 1786) of John Clunies-Ross, a sea captain who visited and, in 1827, settled on Direction Island in the Indian Ocean and appointed himself Ross I, King of the Cocos (Keeling) Islands. Queen Victoria granted the family the islands in perpetuity in 1886 but John Clunies-Ross's descendents were forced to sell them to Australia in 1978.

There is a tradition that two wealthy sisters founded the chapel, after surviving a storm off the coast of Shetland, during which they vowed to Our Lady that they would erect a church in her honour on the spot at which they were able to land. Our Lady's Chapel was apparently held in special regard by fisherman and mariners, and by women seeking husbands. It seems to have remained a place of pilgrimage after the Reformation of 1560, which was interpreted by observers as evidence of superstition or idolatry amongst Shetlanders.

National Importace

The monument is of national importance because it has an inherent potential to contribute to our understanding of the past, in particular the construction techniques and domestic life of an early modern laird's house and fishing station, and trade and processes associated with the fishing industry, as well as wider early modern society and the ecclesiastical history of Shetland. The monument may also shed light on the nature of land ownership in Shetland. The site's relatively good preservation enhances this potential. Its loss would diminish our ability to understand the early modern architecture of Shetland and the nature of land ownership in this period.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland




Finnie, M 1990, Shetland: an illustrated architectural guide, Edinburgh: Mainstream Publications (Scotland) Ltd/RIAS.

Finnie, M 2007, The Shetland Haa House, [last modified 2 June 2007]

Goudie, G 1884, 'Notice of a Report, Preserved in the Charter House of the City of Edinburgh, on the Revenues of the Parochial Benefices of Shetland in the Beginning of the Seventeenth Century'. Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland 18: 299 & 303.

Strachan, S R 2008, The Laird's Houses of Scotland: from the Reformation to the Industrial Revolution, 1560-1770 (unpubl PhD thesis, University of Edinburgh).

Tudor, J R 1883, The Orkneys and Shetland: their past and present state, London: Edward Stanford.

Turnbull, J 1836, 'United Parishes of Tingwall, Whiteness and Weesdale' New Statistical Account (1834-45) 9, 69.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

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