Ancient Monuments

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The Knab, coastal battery, 150m south of War Memorial

A Scheduled Monument in Lerwick South, Shetland Islands

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Latitude: 60.1461 / 60°8'45"N

Longitude: -1.1382 / 1°8'17"W

OS Eastings: 447957

OS Northings: 1140490

OS Grid: HU479404

Mapcode National: GBR R1JX.R3M

Mapcode Global: XHFB4.L7KP

Entry Name: The Knab, coastal battery, 150m S of War Memorial

Scheduled Date: 24 April 2018

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Source ID: SM13680

Schedule Class: Cultural

Category: 20th Century Military and Related: Battery

Location: Lerwick

County: Shetland Islands

Electoral Ward: Lerwick South

Traditional County: Shetland


The monument is a First World War coastal battery, comprising two gun emplacements, a munitions store and hut base. One gun emplacement, the munitions store and associated blast bank and a concrete hut base survive. The concrete structure of second gun emplacement has been removed but the turf covered foundation remains. The monument is located on the Knab headland to the south of the Lerwick overlooking the Bressay Sound at 10m above sea level.

The battery survives as four discrete elements comprising two gun emplacements, a munitions store with an earth bund and the concrete base of a hut. The western gun emplacement is located at the south end of Knab Road and is now a viewpoint/ interpretative site. The turf base upon which the gun emplacement sat is visible beneath the viewpoint. The eastern gun emplacement is located on the headland in rough grassland and survives as a concrete structure. Both gun emplacements measure c.7m across. To the north of the eastern gun emplacement are a concrete hut base (beside a stone wall) and a munitions store. The munitions store is still intact and has two rooms. The munitions store is protected by an earth bund and is accessed via a narrow passage on the south side.

The scheduled area is irregular on plan and includes the remains described above and an area around them within which evidence relating to the monument's construction, use and abandonment is expected to survive, as shown in red on the accompanying map. The scheduled area excludes the built structure of the modern viewpoint, the top 300mm of existing tracks and road and the modern drystone wall to allow for their maintenance. The ground beneath these structures is included.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Statement of Scheduling

Cultural Significance

The cultural significance of the monument has been assessed as follows:

Intrinsic Characteristics

The monument is the remains of a First World War coastal battery which originally comprised two concrete gun emplacements, a hut and a munitions store with associated blast bank. Of these features, the munitions store, one of the gun emplacements and the concrete base for the hut, possibly an observation post or to provide accommodation are well preserved. The battery was installed in 1917 to protect the southern entrance to the Bressay Sound. The surviving gun emplacement has a flat concrete base for a light anti-aircraft gun, a Bofors 40mm. This site codenamed 'BX' is recorded in files (WO 166/2051 and WO 166/2052) dated May 1940 and January 1941, held by the National Archives in Kew, London. This indicates that the gun emplacement was re-armed in the Second World War to provide anti-aircraft protection. The other gun emplacement survives as a turf covered foundation (at the south end of Knab Road) and is now surmounted by a modern interpretative viewpoint.

There is high potential for the survival of archaeological evidence both within and around the battery, which can increase our understanding of the construction and use of the battery and the daily lives of the men who built and served on it.

Contextual Characteristics

The monument is located in a prominent position on the Horse of the Knab headland where it guarded the southern approach to Lerwick Harbour. It is one of three gun emplacements dating to the First World War that were built to guard the important anchorage at Lerwick. Lerwick first served as an Examination port (where foreign ships were searched to ensure they were not carrying goods to Germany), and later became a mustering point for ships as part of the convoy system. The other two emplacements are located to the north-west and south-west on Bressay and are both scheduled monuments; Score Hill, gun emplacement (scheduled monument reference SM5370) and Bard Head, gun emplacement (scheduled monument reference SM6367).

In contrast to the gun emplacements on Bressay which each had a single six inch gun, The Knab had two guns. This reflects its proximity to Lerwick harbour and the site's strategic importance. The only other First World War gun emplacement in Shetland is on Vementry which was built to protect the entrance to the deep water anchorage of Swarbacks Minn, which was used as a forward anchorage by cruiser squadrons (scheduled monument reference SM5371). In the Second World War a fixed torpedo platform (scheduled monument SM10755) was installed below the gun emplacement at The Knab to provide protection from attacks by German E-boats, and the gun emplacement was converted to an anti-aircraft battery by re-arming with Bofors guns.

Associative Characteristics

As a component in a network of similar sites, the coast battery represents the nationwide efforts to protect and defend the United Kingdom during the First World War. It reflects the considerable national resource that was put into the homefront effort and it serves as a reminder of the human sacrifices that were made between 1914 and 1918.

One of the two gun emplacements has been re-developed and serves as a viewpoint within interpretative panels that recognise the significance of The Knab, the sailors and the servicemen that were stationed here.

Statement of National Importance

The monument is of national importance as part of an integrated system of defence which protected the strategically important harbour at Lerwick. Although one of the gun emplacements has been significantly altered it retains its field characteristics to a marked degree.  It makes a significant addition to our understanding of the principles of coastal defence as practiced in 1917-8, when the major threat to British sovereignty was seen as water-borne. The re-arming of the site in World War Two with Bofors guns demonstrates how sites were adapted to respond to the threat of aerial warfare. The site is also of significance as a tangible reminder of the vital strategic role played by Shetland during the First and Second World Wars.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland



Historic Environment Scotland reference number CANMORE ID 115447 (accessed on 27/11/2017).

Barclay, G, 2014, The Built heritage of the First World War in Scotland. The report of a project commissioned by Historic Scotland and RCAHMS (typescript report).


Source: Historic Environment Scotland

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