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Shetland Crofthouse Museum

Representing a typical Shetland croft, which was still farmed in the traditional manner until 1962, the Shetland Crofthouse Museum is located at South Voe in Dunrossness in the South Mainland of Shetland. Comprising a cramped two-room cottage, byre and barn, all with straw-thatched roofs that are held in place by stone-weighted ropes, this is one of three museums operated by Shetland Museums Service, a division of Shetland Islands Council. There is also a circular corn-drying kiln, a small watermill on the stream below the croft and a shed with a traditional roof made from an old open fishing boat. Crofting provided a meagre existence, requiring the man of the house to work as a fisherman, and he may also have sought additional income as a seaman or in whaling, with his wife and family left to work the land.

A house has stood on this site since the middle of the 19th century but had fallen into disrepair when it was abandoned. Restored by local craftsmen to its state c.1880, it opened as a museum in 1971. The cottage was in the classic but-and-ben arrangement, to 'but' representing the living room used for household chores, eating and entertaining, while the 'ben' was the sleeping quarters. Chores included spinning, basket-weaving, rope-making, the maintenance of tools and repairing fishing nets, as well as cooking over the peat fire. Cattle were kept in the byre all winter, with the accumulation of manure being used to fertilise the land the following spring. The Barn provided storage for food, both for the family and their animals. The mill is typical of a type found across Shetland from Norse times until the 19th C., known as a 'click mill' and featuring a horizontal wheel. Some crofts had their own mill or, more often, it was shared between several crofts in the neighbourhood. Today, the buildings contain domestic items, furniture and tools from Victorian times, including a box-bed. Originally, there may have been two or more box-beds, accommodating grandparents, parents, boys and girls.


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