Parish of Northmaven

A historical perspective, drawn from the Ordnance Gazetteer of Scotland: A Survey of Scottish Topography, Statistical, Biographical and Historical, edited by Francis H. Groome and originally published in parts by Thomas C. Jack, Grange Publishing Works, Edinburgh between 1882 and 1885.

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1791-99: Northmaving
1834-45: Northmaving

Northmaven, a parish of Shetland, comprehending the northernmost part of Mainland, with a number of neighbouring islets, and containing Hollswick village, on the W side of Ura Firth, 17 miles NNW of Voe, and 36 NNW of Lerwick, under which it has a post office. In shape resembling an isosceles triangle with north-north-eastward apex, it is connected at its southern corner with the rest of Mainland by an isthmus only 100 yards wide; and even this is nearly all submerged by spring tides. Its utmost length, from N by E to S by W, is 17 miles; its utmost breadth is 11 miles; and its land area is 76½ square miles, or 49, 037 acres. The principal islets are Nibon, Uyea, and Lamba; and most of them afford good pasture, but all are uninhabited. The Mainland district, except at the isthmus connecting it with Delting parish, is completely surrounded by the sea. Deeply indented by Ura Firth, Ronas Voe, Burra Voe, Colla Firth, Gluss Voe, and other bays or voes, it has nearly everywhere a bold and rock-bound coast, so engirdled by skerries, towering islets, and fantastically-outlined rocks as at all times, but especially in a storm, to present grandly picturesque and romantic scenery. Portions of the W coast, in particular, consist of stupendous crags, rising rapidly to a height of 300 and 500 feet above sea-level, and seeming to have been rather rent by storm and billow than torn by volcano or upheaved by earthquake. Islets or other objects of still more remarkable appearance bear the names of Drongs, Scraada, Doreholm, Ossa-Skerry, and Maiden-Skerry. Fethaland Point in the extreme N, and Esha Ness in the extreme SW, are the principal headlands; and the former terminates a small peninsula, enclosed by a stone fence. Numerous fresh-water Lakes of no great size are scattered over the moors, whose general surface is hilly, broken, and rough, attaining 389 feet at the Skiurds, 567 near White Grunafirth, and 1475 at precipitous Ronas Hill-the highest summit in Shetland. The rocks, from Ronas Voe to Ura Firth, are chiefly Old Red sandstone and limestone, of coarse description; elsewhere they include granite, syenite, gneiss, syenitic greenstone, diallage, and porphyry. Chromate of iron occurs in places, but not of the best quality; and agates and garnets are found. The soil in some spots along the coast is light and sandy, in others is loamy or clayey; and over most of the interior is moss immediately incumbent on solid rock. Almost everywhere it is very thin. The arable lands are chiefly scattered pendicles around the bays or elsewhere near the shore, and probably-not more than one-tenth of the entire area is under cultivation. The crofters, indeed, pay more attention to fishing than to agriculture. The chief antiquities are a chain of rude watch-towers, remains of Picts' houses, and ruins of two pre-Reformation churches at Ollaberry and North Roe. Four proprietors hold each an annual value of more, and 2 of less, than £100. Northmaven is in the presbytery of Olnafirth and the synod of Shetland; the living is worth £233. The parish church, at Hillswick, was built in 1733, and, as reseated in 1825, contains 600 sittings. Other places of worship are an Established gregational chapel at Sullam (1828; 160 sittings), and a Wesleyan chapel at North Roe (1828; 208 sittings). Five public schools-North Roe, Ollaberry, Sullam, Tangwick, and Urafirth, with respective accommodation for 80, 72, 45, 60, and 60 children, had (1883) an average attendance of 48, 42, 19, 41, and 37, and grants of £51, 16s., £48, 9s., £28, 8s., £34, 16s., and £47, 12s. 6d. Valuation (1860) £1715, (1884) £2352, 12s. 9d. Pop. (1801) 2045, (1831) 2386, (1861) 2585, (1871) 2602, (1881) 2269.

An accompanying 19th C. Ordnance Survey map is available, or use the map tab to the right of this page.

Note: This text has been made available using a process of scanning and optical character recognition. Despite manual checking, some typographical errors may remain. Please remember this description dates from the 1880s; names may have changed, administrative divisions will certainly be different and there are known to be occasional errors of fact in the original text, which we have not corrected because we wish to maintain its integrity. This information is provided subject to our standard disclaimer

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