Font Size

100% 150% 200%

Background Colour

Default Contrast
Close Reset

Hoy, Melsetter House

Country House (18th Century)

Site Name Hoy, Melsetter House

Classification Country House (18th Century)

Canmore ID 8923

Site Number ND28NE 4

NGR ND 27071 89360

Datum OSGB36 - NGR


Ordnance Survey licence number AC0000807262. All rights reserved.
Canmore Disclaimer. © Copyright and database right 2024.

Toggle Aerial | View on large map

Digital Images

Administrative Areas

  • Council Orkney Islands
  • Parish Walls And Flotta
  • Former Region Orkney Islands Area
  • Former District Orkney
  • Former County Orkney

Architecture Notes

ND28NE 4.00 27071 89360

ND28NE 4.01 27035 89349 Chapel

ND28NE 4.02 27416 89318 Lodge

ND28NE 4.03 27039 89422 Gatepiers

ND28NE 4.04 27862 89194 Gatepiers

ND28NE 4.05 27004 89372 Walled Garden

ND28NE 4.06 26984 89364 Cartshed

ND28NE 4.07 27028 89415 Kennels

ND28NE 4.08 27039 89310 Kitchen Garden

ND28NE 4.09 27036 89273 Dovecot at SW corner of Kitchen Garden

ND28NE 4.10 27070 89287 Tea-house at SE corner of Kitchen Garden

ND28NE 4.11 26938 89326 Factor's House (Estate Office)

ND28NE 4.12 26922 89317 Outbuilding to W of Factor's House

ND28NE 4.13 26928 89319 Stone Flagged Yard

ND28NE 4.14 26984 89345 The Laundry House

ND28NE 4.15 26998 89343 Wall and Gate-piers

ND28NE 4.16 26964 89336 The Hall

ND28NE 4.17 26953 89328 Gate-piers

ND28NE 4.18 27012 89391 Gardener's Cottage

ND28NE 4.19 27014 89358 Spinning Cottage


Architect: W. R. Lethaby, 1898 (additions to farm house).


Publication Account (1996)

Melsetter House and Rysa Lodge on Hoy are William R Lethaby's sole works in Scotland and among his very few creations anywhere, for he was a theoretician rather than a practical architect. At Melsetter he was able to incorporate both the original house, an L-shaped two-storey building of 1738, and some outbuildings into a mellow and intimate country house with paved courtyard and walled gardens. Moreover he was able to inject into the overall design the magic quality and fundamental symbolism of his architectural ideal; the symbolism appears in tangible form as a star and moon carved from stone and two small heart-shaped windows with stone mouldings on the south gable of the east front of the house. The magic quality was cerrainly felt by May Morris, daughter of William Morris who had helped to found the so-called Arrs and Crafts movement in architecture and interior design: she wrote of Melsetter that it seemed ' the embodiment of some of those fairy palaces of which my father wrote with great charm and dignity. Bur, for all its fitness and dignity, it was a place full of homeliness and the spirit of welcome, a very loveable place'.

May Morris was a friend of Theodosia Middlemore, wife of the industrialist who had bought the Melsetter estate and herself embroideress and weaver. Both Middlemores were apptopriate patrons for an idealist like Lethaby and with Melserrer they had provided him with a perfect stimulus. He adopted local traditions of building, harling the exterior walls, using local red sandstone for dressings and Caithness flags for the roof and featuring crowstepped gables, bur adding his own distinctive mark, particularly on the three gables of the garden elevation. The gables are capped with a rose, a heart and a thistle, above T M T for Thomas, Middlemore, Theodosia, and the date 1898. The entrance hall is dominated by a great sandstone chimney-breast, where a finely moulded fireplace is surmounted by five stone corbels designed as rests for candles which would throw into dramatic relief the row of seven coats of arms carved into the stonework above. The visual effect was enhanced by tapestries and silken wallhangings, some of which were made in the Morris workshop.

The south wing of Lethaby's house is the original 18th-century house with its vaulted morning room, and a contemporary square dovecote was incorporated inro the south-west corner of the old walled garden, balanced by a Lethaby tea-house on the south-east corner. He also adapted an 18th century outhouse into a chapel, dedicated to St Colm and St Margaret in 1900 and using fine contemporary stained glass. Above the door are carved a sun, a cross and a moon to symbolize Christ as Lord over the heavens, and the east gable is surmounted by a cross carved as an anchor, as a metaphor of the church as the ship of salvation.

Information from ‘Exploring Scotland’s Heritage: Orkney’, (1996).

Field Visit (17 August 2012 - 22 July 2015)

ND 26864 87780 A marine and terrestrial DBA, EIA and ES for a proposed 200 MW Tidal Array Off Brims Head, Hoy. Marine geophysics were analysed and interrogated and a terrestrial walkover of the landfall and inter-tidal sites was undertaken. Fifteen potential shipwreck sites, three inter-tidal maritime infrastructure features, one Non-Sub Contact and one geophysical anomaly were recorded by the desk-based assessment. The terrestrial desk-based assessment and walkover survey combined have identified a total of 84 sites within the four potential landfall areas and the 20m corridor around the AIth Aith Hope. These date potentially from the prehistoric through to the modern period and range in importance from National (the Category A Listed Melsetter House) to negligible significance (industrial and agricultural features).

Information from Paul Sharman - Orkney Research Centre for Archaeology.


MyCanmore Image Contributions

Contribute an Image

MyCanmore Text Contributions