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Hoy, Lyness, Royal Navy Oil Terminal, Oil Tanks

Oil Storage Tank(S) (Modern)

Site Name Hoy, Lyness, Royal Navy Oil Terminal, Oil Tanks

Classification Oil Storage Tank(S) (Modern)

Alternative Name(s) Scapa Flow

Canmore ID 9489

Site Number ND39SW 20

NGR ND 30996 94650

NGR Description Centred ND 30996 94650

Datum OSGB36 - NGR


Ordnance Survey licence number 100057073. All rights reserved.
Canmore Disclaimer. © Copyright and database right 2021.

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Administrative Areas

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

Archaeology Notes

ND39SW 20 centred 30996 94650

See also ND39NW 163; ND39SW 40 and ND39SW 44

ND39SW 20.01 ND 3099 9465 Boiler; Building

ND39SW 20.02 ND 309 946 Oil Tanks

ND39SW 20.03 ND 3020 9390 Military Camp

ND39SW 20.04 ND 3021 9470 Pillbox

ND39SW 20.05 centred ND 3135 9463 Pier

ND39SW 20.06 ND 3042 9478 Building

ND39SW 20.07 ND 3100 9479 Nissen Hut

ND39SW 20.08 ND 3063 9439 Building

ND39SW 20.09 ND 3034 9470 Gas Decontamination Centre

ND39SW 20.10 ND 3068 9495 Church

ND39SW 20.11 centred ND 3061 9426 Air-raid shelters; Engine House

ND39SW 20.12 ND 3085 9435 Building

ND39SW 20.13 ND 3010 9445 Building; Huts

ND39SW 20.14 from ND 31124 94498 to ND 31262 94392 Pier

Lyness Royal Naval Base and Oil Terminal is no longer a military base, all oil tanks except one have been demolished. Many of the buildings such as the Pumphouse (ND39SW 40), Recreation centre, Boiler House (ND39SW 20.01) still stand. The sites of many of the military camps and accommodation blocks can also be seen e.g. (ND39SW 20.03) and a small museum of various military remains and equipment has been created in the pumphouse near to the passenger ferry terminal with exhibits both inside and outside.

A plan of the Naval Base by the Civil Engineers Department of the Admiralty as it was during World War Two is available at the museum showing the complete layout of most of the buildings etc as it was in 1941.

Visited by RCAHMS (DE) May 1996


Publication Account (1996)

Lyness was the major naval base for Scapa Flow during both World Wars, and it was used by the Royal Navy until 1956. The original oil-pumping station has been renovated and used as an interpretation centre for the story of wartime Scapa Flow. The station was built in 1917 to house the steam-driven pumps that brought oil from tankers moored at the the piers into storage tanks. One of the four tanks survives, designed to hold 12,000tons of oil. The gleaming pumps were originally powered by coal, but they were converted to oil in 1936, when another twelve storage tanks were built. The displays include artefacts recovered from HMS Hampshire and from ships of the scuttled German fleet.

By 1940 there were more than twelve thousand military and civilian personnel at Lyness, and one of the great red sheds built around 1918 was converted into the largest cinema in Europe. Even more striking is the cinema built around 1942 south of Lyness (NO 307922). A huge Nissen hut was transformed by a facade built in art deco style, with its brickwork painted black and bands of white linking the windows (see p.35). The Nissen hut has been demolished and the facade is now a guesthouse.

On the hillside above Lyness are the naval cemetery and a good example of a pillbox, a small defensive look-out post so-called from its squat circular shape.

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

Field Visit (August 1997)

Lyness served as the centre for naval operations throughout WWI & II. The sheltered harbour offered an ideal location for refuelling and maintaining the fleet. The extensive remains of a wide range of structures associated with the base include:

(i) A boiler, a building, oil tanks, a military camp and a pillbox (ND 39 SW 20.01 -20.05).

(ii) Lyness steam pumping station and oil tank: Scheduled (HS Index 5438, 07ND 309 947- 07ND 310 947). The steam pumps were used to drive fuel oil into storage tanks. Originally coal-powered, they were converted to oil-firing in 1936. They now form a display within the Lyness Interpretation Centre. The oil tank, built in 1917, has a capacity of 12,000 tons and is the last survivor of four such tanks originally housed here.

(iii) A hand crane and pier (ND39SW 17)

Moore and Wilson, 1997

Coastal Zone Assessment Survey

Orkney Smr Note

During the two World Wars, Lyness formed part of the Royal Navy's base in Scapa Flow. An integral part of this was the oil staorage facility at Lyness. In 1917 four 12,000 ton oil tanks were constructed. These were added to in 1936 when 12 more 15,000 ton oil tanks were built in association with the 100,000 ton underground storage facility at Wee Fea (OR 2390), the hill overlooking Lyness. Each tank was surrounded by a large earthen bank or bund to contain the oil in the event of any spillage. All the tanks, apart from one of the 1917 tanks, have been demolished. The remaining tank and the adjacent steam pumping station now form part of Orkney Islands Council's Scapa Flow Interpretation Centre. The steam pumping station dates from the First World War. It was originally coal powered but the boilers were converted to oil-firing in 1936. It was used to drive fuel-oil up from the piers into the storage tanks. The concrete area in front of the pump house was used to lay out anti-submarine nets.

Information from Orkney SMR [n.d.]


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