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LERWICK - Extract from National Gazetteer, 1868

[Description(s) from The National Gazetteer (1868)]

"LERWICK, a parish and post town situated on the mainland or largest island of the Shetland group, Scotland. The parish is 6 miles long, and does not exceed a mile in breadth. Its eastern coast, with the opposite island of Bressay, forms the spacious harbour called Bressay, or Lerwick Sound, which is a good anchoring ground. The surface is hilly and rocky, and consists for the most part of peat or moss. Old Red sandstone is quarried. The parish is the seat of a presbytery in the synod of Shetland. The minister's stipend is £158. The United Presbyterians, the Free Church, the Independents, and the Methodists have each a place of worship. At Gulberwick are the ruins of several chapels. There are the remains of a Pictish castle near the town. Sir A. Nicholson of Gremista is the chief landowner.

The town, situated on the E. coast of the mainland, at the centre of Bressay Sound, is 95 miles from Kirkwall, and 21 N.E. of Samburgh Head. The town, the principal one in Shetland, occupies a lunated segment of the sea-shore about half a mile in length, and becomes gradually more elevated as it recedes from the coast. The principal street extends through the whole length of the town, following the curvature of the sea-shore, and there are numerous lanes and closes running to the higher parts of the town.

The houses are built of a species of grey sandstone, and, save in the more modern parts, are placed irrespective of order. Fort Charlotte, which protects the harbour, was originally built in Charles II.'s reign, but rebuilt in 1781, when it received its present name in honour of the consort of George III. The chief buildings are the parish church, the Free church, and an edifice which is used as a court-house, town-house, and prison.

The trade of the town is more extensive than its population would indicate. Almost the whole produce of Shetland, consisting of salted fish, beef, oil, butter, and hosiery, passes to market through the merchants of Lerwick, and by them in like manner are imported all the colonial produce and manufactured goods used throughout the islands. The only manufactures are the making of herring nets and the knitting of articles of hosiery.

The herring fishery employs upwards of 660 boats and about 4,000 persons. In 1859 the tonnage entered inwards in the foreign, colonial, and coasting trade, amounted to 27,437, and the entries outwards to 24,570. The number of vessels registered at the port was 68, with an aggregate tonnage of 2,372. There is weekly steam communication with Aberdeen, Leith, and Kirkwall.

The town is a burgh of barony. Its municipal government is vested in two bailies and nine councillors, with a separate board of police, all of whom are elected by the burgesses. The sheriff, commissary, and admiralty courts for Shetland are held at Lerwick every Thursday during session. A Justice of peace small-debt court is held on the first Tuesday of May, and on the first Wednesday of every other month."

"MELBY, a post station in the parish of Lerwick, Shetland Islands, coast of Scotland, 20 miles N.W. of Lerwick."

"ULSTA, a village in the parish of Lerwick, Mainland, Shetland Isles, coast of Scotland, on Bessay Sound."

"GULBERWICK, an ancient parish in the Orkney Islands, Scotland, now united to Lerwick. [Orkney Islands sic, but assume they meant Shetland -RL 2004]"

[Description(s) from The National Gazetteer of Great Britain and Ireland (1868)
Transcribed by Colin Hinson ©2003]