140 year old Sumburgh map discovered

Archivist Brian Smith views the Sumburgh map Archivist Brian Smith views the Sumburgh map Local property manager, Robert Bell discovered an old map while in his cellar at Sand Lodge last year. The large map displays the land and coastline around Sumburgh.

Mr Bell has kindly donated the map, which measures an impressive 5 feet by 15 feet, to the Shetland Archives, explaining how it had been part of the Sand Lodge estate at some point.

The main road from Virkie to Grutness, including the road leading to Sumburgh Head Lighthouse, is clearly visible on the map with detail showing the Sumburgh light tower and east and west pavilions. Robert commented: ‘I am glad that it is in good hands now and that it has been conserved, which was fitting following the recent restoration of the Sumburgh Head Lighthouse buildings’.

Archivist, Brian Smith, noted the importance of the map which was personally delivered by Amenity Trust Architectural Heritage Project Officer, John Mackenzie, to Louis Valentine of the Carronvale Bindery in Falkirk for conservation.  Louis’ family led firm have been conserving and restoring documents for the Archives for many years.

The map was extremely frayed in places and may have been subject to damp conditions from time to time however, miraculously, this had not affected the majority of the drawing.  Brian was able to identify that the map had been drawn by Andrew Dishington Mathewson from East Yell due to the distinct, round, ornamental rendering of the Sumburgh plan title at the top of the map.

A. D. Mathewson, who featured in the last edition of Unkans, was a school teacher in East Yell, who augmented his income by completing many surveys around Shetland during this period.  It is highly probable that the map was created in 1873, evidenced by a letter written by Mathewson to his son dated 23rd October 1873 in which he states: ‘I left Sumburgh House the southern-most house in Zetland at 1pm’. Brian thinks it unlikely there would be any other reason why Mathewson would have been at Sumburgh during this time.

The map would have presumably been commissioned by John Bruce Senior of Sumburgh, who may have wanted a nice big map of his main property to hang up in his house.  It does not appear that the work is finished, as there are no names on the map and limited detail to the main buildings displayed, although the whole outline of the coast is present.

Many of Mathewson’s works including highly detailed maps and letters relating to his extended family are available to view at the Shetland Archives.