Ervhouse is a two-storey, three-bay Shetland haa (house) of the mid-19th century, located in a prominent position to the west side of Weisdale Voe, around 10 miles west of Lerwick. A two-storey wing was added to the rear (north) in 1878, forming an L-plan. The walls of the house are built of local stone and are harl-pointed with raised margins to the doors and windows. There is a detached steading outbuilding to the north, and a rectangular garden enclosed by rubble walls to the south.
The symmetrical principal (south) elevation of the house has a door at the centre with windows in the flanking bays and windows set close to the eaves at the first floor. The west gable has two windows, to the left and right of the ground and first floor respectively. The rear wing has a symmetrical 3-bay elevation to the west with a vertically-boarded timber door, a narrow window above, and windows in the flanking bays. There is a single-storey, lean-to porch in the re-entrant angle. The windows are timber sash and case, with eight-pane horizontal glazing pattern to the south elevation, and four-pane glazing to the rear wing. The roof is covered with purple-grey slate with droved ashlar copes. The gablehead stacks have stone copes and circular cans.
The interior, seen in 2018, largely retains its 19th century room arrangement. There are two timber staircases, timber-lined rooms, working timber shutters and partially flag-stoned floors. A ladder stair leads to two attic rooms with combed ceilings.
The gabled former steading and cart-shed outbuilding is rectangular-plan, orientated east to west. To the south elevation are two cart openings with a former hoist opening above, and two further doorways to the right. The west elevation has a pointed-arch opening within the gable.
The walled garden has an elongated rectangular plan, extending to the south of the house. It has coped rubble walls and contains a good number of well-established trees.
Statement of Special Interest
Ervhouse is a typical example of a mid-19th century 'haa' (house) found in Shetland and is notable for its design and its level of survival. The house and its associated buildings are a prominent feature in an open agricultural landscape which has not been altered significantly from around 1900. The symmetrically proportioned principal elevation and timber sash and case windows with 'lying-pane' glazing pattern are in keeping with the building's date and type. The associated farm buildings, including the steading, show traditional building methods and the use of locally sourced materials and the survival of these ancillary buildings is increasingly rare. Also once used as an inn and shop, these buildings directly illustrate traditional 19th century agricultural and commercial practices in Shetland.
Age and Rarity
The principal south wing of Ervhouse is a typical two-storey, three-bay Shetland house, or 'haa', built in or around 1856 as a factor's house associated with the Flemington Estate, around the same time as nearby Kergord Haa (listed category C - LB47310). The arrangement of windows set close to the eaves possibly suggests an earlier 19th century date.
The buildings are first shown on the 1st Edition Ordnance Survey Map (surveyed 1878) as 'Airvhouse Inn'. The rectangular main steading building to the immediate north and the walled garden enclosure to the south are also shown on this map. The inn would have been a place where travellers could rest and change their horses. By the time the 2nd Edition Ordnance Survey map was produced in 1900, a north wing had been added to the building, forming an L-plan building. Historical photographs from the 1890s show the additional wing. James Jamieson appears to have had a farm here, also providing lodging and horse-changing facilities for travellers and tourists (Shetland Museum Archives). By the 1890s the rooms at ground level were used as a local shop and a waiting room. During the 1940s the west wing operated as a public house. The footprint of the buildings have not altered significantly since 1900.
The 'High Farming' era in Scotland (from around 1850 to 1914) was characterised by increased industrialisation and commercialisation of farming methods and systems. It was a natural progression from the 'Improvement Farming' era (broadly 1700-1850) when agriculture was 'aspiring to become ever more scientific' (Buildings of the Land, p.75). Practices of the early Improvers found their way slowly to outlying areas of the country such as Shetland, with the contrast between the buildings of highland and lowland agriculture at its greatest during the mid-19th century.
The older a building is and the fewer of its type that survive, the more likely it is to be of special interest for listing. While farmhouses are not a rare building type in Shetland, Ervhouse is of interest as a largely complete example of a mid-19th century, classically-proportioned farmhouse in the Shetland 'haa' style. Agricultural settlements on Shetland during the 19th century mostly consisted of single storey dwellings that 'retained many of their Norse farming traditions and systems of land tenure' (Buildings of the Land, p.133). The introduction of larger, symmetrically proportioned houses such as Ervhouse tending to be associated with a local estate landowner and with improvement farming methods in mind, was much slower in Shetland than in lowland Scotland during the period and as such, surviving examples are relatively less common. Examples which largely retain their early plan form and profile, glazing pattern, and little-altered setting are comparatively unusual. Another 'haa' of similar proportions, built around 50 years before Ervhouse, is 'Gloup Haa' on the island of Yell (LB18653).
Architectural or Historic Interest
The retention of some 19th century features including the timber staircase, timber-lined rooms, working timber shutters and partial flagstone floors, add to the special interest of the building in listing terms.
The earlier section of Ervhouse is orientated with the principal elevation facing south towards the enclosed garden area, to take advantage of natural light. The plan form of Ervhouse survives largely in its 19th century form. The arrangement of the house and the outbuildings including the walled garden are typical of small farming settlements in Shetland which typically included and enclosed garden attached to the house.
Technological excellence or innovation, material or design quality
The appearance of Ervhouse and its outbuildings in their current form is that of a 19th century group of farm buildings. The symmetrical proportions of the principal elevation is illustrative of house building in the 'haa' style in Shetland during the mid-18th to mid-19th century. While this was a wealthy period during which agricultural improvements were made throughout Lowland Scotland, the relatively slow influx of newer farming practices in out-lying areas such as Shetland meant that the larger 'haa' style houses such as Ervhouse continued to contrast distinctly in the landscape with smaller pre-Improvement agricultural buildings well into the 20th century. The local building methods employed at Ervhouse and its outbuildings also add to its special interest.
The mid-19th century steading/cart-shed outbuilding is notable for its unusually large size and for its survival. It has been altered to support the commercial function of Ervhouse as an inn, shop and public house over a 100 year period. Early photographic evidence shows the pointed-arch opening within the west gable of the outbuilding containing a timber infill with bird flight-holes.
Ervhouse is located on open farmland on the lower east slopes of Weisdale Voe at Huxter. The house is prominently visible in long views, particularly from the high road on the opposite side of Weisdale Voe. The largely-unaltered setting adds to the special interest in listing terms. Unusually for Shetland, the enclosed garden area to the south contains a substantial number of mature trees, which were understood to have been planted around 1930.
The construction of mid-19th century Shetland haas of this type used locally sourced building materials where practicable. Often built in association with a local landowner's estate, these larger than average, symmetrical, classically-proportioned houses are a distinctive feature of the Shetland landscape. While some materials such as roofing timbers were increasingly shipped across from the Scotttish mainland during the 19th century, construction remained a largely localised practice, influenced by wider social and economic developments on mainland Scotland. Good surviving examples, such as Ervhouse, continue to illustrate distinctive regional building traditions.
Close Historical Associations
There are no known associations with a person or event of national importance at present (2018).
Statutory address and listed building record revised in 2018. Previously listed as 'Weisdale, Huxter, Ervhouse, including steading and garden walls'.