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Grimsay Wheelhouse

Ancient Village / Settlement / Misc. Earthwork


What's a Wheelhouse then?

Wheelhouses date from the Scottish Iron Age and are roughly contemporary with brochs. Let's say, roughly, 500 bce to 500ce.

A wheelhouse is a circular drystone building with a single entrance. Its interior is divided by a number of stone piers arranged like the spokes of a wheel. The set of bays this creates open onto a larger, central room. The bays often seem to have had corbelled stone roofs while the larger central space could only have been roofed with timbers or whalebones.

Wheelhouses have sometimes been called "aisled round houses" because, in many cases, the stone piers - the spokes of the wheel - do not join up with the outer wall of the house. Instead, there is a gap spanned by massive lintels.

One of the best known wheelhouses is Kilpheder in South Uist excavated by Tom Lethbridge in 1952. Despite the best of intentions, there is now nothing meaningful to be seen at Kilpheder.

The only Uist site where the layout of a wheelhouse can be appreciated is at Grimsay. The few examples in Shetland are generally incorporated into other buildings making them less easy to interpret or appreciate.
greywether Posted by greywether
30th September 2004ce
Edited 30th September 2004ce

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