Self Catering and Bed & Breakfast Accommodation in Stromness, Orkney


Refurbished Stairs

Refurbished Stairs









Scapa Breakwater Apartment is part of Stromness History

Scapa Breakwater Apartment is part of an enriching Stromness history. The property dates back to the 1800’s. One of its first uses was as a grain store for storing threshed grain.

Stromness Trades & Services

In the late 1800’s the property was bought by P L Johnston who was a tailor. He bought the front part of the building initially, then when the back part came up for sale he bought that too. This is where P L Johnston & Sons tailoring team became most famous. The building is three stories high. The bottom floor was the shop, the middle was the families living quarters and the top was the workshop, (now Scapa Breakwater Apartment). The tailors had to stay up in the workshop at all times. To get the clothes and materials back and forth there was a lift. This was where the bathroom in the apartment is now. If one needed to send clothes downstairs, one would blow the whistle at the top so a member of staff at the bottom could collect the clothes. P L Johnston’s & Sons provided for all shapes and sizes. The Stromness museum holds two of P L Johnston’s & Sons pattern books, with the templates of most items of clothing they sold. Upstairs in the workshop it would have been hot and steamy. There were large heavy irons called “gooses” which were used to press the garment of clothing, The end wall of which is now the apartments living quarters held the large stove, oven and fire. The solid steel irons were stored here as well. This all still remains there, however, it wasn’t in a condition to restore. You can find out more about trades that contribute to Stromness’ history here.

The stairway into the apartment is the original stairs which were used by the workers. We restored them back to the original wood as can be seen in the pictures above. The property remained within the family. The shop was taken over by Mrs Walker in 1984 who continued to trade as P L Johnston and Son’s up until 1999. In 2000 the current owner, Elaine Bentley, became the owner and the shop is now “The Quernstone” which sells gifts, stationary, home furnishings and toys. The back part of the property was converted into flats around 30 years ago

Stromness Art

At some point in the 1900’s a famous artist, Stanley Cursiter, used the top floor as an art studio. He was born in Kirkwall in 1887 and was educated at Kirkwall Grammar School before moving to Edinburgh where he studied at Edinburgh College of Art. He played an important role in introducing post-impressionism and futurism to Scotland. He was the first secretary of the Royal Fine Art Commission for Scotland and was appointed director of the National Galleries of Scotland in 1930 until 1948 when he returned to Orkney. Stromness was then his home for the rest of his life. Also in 1948 he was appointed as the King’s (later to be Queen’s) Painter and Limner for Scotland a position he held until his death.

Stanley’s first love and most successful subject was Orkney and it’s landscape. He particularly loved the coastline of Yesnaby with one of his best paintings being Linklater and Greig which shows two fishermen sailing the rough seas near Yesnaby which now hangs in the Stromness museum. Another one of his loves was St Magnus Cathedral in Kirkwall where he designed Saint Rognvald’s Chapel in the east end of the building.

He is also well known for his portraits. He painted “Her Majesty The Queen receiving the Honours of Scotland” in the High Kirk of St Giles in 1953, which hangs on the Great Stair, Palace of Holyroodhouse, Edinburgh. He died in Stromness in 1976. You can view some of his paintings here.

Stromness has a rich and exciting history which any history buff can ravish in. We are proud that Scapa Breakwater Apartment is a part of it. You can find out more about Stromness history by click this link.

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