The present Papa Stour Kirk was built in 1806 and was paid for by public subscription. At that time there were over 300 people living on Papa Stour.
The Church of Scotland administered the kirk and a permanent minister resided in Papa Stour for many years. However, in July 2015 the Church of Scotland no longer had any members on Papa Stour and a decision was taken by The Church of Scotland to deconsecrate the kirk. The kirk was and remains in poor condition requiring extensive maintenance and upgrading.
The Papa Stour History and Community Group (PSHCG) decided to try to purchase the kirk building before it was put up for sale by the Church of Scotland (COS). Negotiations between the PSHCG and the COS took place over a period of 4 years and eventually in January 2016 the PSHCG became owners of the Papa Stour kirk.
The aim of Papa Stour History and Community Group is to enhance and support all aspects of life on Papa Stour. It has, as you can see from this website, a wealth of natural, archaeological, and cultural heritage, which is, in reality, in great danger of being lost. The declining population needs help, as at present the only real source of income is crofting. Should depopulation continue, there will be a further reduction in ferry and other services, with the end result being that Papa Stour will become another of Shetland's un-inhabited islands, only accessible to private boat owners, and only used for grazing sheep.
We feel we can prevent this happening, and are working with our local authority's 'Island's with Small Populations' island proofing measures. We are designing a series of island renewal initiatives using the Kirk building, (which is the only available community owned building on the isle) as a focus for not only preventing the loss of, but developing and promoting all of Papa Stour's rich and varied heritage.
Some visitors come to Papa, walk on the isle, are captivated by its beauty and heritage, and then go, without there being any interaction with, or benefit to, islanders. There is no opportunity for them to learn more about, or contribute to, the isle's heritage, and yet the potential for this to happen is all there. The heritage that we wish to save and make more widely available is that of every aspect of the beautiful amazing island of Papa Stour, and the Kirk Development Project will give us a base from which so much can happen.
If you feel inspired in any way to help us, if you have connections to Papa, if you have skills you can share with us, or cash to spare, do get in touch! Email firstname.lastname@example.org
The surrounding graveyard is owned and administered by Shetland Islands Council.
Ongoing fundraising efforts have taken place including a music day in the kirk in August 2018.
Successful grant applications were made to LEADER finding and the Architectural Heritage Fund and Sandness and Walls Community Council. Competitive tenders were sought from three firms of Conservation Architects and in May 2019 the practice of James F Stephen Architects from Glamis were appointed .
Doug Reid, an experienced Conservation Architect has led the design team. Doug has visited Papa Stour on several occasions and prepared design proposals which were made available for public consultation in both Lerwick and Papa Stour.
The development of the kirk includes:
Repairs and re-slating of the roof.
Repairs to cracked external walls and reharling.
Reconstruction and repair of the belltower.
Removal and repair of the windows and doors.
The provision of water and toilet facilities with an associated septic tank.
Internal repurposing to allow the building to be used as both as a kirk and multi-functional community hub and visitor centre.
The provision of insulation and Solar PV panels on the roof.
The kirk is visited often by people tracing their family ancestry, and it is hoped to store genealogical information when the kirk is made weatherproof.
Planning consent and a building warrant were obtained in 2019 for the works to the kirk and a cost estimate and report for the proposed works was prepared. During 2019 applications were started to funding bodies for the capital costs of the proposed refurbishment and repurposing.
The Covid situation has restricted progress on these grant applications. The PSHCG has had positive feedback from a number of grant bodies who are now reopening for grant applications, but the group itself still needs to raise considerable funds. The current aim is to begin the works to make the Kirk wind and watertight on site in September 2022 for completion by the end of 2022.