A Century in Shetland

February 21st 2024

In February 1924, one of the company's founding Partners, Archibald Henderson, was invited to Shetland by Lerwick Harbour Trust to attend its board meeting to discuss a project. This meeting was the start of a long lasting working relationship that continues today.

The project that Lerwick Harbour Trust wanted to discuss with the Archibald Henderson was the Albert Wharf - Alexandra Wharf scheme. The company was appointed to take on this project, and produced drawings, calculations and costs, which were estimated at £18,500. This sum is insignificant in today's money, but at the time the Harbour Trust had to seek grant assistance for it. The Trust also sought a change in legislation to allow borrowing powers to progress this, and subsequent developments.

However, before the first project commenced, a dive survey indicated serious problems with the existing Alexandra Wharf, which necessitated urgent temporary repairs, and then further permanent repairs. Alexandra Wharf was saved, but the new sea wall cost a total of £21,000.

In 1937, Gordon Nicol, the other founding Partner of the company, was commissioned to produce drawings and calculations, for the widening of Victoria Pier at an estimated cost of £37,000. This project was to accommodate the inter-island steamer, and also to widen the North Esplanade by joining Alexandra Wharf and Albert Wharf. Unfortunately the works were suspended because of the war. After the war, the project was discussed again, and this time included ambitious plans to create a sheltered harbour for fishing boats. Archibald Henderson died in 1947, but his son, Ian Henderson, and a new Partner, Malcolm Morrison, completed the project.

That first meeting between Archibald Henderson and Lerwick Harbour Trust, a century ago, proved to be very significant for the company. Since that time, Arch Henderson has continued to work closely with Lerwick Harbour Trust. For the first few decades the work was managed from the Aberdeen office, but an increase in the workload generated by increased investment in the Port's infrastructure led to an Arch Henderson office being established in Lerwick in 1982.

The current Partner is Andy Sandison, who took over the management of the Lerwick office 25 years ago. There are currently six full time civil/structural engineers in Lerwick, assisted by an office manager. The staff turnover in this office is so low that the team has accumulated almost 150 years of combined experience working for Arch Henderson.

Since opening the Lerwick office, the workload has expanded significantly, and although Lerwick Port Authority is still a hugely important client, the office also works for Shetland Islands Council on its harbours and ports assets, and is currently working with Orkney Islands Council on redevelopments for Hatston and Scapa. Its local clients also includes local architects and other businesses and individuals.

The images below show a variety of projects that have been carried out for Lerwick Port Authority over the last 100 years.

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