Saturday, 5 March 2016

Hoxa Art Deco

There's a great collection of Art Deco architecture on Orkney. The best examples are at Hoxa Head on South Ronaldsay. To be honest most people would not class them as Art Deco. Most people would call them wartime gun batteries. But what are these curves, if not pure le Corbusier?

Balfour Battery:


When form matches function so elegantly?

Hoxa Battery:


During WWI and WWII, the Royal Navy's most important home base was Scapa. This anchorage needed defended, and these gun batteries were the result. Now they are crumbling, the steel in the reinforced concrete rusted, the buildings liable to sudden collapse. A shame for such treasures of modern architecture.

Track to Hoxa Head:


The walk out to Hoxa Head from the Hoxa Tearoom is short but fine in winter sunshine. A muddy track leads you to an information board and the first battery. There are views across the Pentland Firth to Caithness, and nearer at hand to Hoy at the other side of the entrance to Scapa Flow. The oil terminal on Flotta is an incongruous sight in such a beautiful area. The battery sits on low cliffs, a tilted sandwich of sandstone strata, jagged edges attacked by the sea. A seal watched us from inshore.

From here it is a short stroll round to the next battery and the track back to the tearoom.

View from Hoxa Head:


In the end the Germans did successfully attack the Royal Navy in Scapa Flow, when G├╝nther Prien took U-47 past the defences and sank HMS Royal Oak. He didn't bother with the front door, guarded by the Hoxa batteries. This southern entrance to Scapa Flow was considered impregnable. U-47 came in via the shallow inter-island channels to the east of Scapa. The Churchill Barriers, sealing these channels to sea-traffic and incidentally linking the islands by road, were the result.

Spot the seal!


We didn't meet any Germans. Just some fulmars, cormorants, and an inquisitive seal.

1 comment:

blueskyscotland said...

Looks a good trip you have had in fine conditions. I've been rediscovering some architectural oddities myself the last few months. Amazing where they crop up.