Builders discover century-old gas meter behind shop’s walls
Renovations to the Lerwick Cancer Research shop have turned up an exciting find in the form of an antique gas meter.
Charity shops often find themselves in possession of valuable relics from history dumped off by unsuspecting donors so it perhaps a turn up for the books that in this instance the item of historical significance was found inside the walls.
After 100 years hidden behind the wall of the popular shop, the gas meter is set to find a new home at the Shetland Museum.
The discovery came about when workmen from Irvine Contractors were stripping floor level asbestos from inside the walls of the shop.
During this task the contractors discovered a great deal of rot within the walls which they stripped away revealing a walled-over cupboard.
Grant Polson, of Irvine Contractors, said: “At first we didn’t know what it was but after taking a look we thought it was possibly a gas meter.
“From there we called the shop managers to let them know what we had found and then they contacted the museum.”
Ann Moore, who first opened the charity shop in 1988, said: “It was a surprising find. We never even knew the cupboard was there.”
Shetland Museum curator Ian Tait was extremely excited by the find, saying: “In its day [the gas meter] was something quite mundane but now it evokes images of the bygone Victorian era.”
He also felt that it represented a time when more emphasis was placed on the beauty of practical items.
Dr Tait said: “Nowadays a gas meter is quite dull. Just a rectangular box with some dials on it, but if you look at this item you can get a sense of the decorative finesse in its design.”
He estimated that the meter was likely to be roughly a century old and went on to explain with great enthusiasm the history behind it.
For Dr Tait the meter was evocative of the industrial revolution and Lerwick’s growth into an urban population.
He explained that gas would have first found use in Lerwick during the mid-1800s in the form of street lighting, a development which was accompanied by the building of a gas works on the site now occupied by Charlotte House, adjacent to the Viking Bus Station.
This was followed by a demand for domestic lighting to replace traditional fish oil lamps within households and shops. Domestic gas remained a staple within households until electricity began to dominate the scene through the 1940s and 50s.
By 1965 the town’s gasworks were turned off meaning that the gas meter found in the shop has sat unused for at least five decades.
Now the gas meter will be added to the museum’s collection. Dr Tait’s first plans for the meter involve researching old valuation rolls to discover when, and by whom, the gas meter was first used.
The public will have a brief opportunity to see the meter as part of the museum’s rolling programme of recent acquisition displays.
Cancer Research shop manager Dianne Gear also took the chance to highlight that the shop is now back up and running after its renovation, adding that since re-opening items “have been flying out the door.”
She also sought to thank Irvine Contractors for carrying out a great deal of the renovations to the charity shop on goodwill and Jewsons for donating new units for the kitchen.