You can never predict what story a building has to tell. When we first came across images of these beautiful cabins in Northumberland, England, we had no idea what they were and, more importantly, what they had just been through. We discovered that they are upturned herring keelboats, installed beside Lindisfarne Castle on Holy Island at the turn of the twentieth century. The use of old boats as sheds is an East Coast tradition (there are a number of others at the harbor on Holy Island). The National Trust, who own the Castle, had plans to use the sheds for educational purposes — then tragedy struck.
In October of 2005, a fire broke out. Holy Island's famous high tide impeded fire crews from getting to the site, and islanders battled during the early hours of the morning to contain the destruction. Sadly, two of the three sheds were destroyed, and the remaining structure (the stern half of a 19th-century herring drifter) was badly scorched.
Luckily, there is a happy ending to this story. At the end of February this year, the Upturned Boats were opened to the public again. A replacement boat was found in a Leith dockyard (near Edinburgh, Scotland), cut in two and delivered to the castle. The sheds are now a visitor center, educating people about the history of the boats and herring fishing on the island.
Images: ©NTPL/Joe Cornish; National Trust