Northton, Isle of Harris
Over 40 years ago, Bill and Chris Lawson began documenting family trees in the Western Isles, celebrating the culture and heritage of local people through genealogical record keeping and storytelling. The project grew over time and after securing funding, a dedicated visitor centre was built, Seallam!. Bill was keen to hand over his life’s work to the community and so donated his entire genealogical record of the Western Isles in addition to his extensive library, to the Northton Heritage Trust.
To preserve Bill’s legacy, the community-led Trust wanted to reach new audiences and celebrate the heritage and culture of the Herbrides and its people and so saw an opportunity. As the visitor centre and adjoining car park was already under their ownership, the Trust developed plans to take ownership of the surrounding land and buildings to expand their offering.
Following a successful bid to the Scottish Land Fund and grants from Islands Growth Deal, Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) and Comhairle nan Eilean Siar (CnES), the Trust were a step closer to fulfilling their ambitions; but still needed additional funding to upgrade the existing visitor facilities. They decided that community shares would fill the gap. Their phased plans include a refurbishment and renovation of the centre to create a new state of the art exhibition space; an extended bookshop as well as a tea room with toilet facilities. Further plans also include provision of student accommodation and research facilities to create more local employment and stimulate local economic development and to enhance its digital offering for exhibitions and a new website.
Working with the Community Shares Scotland (CSS) team, Northton Heritage Trust were supported to register as a Community Benefit Society, in addition to receiving help with their community share offer document, business plan and marketing through a CSS Microgrant.
“We are delighted with the response and enthusiasm from the community to our share offer. It allows us to move forward with the next stage of our plans. CSS gave us great support with the microgrant, planning the share offer, and marketing of it.” Stephen Mackinnon, Business Manager
The share offer launched in April 2022 seeking to raise up to £100,000 and after running for 6 weeks, raised £91,412 from 433 members. NHT aims to pay 2% interest and offer share withdrawals from Year 2027.
The community share offer will enable the community both locally and those living further afield to have a stake in the ownership of a valued and much-loved community asset and work is set to begin in Spring 2023.
Follow Northton Heritage Trust’s Facebook page for updates.