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Kirkwall Sector Operations Room

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The Black Building, 2006
Kirkwall Sector Operations Room
Gun Control Room
© Mark Crook

An RAF Sector Operations Room and Gun Control Room was located southwest of Kirkwall, on the Orkney Mainland, during World War II. The building was sited just north of the the junction of Inganess Road with Berstane Loan. During the war, this room would have functioned as the main communications centre for the Orkney Islands. Fighter Sector HQ moved to Kirkwall in October 1940, leaving Wick solely to Coastal Command.

The building also served as a repeater station after the war, when the GPO used part of the space to house their equipment.

Due to its exterior finish, the building came to be known locally simply as the Black Building.

A second, smaller structure is described nearby, but there are no details given regarding its function. RAF aerial photographs taken in 1941 showed the building under construction, with two accommodation camps visible nearby.

Although the building and its contents (communications equipment) are believed to have survived relatively intact for some years, its sale during the 1990s is reported to have left it open to vandalism, with the structure being stripped bare, and the remaining shell and surrounding grounds used as a dumping ground. Pictures of the interior taken in 2001 show it to have been stripped down to the brickwork and supporting steelwork, and that the brick and concrete shell of the building is intact. Originally located within a high fenced enclosure, this is also reported to have been vandalised. Much of the bomb-proofing was stripped from the roof, and was stacked somewhere in the industrial estate at Hatston to the northwest.

Demolition proposed

The cost of demolishing the building and decontaminating the site was given as £650,000 in 2007:

'Black Building' flattened to make way for housing?

A notable wartime Kirkwall landmark could be flattened to make way for housing.

OIC councillors at Wednesday afternoon's meeting of the planning committee heard that it will cost the OIC £615,000 to clear and decontaminate the site of the "Black Building", off Berstane Loan. The building was a Second World War RAF sector operations and gun control room and was the main communications centre for the defence of Orkney.

The proposal will result in 12 self-build serviced sites being put on the open market.

- The Orcadian, 2007.[1]

2009 appeal

In October 2009, and appeal was launched to save the Black Building from demolition after OIC signed the demolition contract during that month.[2] Supporters also set up a Facebook page.[3]


1 The Orcadian News Archives, Archived Headlines, January 22-28, 2007.

2 Save The Kirkwall Black Building Petition

3 Save The Black Building | Facebook

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