© www.anniewrightphotography.com - Stromness Harbour, Hudson Bay Company, Mainland, Orkney, Scotland, storm
© www.anniewrightphotography.com – Stromness Harbour

Stromness Harbour during a sudden storm. Fortunately I was sheltering indoors when I took this photo! Location: Stromness, Mainland, Orkney, Scotland

History of Stromness Harbour

Stromness’ real development as a major town is owed primarily to a series of wars between Britain and France. Between 1688 and 1815, these conflicts made the English Channel hazardous for shipping so the route around Northern Scotland became the preferred one. The increased shipping inevitably meant an increase in trade and Stromness grew rapidly. By 1750, Stromness was home to 200 families, was half a mile long and expanding.

The Hudson Bay Company and Stromness

An important source of employment for the islanders at this time was the Canadian “Nor-Wast”. From around 1702 the Hudson’s Bay Company began recruiting in Stromness and by 1791 had appointed Stromness merchant David Geddes as their local agent. By the end of the 18th century, three-quarters of the Hudson’s Bay Company’s workforce in Canada was made up of Orcadians. The ships of the Hudson’s Bay Company watered and took on stores in Stromness until the beginning of the 20th century.


Strong winds are common, carrying with them salt from the sea, which in turn affects vegetation. In winter, gales are common with an average of 52 hours of gales recorded annually. In the dark half of the year, the average wind speed increases to around Force 6, often force 7 or 8. More extreme gales, where the windspeeds are over 90 mph, occur relatively frequently, although usually only in short bursts. The worst of these gales was recorded in 1953 – an event that saw considerable damage through the isles.