Pretty vacant: the glory of abandoned spaces

Fifteen years ago Richard Happer was staying on a small Scottish island and took a boat out to St Kilda. Forty miles west of North Uist, the St Kilda archipelago is the westernmost point of the Hebrides, and perhaps the remotest place in the UK. Until the 1920s it had a small but resolute population of around 80. By 1930, the island was completely evacuated, rendered uninhabitable by a combination of disease and crop failure. Seeing the abandoned husks of homes sitting deserted in the grass, Happer was moved. “I fell in love,” he says. “The outside world caught up with these remote people and it was too hard for them to live there, so the entire population upped and left. Visiting it was quite intoxicating. I realised that there were all these places on our doorstep that people didn’t know about

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