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Aberdeen Pubs

Torry?s 1st Public House was named  ?Le Sandy Velle? c.1535

'There wis a burnie ca'ed the Struak ran doon oot o' far the Torry Brickworks cam to be, past Jessie Petrie's Public-House by the waterside.'  When the Dee was diverted to its present Channel in 1874 several skeletons were unearthed in the grounds of Jessie Petries Inn a Hostelry that stood at the foot of Ferry Road.  It is construed they were hidden there by Body Snatchers  intent on delivering them to the Medical Doctors at the College for dissection.  It is assumed they had been removed from St Fittick's and buried in the Inn grounds pending further transportation which was frustrated. 

In the North East corner of the Kirkyard stands the "Watcher's Hoose," erected in the days when the seekers after medical knowledge were struggling for the good of humanity against the obstacles raised by its own prejudices and distrust, and when this lonely chuchyard was often pillaged of its newly buried dead by the Body-Snatchers or "Resurrectionists" to supply Marischal College with material for dissection. When the Dee was diverted into its present channel in 1874, on trenching the garden ground beside "Jessie Petrie's Inn" the foundations and part of the garden wall of which were still standing at the foot of Ferry Road 2 skeletons were found, and tradition in the village tells how the body-snatchers, caught at their gruesome toil, were pursued to the River, and being unable to cross without detection, hid the bodies behind the Inn, and were never able to recover them again.

Inns and Alehouses C1845 - There were in Aberdeen no less than 193 inn-keepers and vintners, including 6 principal Inns, viz. the Royal Hotel, the Union Hotel, and the Aberdeen Hotel in Union Street, the Lemon Tree Hotel, in the Huxter Row, Cruickshanks' Inn, in the Schoolhill, and Macdonald's Temperance Hotel in Queen Street

The Aberdeen Hotel was on the north east side of Union Bridge opposite Trinity Hall
Machray's Hotel was on the south side of Union Street opposite St Nicholas Street - Possibly a Temperance  Hotel
Mollinson's Hotel was on Union Street at the corner of Shiprow.

Ferry Boat Inn near the old Blockhouse run by Willie Cormack.
Fittie Ferry
- Harbour ferries, such as the one from Footie to Torry, survived in several ports, well into the 20th century. The Fittie Ferry was used until the 1930s. In the 19th century Footdee had a large number of public houses. The local joke was that the pubs never opened because they never closed in these remote seaward areas.

Steam-yacht Tavern, Footdee c.1840 James Bate
Rising-Sun Tavern
, 11, Huxter Row, Alexander Barron, Vitner
Crown and Eagle Tavern, Exchequer Court, 9 Exchequer Row James Milne
Afflecks Tavern was in Exchequer Row
Lochside Bar, Loch Street, John McKay, Proprietor of the "Real McKay" Blend of Fine Old Highland Whiskies.
Waterloo Bar was situated at 79/80 Waterloo Quay and dates from 1890. Always a popular Quayside venue

At the left on descent of Shiprow (Inset) was spirit dealer William Arthur's 'City Bar' at No's 13-15, this block was demolished around 1900, and most of the other buildings were also removed in the 1920's because the area became very run down.

The Bonny Wife's Inn stood in the Gallowgate at the beginning of the 17th Century

Some 7 Public Houses were on the Guestrow - Including Red Lion Inn Court

Skipper Andersons House stood in the Castlegate in the 17th Century and was the temporary residence of the distinguished leaders during the civil wars of the Covenant.


Lemon Tree Hotel

Preview thumbnailLemon Tree Hotel, Huxter Row, off Castle Street, which was demolished to make way for the Town House in the 1870s. The title was transferred to a house in St. Nicholas Street and more recently to the Lemon Tree arts venue in West North Street. Huxter Row was a narrow street running from Broad Street, parallel with Union Street, to the old Town House or Toll Booth and then joining Union Street at right angles. The street derived its name because of the Booths of Hucksters - small traders. The Lemon Tree Tavern looked out towards Castle Street from the internal corner of Huxter RowAberdeen Chamber of Commerce first meeting (formerly  Aberdeen and North of Scotland Trade Protection Society) took place within the cosy confines of The Lemon Tree Tavern in Huxter Row, a much-loved favourite of the traders and businessmen of mid-19th century Aberdeen as a 'house where the excellence of the food was matched only by the hospitality of Mrs Ronald the hostess.  No doubt with much regret, within a few years the gathering of gentlemen bade farewell to the Lemon Tree Tavern and to the memory of ?such creamy Finnan haddocks, such magnificent partan claws as Mrs Ronald was wont to place upon the table? to reconvene at a new meeting place at the Royal Hotel. The Lemon Tree alas had a less rosy future ahead. It, along with some other local taverns, were demolished when work began on the construction of the Town House in 1867 and an irreplaceable serving of local history was lost to progress and development.  Huxter is a corruption of Huckster which suggests it was a street for street Pedlars with small stalls or carts.

For Sale by Public Roup - In the House of Joseph Mitchell, Vintner at the Sign of the Lemon Tree, Aberdeen, upon Saturday the 1st of June next, betwixt the Hours of 3 and 4 o'clock Afternoon.

The Estates of John Walker and Company, Fancy Warehousemen and Hardware Merchants, No.2 Broad Street, Aberdeen, and of John Walker and George Lowery, as Individual Partners thereof,  and as Individuals were sequestrated on the 5th day of March 1847.  The first deliverance is dated the 5th of March 1847.  The meeting to elect Interim Factor is to be held, at twe lve o'clock at noon, on Monday the 15th day of March 1847, within the Lemon Tree Tavern, in Huxter Row, in Aberdeen; and the meeting to elect the Trustee and Commissioners is to be held, at twelve o'clock at noon, on Monday the 12th day of April 1847, with in the Lemon Tree Tavern, in Huxter-row, in Aberdeen.

THE Estates of P. M. THOMSON & COMPANY, General Ironmongers in Aberdeen, as a Company, and Peter Marshall Thomson, General Ironmonger there, an Individual Partner of that Company, as a Partner thereof, and as an Individual, were sequestrated on the 24th day of March 1852. The first deliverance is dated  11th March 1852.  The meeting to elect Interim Factor is to be held at 12 o'clock noon, on Tuesday the 6th April 1852, within the Lemon Tree Tavern in Aberdeen ; and the meeting to elect the Trustee and Commissioners is to be held at 12 o'clock noon, on Tuesday the 27th April 1852, within the Lemon Tree Tavern in Aberdeen.  A composition may be offered at this latter meeting; and to entitle Creditors to the first dividend, their oaths and grounds of debt must be lodged on or before the 24th day of September 1852. All  future Advertisements relating to this sequestration will be published in the Edinburgh Gazette alone

SEQUESTRATION of JOHN WILSON, Farmer, Kirktown, Dyce, and Cattle Dealer and Insurance Broker, Aberdeenshire. JOHN DUGUID MILNE, Junior, Advocate in Aberdeen, Trustee on the sequestrated estates of the said John Wilson, with concurrence of the Commissioners, hereby intimates, that a meeting of the Creditors will be held within the Lemon Tree Tavern, Huxter Row, Aberdeen, on Monday the 12th day of April 1852, at 12 o'clock noon, for the purpose of receiving an offer of composition from the said John Wilson on the debts owing by him, and for determining whether the said offer shall be entertained for consideration ; for which purpose the said general meeting of Creditors is hereby called, in terms of the Statute

Commercial Life doesn't change much does it.

Ma Camerons -
6 Little Belmont Street

This is an old established inn and is in fact Aberdeen's oldest pub having witnessed and taken part in the City's history for almost 300 years.  

The Hostelry which had sympathised with the Jacobite cause began to flourish as a Coaching Inn in the 1800s Since then it has been recognised as a mecca for both locals and visitors to the City. 

Many of the Aberdeen hostelries were kept by women and none is more remembered than Amelia Cameron who continued to run the pub following the death of her husband, John.  Amelia was affectionately known by her clientelle as "Ma". In 1933 the pub was taken on by Alex Mitchell thus ending a period of 60 years association of the Cameron's with the pub.  "The Snug" is off the original bar in the right window which appears to have changed little since the days when "Ma Cameron" was the celebrated Hostess Ma Camerons Inn was owned by Alistair Bruce and family for many years.


City Royal Bar on the Gallowgate, just prior to demolition - "The City Royal" called affectionately "Guvelocks" which was the name of an old nearby street.  It is at the right of the Gallowgate en-route to Mounthooly. The arched part to the right leading to a backie and an illegal bookie, seems to be already demolished. you can see the boarded up windows of Sheloohan's shop, which was right opposite Berry Lane.  The Bookie in the Backie

Lang Bar

The Lang Bar interior at 55 Castle Street an narrow linear establishment still trading as a pub (Tilted Wig)

Glenlivet Bar - 43 Regents Quay Pub; Staff and Clientele.  Samuel Allsopps was a Burton Brewery and 2nd only to Bass but fell on hard times and were merged with Ind Coope.

Allsopp & Sons, Ltd., (Brewers) 136 Mid Stocket Road

In my childhood the pub was always significant for the smell of hops emanating from the interior and a St Bernard dog that was anchored to the doorway.  Bill Posters were always a feature for the Tivoli shows, Boxing and Wrestling at the Music Hall.  The plank of wood on the pavement may have been a skid for the cellar.

The Waterloo Bar was situated at 79/80 Waterloo Quay and dates from 1890. It has always been a popular Quayside venue



Charlotte Street Tavern No.79 Charlotte Street. c.1938 - Andrew Kelman, Spirit Dealer, Richard Currie - Licensee?
Located West of George Street. 
Allsopp & Sons, Ltd., (Brewers) 136 Mid Stocket Road

Well O' Spa Bar - 1 Spa Street.  Hays Lemonade delivery? & long standing medical school drinker posing as customer. 

Prince of Wales, St Nicholas Lane.

Dating from 1850, this is one of the best known pubs in Aberdeen and also one of the most easily missed being tucked away down a Lane just off St Nicholas Street off Union Street. I have been told that the pub was in danger of being closed down but was saved after a long campaign and hopefully its future is now a lot more secure.  Inside is an unexpected collection of rambling rooms and alcoves that makes the place feels quite compact despite actually being quite a large pub. The low ceilings and dingy lighting all help to create the intimate ambience and the bare floors, panelling, barrel tables, pew seats, old brewery mirrors, original fireplaces and a thankful lack of any soft furnishings or modern intrusions help to retain its traditional, old fashioned interior. The bar itself is said to be one of the longest in Scotland but then Aberdeen also has the Lang Bar.  Unique is the granite trough at the front of the bar for spillage, spitters perhaps in pipe smoking days and sawdust.

Late 19th century. Pair of commercial and residential buildings stepping down in height from left to right. Prince of Wales Public House with late 19th Century timber gantry occupies both buildings at ground floor. Grey, picked granite ashlar with strap pointing.  Nos 9, 11: 3-storey and attic, 3-bay; base course, timber fascia to Public House, string and cill courses between 1st and 2nd floors, eaves band. Regular fenestration, sloping cills, ogee-flip detail to lintels. Tripartite, canted dormers at wallhead with distinctive, slated bellcast roofs and apex finials.  No 7: 3-storey, 2-bay (4 bay at ground floor with main entrance to Public House at 3rd bay); timber fascia continues; eaves band. 2 widely spaced, marginlesss openings at 1st and 2nd floors. Projecting metal signage with `Prince of Wales Feathers'.

INTERIOR: to public House: 2 bracketed, dentiled and corniced timber gantrys; long hardwood bar.  Plate glass timber sash and case windows to upper floors. Many openings boarded (2006). Public House with timber panelled doors flanking pair of fixed pane, astragalled windows. Grey slate, mansard roof with ashlar skews and skewputts; broad end stacks; clay cans. Cast-iron rainwater goods.

Constructed separately, Nos 9 and 11 and No 7 St Nicholas Lane are now integrated at the ground floor by the Prince of Wales Public House. Both buildings are simple in style with traditional strap pointing. They follow the slope of the street and make a good contribution to the narrow streetscape (Windows at upper floors and dormers blacked out ( 2006). The 2 Mid 19th century timber Gantrys and the long hardwood bar run the full extent of the ground floor's considerable length. The Southern gantry has an intricately carved frieze and dentiled cornice. The Northern most gantry is thought to have been relocated from the Lemon Tree Public House (mark II) on Broad Street, whose owner, William Coull, bought the Prince of Wales in 1935.

Torry Bar - Baxter Street/Sinclair Road gave magnificent views out over the navigation channel of the Harbour from the Tower Windows and the Towns Profile rising from the surrounding industry and this would be a real tourist haven if it still survived - alas knocket doon - nae foresiight

Ye Old Frigate Bar was also active in the old lane at 57 Netherkirkgate.

Then I was a wee tee-totaller and not allowed inside these hop laden adult yet very mysterious atmospheres.  I used to bump into my paternal Granny from Torry on her way to the 'Hen Hoose' a affectionate name for a pub which catered for lone women customers and she would search her purse to find you a 'ticky' a thrift flower stamped thrupenny piece while she swanked around in her ostentatious Leopard skin coat intent on gossiping with other abandoned solitary females.




Peep Peep's Bar My Da's stop on the way hame fae werk. Opposite a grain Store at the bottom of Commerce Street which was burned down and was then rebuilt.  The door had a counter balance of a bag of McDougal's Self Raising Flour which would raise and lower as the door opened and shut.  Kids could return Pint Screw-top Beer Bottles they found for 3d each.  But only if they were the McEwans IPA Label.

Snug Bar at the corner of James Street and Virginia Street opposite Bisset's Works and the Virginia Steps and could be approached via Castle Lane better known as Hangmans Brae from Castle Terrace. A typical small corner pub.  See's Half a croon fer a drink doll!  Hard times in the slums of the Harbour  area.

The Schooner - formerly the Empire Bar was on Cross Quay - Lower Market Street

The Criterion, 54 Guild Street - once a den of senior Harbour trade citizens now a den of iniquity

Market Arms, Exchange Street c.1848

The History of the Grill - 213 Union Street 1870~

The bar occupies the ground floor of a typical grey granite terraced range of the early 1830?s. The name has not changed since its time as a restaurant in 1870, when it was owned by George Watson, the same surname as the present licensee but no relation. For over 30 years the premises operated as a ?Restaurant & Dining Rooms?, complete with a ?Billiard Saloon? and ?Electric Light?. Sometime after the turn of the century the premises were converted to a pub and were acquired by Mr John Innes in 1925

Shortly thereafter the pub was refurbished to its present form under the local architects Jenkins and Marr. They took the opportunity to remodel the pub and include the unusual oxidised-bronze fascia panels and scroll work on the exterior. The interior was panelled in mahogany veneer, with a finely-carved back gantry and clock, all done by Mr G Fordyce of Archibalds. The outstanding oval-shaped moulded plasterwork was done by plasterers A Watt and R McGilvery, and their apprentice J McHattie. The long mahogany bar counter had to be manhandled in through the Langstane Place windows after stopping the traffic on Crown Street as it made its way up Windmill Brae. The back windows actually had to be removed twice to make way for the counter because the first attempt resulted in the counter being the wrong way round! 

When the pub reopened after the 7-month long refurbishment, John Innes hung a sign in the window which said ? No Ladies, Please?. For nearly 50 years this remained the policy, despite an invasion by female delegates attending the Scottish Trades Union Congress at the Music Hall in April 1973. This demonstration made front page headlines in the national press and the police had to be called to disperse the thirsty ladies! 
It wasn't until December 1975 that women were officially served in The Grill, following the introduction of the Sex Discrimination Act of 1975. This was followed sometime after by the construction of a ladies toilet in 1998.

The Hairy Bar, Aberdeen.  Also known officially as the Aberdeen Arms was on West North Street, Aberdeen. The owner Robert Abercrombie Snr, collaborated with his son Robert, and Charlotte Abercrombie, in C1947.  A fine wood panelled bar with a piano played by Alexander Abercrombie or the owner Robert Fergus Abercrombie. Cyril Ross, was a part time bar man in this Bijou L shaped bar.  The Pub was in the basement 'sunks' of the street below pavement level next to the Bus Stop on the corner of Farrier Lane.  The affectionate name is no longer used for new licensed premises opened at the top of Cairncry Road when the original was closed.  Aberdeen Arms was the proper name for The Hairy Bar.  Officially changed to Murdo's before moving to Cairncry.  Murdos is a community pub in the north of the City. Surrounded by 3 council estates, the pub is the community?s meeting point. On the left is owner Robert Fergus Abercrombie Snr with his son Robert jr on the right. c.1947.  Charlotte Abercrombie, was the owner,  a brother Alexander Abercrombie and Cyril Ross, part time bar man

Early maps show the site as the Red Lion Inn and this was something of a doss house then as reported by Fraser H

One of my regrets is not having a pint in 'Bella's Bar' (C S MacDonald's or Mither MacDonald's) on East North St before it closed.  Bella's Bar was the last in Aberdeen to still have sawdust on the floor a practice prevalent in Butcher's shops to soak up blood and gore. A common Denominator.

The Old Red Lion Inn which was situated in Red Lion Brae now Firhill Place off the Spital and dates back to pre 1750's this Inn was used by the Aberdeen Philosophical Society every 2nd and 4th Wednesday in the month at 5pm between 1758 and 1773.  It was better known as the Wise Club.  There was a later Red Lion Tavern which moved slightly within the area.  The present Red Lion Pub at 190 the Spital dates from 1903.  The Firhill was further west and was the site of the Firhill Well or Gibberie Wallie

McKilligan's Corner Woodhouse Bar, McKilligan's Corner, Stoneywood dates from the turn of the century when it was still safe to play in the streets.  McKilligan had been a barman at the Station Hotel (now the Staging Post), but saved enough to buy this bar. There used to be a living room on the ground floor and later a small shop. The cottages behind the bar have gone, but it is still in business.

The Swan Bar - and Lounge was next to Loch Street Post Office just before their closure. These buildings were at the northern end of the area which was to be demolished for the Bon Accord Centre Development. The Swan Bar at No.34 was one of the older pubs in Aberdeen and its manager for many years was George Baxter, founder of Aberdeen Darts Association. On its last night on 14th April 1987, it was packed with regulars sad to see their favourite haunt closed down. The Loch Street Post Office, which had been opened in 1939 (GR) was closed on 13th April 1987, the staff being redeployed to other branches.  Were there ever swans on the Loch - maer likely cleckin' gulls.

5th February, 1941
2 High Explosive bombs and one Incendiary bomb fall on Loch Street, destroying McBride's Bar and 89 Loch Street.

Blue Lamp - Gallowgate

The infamous Blue Lamp Public House at 121 the Gallowgate a favourite with the University Students and Climbing Fraternity later to become a Mecca for Jazz Aficionados. Next door was Soapy Ogden's opulent Factory Facade.  To the right was an old warehouse which was annexed and converted to another bar and Jazz Venue

McEwan's was the best buy in beer - a lovely creamy pint that took some time to pour - alas homogenised into bright party beer for quick sale and the convenience of lazy cellar men.





Star & Garter - Crown Street.
Fine old and well appointed but dated Edwardian Pub with grand Ornate Plaster Ceiling and cut glass Mirrors which fell out of favour with the competing 80's Giant Gin Palaces of former Banks.  A welcome refuge from the bustle of the Grill which was but across the street in Langstane Place - alas nae maer.

The Royal Oak Bar, 5-9 Marischal Street
Later 18th century. 3-storey with attic and basement, 5-bay classical townhouse with later public house to ground floor on sloping site. Loanhead granite ashlar with raised margins; moulded eaves course; regular fenestration to 1st and 2nd floors. Central 5-light box dormer in mansarded roof. Ground floor public house with symmetrical frontage; stugged ashlar basecourse; large tripartite fixed pane windows flanking recessed 2-leaf door; further recessed entrance at far left.  12-pane timber sash and case windows. Grey slates. Ashlar coped skews at right gable; large granite ashlar ridge stack with later red brick upper section; clay cans. Cast-iron rainwater goods.

Marischal Street (designed by William Law, 1767) is arguably the most significant example of Georgian town planning in Aberdeen. The refined classical styling of No.s 5-9 contributes much to the predominantly unaltered character of the Streets lengthy run. The building was constructed between 1767, when plans for the street were first laid out, and 1789, where the Northerly end of the street is shown as complete on Alexander Milne?s map of that date.

This pub was popular with seamen and owing to the risky design of large glass windows it was regularly smashed from within or without.  The added handrails gave little protection to the glass.  Note the magnificent Globe Lights that illuminated the frontage.   Now occupied by Old Blackfriars Public House

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Last modified: 01/09/2013