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Adelphi Court

Adelphi Court was created in 1815 as part of the early19th century development of Union Street. 

Union Street was developed after 1794, when a Town Council meeting asked the Aberdeenshire County Road Trustees Surveyor, Charles Abercrombie to find a way to connect the original steep, muddled Medieval streets of Aberdeen to the surrounding countryside.  His plan was for 2 streets, one of which would run from Castlegate to the Denburn and the other which would run from the Castlegate to the North of the town. The former became Union Street. This was a particularly difficult project to complete as the Street had to cut through 15 feet of St Katherine's Hill at the East end and be built on a series of arches culminating with a large bridge at the Denburn. 

The site of St Catherine's Chapel, founded in 1242,on the summit of St Catherine's Hill. The chapel had gone by 1661, although it is said to have survived the Reformation, and the greater part of the hill was removed in the early 19th century.  Allegations of an associated Franciscan Nunnery are unsupported by record evidence (Easson 1957).  The chapel has been sited to the summit of the hill as shown on pre-19th century plans. J Gordon 1661; G Taylor 1773; A Milne 1789; W Kennedy 1818; Name Book 1866; D E Easson 1957. 

Adelphi Court is named after the Adelphi in London, located off The Strand. The London Adelphi was laid out by the brothers John and Robert Adam and the name commemorates this relationship: Adelphi is Greek for ‘brothers’.  The street was laid out on the crest of St Katherine’s Hill in the early 19th century. Other Aberdeen streets named after London streets are: Whitehall; Spring Garden and Mile End.

Adelphi Close linking Union Street with Market Street via the  Adelphi Development on St Katherine's Hill.

Adelphi Billiard Rooms, 7 Adelphi Court

George Mearns, China Merchant, Adelphi Court, 
26, Union Street
Adelphi Hotel, 10 Adelphi ; Prop N Moncur

The 1947 Stoneywood Mill Employee Handbook, was printed by Messrs. George Robb (Adelphi) Ltd.

22-26 Adelphi
This is a good example of a early 19th century townhouse with the traditional external finish of painted harl and granite margins. With its fine corner arched entrance, the house makes a positive contribution to the narrow street of Adelphi.
Early 19th century. 2-storey attic and basement L-plan townhouse with abutting 2-bay house to North (converted to flats) and with arched entrance doorway in re-entrant angle to South. Cream painted harl with grey granite margins. Band course above basement. Cill course. Piended dormers. Granite steps with curved iron railings with spiral ends lead to 6-panel timber entrance door with narrow timber jambs and tall side lights. Large multi-paned semi-circular fanlight above. Round-arched window with Y-tracery glazing at attic gable to West. 
Large late 20th century extension to East containing flats.
Predominantly 12-pane timber sash and case windows. Some cast iron rainwater goods.


St Catherine's Chapel

Very little is known for certain about this chapel. It was situated upon St Catherine's Hill; although whether the hill derived its name from the Chapel or vice versa is not known.  It has been said that the Chapel was founded by the Constable of Aberdeen in the 13th century. Of this Fenton Wyness wrote, in 1971 `in 1242, John Kennedy, the Constable, established a Convent in the Shiprow. This was dedicated to St. Catherine of Sienna and finally gave its name to the hill on which it stood - St. Catherine's Hill, now covered by the buildings in Adelphi. The Convent was ruled by the Grey Sisters of the Order of St. Catherine but how long they remained in Aberdeen is a matter of speculation' (Wyness, City by the Grey North Sea, 1971, p.5). He goes on to suggest that the Chapel was that of the Convent. St Catherine of Sienna lived between 1347 and 1380. It is more likely that the dedication was to St Catherine of Alexandria, a late Roman period saint. Indeed in 1360 Thomas de Chalmer of Findon founded the altar of St Katherine the Virgin in St Nicholas Church (Cooper, Chartulary of St Nicholas, II 1892, p.16) This was to the saint now known as St Catherine of Alexandria, which can be seen in that both have the same day, 25th November. The cult of St Catherine of Alexandria is most connected with Rouen where a Monastery was dedicated in her honour in 1030. It is not beyond the bounds of possibility to think that the Normans brought this cult to Scotland.

There is no real evidence to back any of this up.  Firstly there was never was a Nunnery in Aberdeen. However the other elements of the story that the Chapel was founded in the 13th century and by a Constable of Aberdeen may have some legitimacy. Parson Gordon wrote in 1661 that St Catherine's Hill `took its name long since from a chappell which stood upon the top of it, which was dedicated to St Katherine, builded by the then Constable of Aberdeen, anno 1242. The founder's name is forgotten, and the Chappell itself long agoe rased to the grund' (Parson Gordon, Description, 1842, p.16) Indeed this also seems to have been the tradition amongst the Chaplains of the Chapel.  In 1542 it was noted that the `chapell was foundit and biggytt iijc syne be the constabill of Abirdene for the tyme, for decoratioune in honour of Sanct Katheryne' (Stuart, Extracts from the Burgh Register Volume I, 1848, p.181). There would seem to be no reason to doubt that the Chaplains knew of their own founder or had an approximate (or indeed certain) date for its founding. However, it may well be the case that the Chaplain was simply repeating a belief rather than a fact.

The only other information which pertains to the Chapel relates to a dispute in 1542. The Chapel was reached by way of a `vennel' or passage way leading from Shiprow up the side of St Catherine's Hill and located between the properties of John Chalmer on the North and Thomas Scherar on the South. The problem arose as Chalmer (coincidentally the same surname as the family who founded and maintained a close link with the altar of St Catherine in St Nicholas church) had built onto the vennel, effectively blocking off access. On 7 March 1542 the council ordered him to stop building on the passageway (Stuart, Extracts from the Burgh Records Volume I, 1848, pp 176-7).

This was not enough for Chalmer: an entry engrossed in the Council register dated 5 June 1542 shows that Sir John Cumming, Chaplain of the Chapel had complained to the King.  Cumming presented the reply letters to the council. The reply ordered the council to sort the issue out: they resolved that the chaplains had previously been in possession of the vennel and that Chalmer's actions were not lawful (Stuart, Extracts from the Burgh Records Volume I, 1848, pp 181-3). On 24 March 1544 letters from Mary Queen of Scots ordered Chalmer's arrest by the Council, as he was apparently `in a rage of wodnes, and dailie molestand and peturband this toune.'. He was to be held in irons in a suitable house (curiously not the Tolbooth). The suggestion seems to be that Chalmer had some mental problems, the Council registers entry continues that he was to be kept `in irns quhile he returne to his wit' (Stuart, Extracts from the Burgh Records Volume I, 1848, pp 280-1). This seems to suggest a periodic attack of a problem on Chalmer's part, perhaps at a 2 year interval.  Moreover one of the Council, Gilbert Collinson felt so moved as to have it put in writing that he felt that Chalmer should not be arrested and kept in irons. On 6 November 1555 Chalmer was found guilty of wrongly claiming that Bailie David Mar had stolen £100 from him (Stuart, Extracts from the Burgh Records Volume I, 1848, p.292). Chalmer was clearly suffering from some mental impairment, an issue recognised in the Council's dealing with him. Moreover, clearly Collinson was sympathetic to Chalmer's plight.

On 1 July 1558 Mr John Reid, the next Chaplain of the Chapel again raised the issue of the vennel. He again proved that it was in the possession of the Chapel and that it should be 5 foot wide so that 2 men might easily pass each other and that a horse with a load might have access. The case ended with the Provost and Baillies issuing a warning to Chalmer to keep the passage clear. This seems to suggest that he had again been blocking the route (Stuart, Extracts from the Burgh Records Volume I, 1848, pp 309-310). This is the last that is heard about the Chapel: it seems fair to conclude that it probably went out of use at the time of the Reformation. Certainly, Parson Gordon's quote, above, shows that the Chapel had been demolished some time before 1661.


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Last modified: 01/09/2013