The Doric Columns
Back Wynd - Westerkirkgate -
The Green area of Aberdeen. When Union Street was laid out the section of Back Wynd connecting the street to the Green was severed. However a set of stairs on the south side of Union Street carry down to the Green and are known as Back Wynd Steps.This street was formally laid out in the 1590s at a time when Aberdeen’s population was growing and there was a need to expand the Royal Burgh. The land upon which the street was formed had previously been croft land owned by different people and groups. The street has had a number of names over the centuries including Aedie’s Wynd and Westerkirkgate. Originally the street ran alongside St Nicholas Church down to
As a street Back Wynd dates from 1590-1594.
However the land upon which the street was laid out in the 1590s does have a longer recorded history. It was part of a croft of land known as the Sow Croft and later as Caberstone Croft: Work has yet to be done on the meaning of the latter name. The recorded history of these crofts begins on 20 October 1374 when the Burgesses of Aberdeen granted two particates of arable land to William de Dunbar, Burgess.
Thus this land was already being used as arable land as early as 1374. At some point before 7 March 1398 William had died: a sasine (Deed) was issued by Richard Fitchet, one of the Baillies of Aberdeen, acting under Dunbar’s posthumous instructions. Dunbar’s had ordered that all of his lands and rents should be conveyed to the Blackfriars.
Thus this croft of land was in the hands of the Blackfriars for the next 162 years until the reformation in 1560. It is most likely that the Blackfriars continued to keep it as arable land and would have rented it out to various tenants who may have erected some buildings on it. It is unclear who got possession of this particular croft after the reformation although most of the Blackfriars’ lands and possessions passed into the hands of Marischal College. However as Aberdeen grew there was a need for westward expansion: houses began to be laid out on this area from about 1590 although this was not formally done until 1594.
On 7 March 1594 the
Council agreed to roup (a form of public auction) the land for houses: the land in fact was
On 7 March 1594 the tenements of land with these measurements were laid out and feued nine people for an average cost of about £4 Scots for the plot of land. This is one of the only examples of early modern ‘town planning’ in Aberdeen.
The street ran along the west side of St Nicholas churchyard and connected to the area known as The Green, to the south of St Nicholas Church. In this sense the street was sometimes known as Westerkirkgate. At the foot of the Back Wynd in the Green there was a late 16th century house known as Aedie’s House.
In this sense the name of Back Wynd is sometimes given as Aedie’s Wynd, as for example, it appears on Parson Gordon’s map of 1661. When Union Street, Aberdeen’s main thoroughfare was laid out in the late 18th and early 19th centuries it cut across the southern part of Back Wynd and severed direct contact with the Green.
In the case of Correction Wynd (to the east of St Nicholas Church) the street continued to connect to the Green but only by running under Union Street. In the case of Back Wynd Steps were added at the southern point on Union Street where Back Wynd would once have run to provide access down to the Green.
Considering the elevation of School Hill and the that of the Green it must have been a very steep incline indeed as Aedie's Wynd.
Old Steps to Union Street
Back Wynd is one of the many streets and alleys of the medieval Burgh which ran roughly north-south from the Mither Kirk of St Nicholas down the natural gradient to the Green and ultimately the Harbour. At the upper end it was known, logically enough, as Westerkirkgate and it was, in fact, the westernmost street of the medieval Burgh; i.e., there was nothing westwards of Back Wynd. At its lower end, where Back Wynd entered the Green, it was known as Aedie’s Brae, after the mercantile family of that name. But by 1805 the great east-west thoroughfare of Union Street had been laid down and had cut across, truncated or simply buried many of the streets and alleys of the medieval Burgh. The lower end of Back Wynd was replaced by rather tricky zig-zag stairs descending from the southern (harbour) side of Union Street. The present Back Wynd Stairs were built in 1922, and were expensively revamped quite recently.
George Littlejohn's Horse Tack Shop -
15-17 Back Wynd
Prior titles for east side of Back Wynd or Westerkirkgate. Vendor is Thomas McCombie, merchant, 1801.
with questions or comments about the design
of this web site.