(or Broad Street)
of the Broadgate
A member of that proverbially loquacious craft, who are particularly hostile to
the distinguishing mark of the disciples of Joanna Southcott, which they
denounce as a barbarism, was one night "walking with sinuosity?s"
(staggeruing) along the
Broadgate, with several bottles in his pate, making sundry hair-breadth escapes
of a broken nose, ever and anon coining soap-suds, encountering a brush with a
Charley, a dry-shave from a quizzical crony, a cut from every strapping wench he
chanced to meet, when he was thus accosted by a douce woman of his acquaintance:
"Ah! George, George, ye're i' the Braidgate."
Unwilling to be thus bearded, George, with a contemptuous curl of the lip,
"I ken that; but for as braid as it is, I need it a'!"
Image shows the East side of Broadgate looking
South with the Water House Pediment and Clock. The College Gate
with Arms above and the pend leading to Long Acre
Broadgate, or Broad Street,
Originally much much wider before the introduction of the Guestrow it was the
main street of Aberdeen according to
Parson Gordon?s map of 1661, lying as it did between the
main route north, the
Gallowgate, and the main (and only) route south via the Shiprow and the
Green, Windmill Brae and the Hardgate.
The old town of Aberdeen never had a High Street as such, probably
St. Katherine?s Hill stood in the way of the most obvious route for a High Street, from the
?Mither Kirk? of
St. Nicholas to the Castlegate.
On 4th August
a major fire on the West
side of the Broadgate
which destroyed many houses, the
dwellings being at that time
chiefly built of wood: and an act of council was soon afterwards passed,
enjoining that the outer walls of all houses should be in future built of stone.
banning of houses being
constructed with wooden walls and
all walls were to be built in Stone or Brick with Slate or Tile roofs to prevent
a future conflagration which may have resulted from the then practice of
constructing chimneys of Lath and Plaster.
East side of Broadgate looking south with the Water-House Pediment and Clock
with the old College Gate entrance front left and Byron's House at centre,
on the left hand side which were demolished in 1903 for the extension and frontage of
Marischal College. The west side is dominated by Thomas Gray's 2nd
Emporium with Pediment, Dormer Windows and flanking walls
DAVID MELVILL, whose shop was at "the end of the Broadgate," and who died in 1643, was the first distinctive bookseller in the city, although a "Stationarius" to sell the books required was one of the usual officials at all universities. But our David had a wider public than the students, and must have been an enterprising man, for many of the earliest local publications were printed especially for him, and at his expense. At his death, his spirit and enterprise seems to have ceased for about a 100 years afterwards.
The Water House, was surmounted with a triangular pediment and clock, was
erected in 1766 as a reservoir for the town's water supply brought
from Gilcomston and Fountainhall. The
City's Fire Engine was housed beneath the reservoir. It was later occuppied by
Byers, Wholesale Fruiterer. The clock
and its bell were transferred to the City Hospital in 1899.
Byron lived with his mother in the tall tenement block next to a turreted
building. Huxter Row, Crudens Court, The Long Acre and Ogston's Court all
led off the Broadgate.
a cistern, formed about 1766 at the head of Broadgate, and fed by the
Fountainhall and other streams, 187,200 gallons of water were daily
obtained: but this supply proving insufficient, the police commissioners
resolved in 1830 to supplement it from the Dee.
An archway at the left led through to the original
buildings of Marischal College and the original Greyfriars Church.
Above the gate was the Coat of
Arms of George Keith 5th Earl of Marischal the College
founder. This was
demolished in 1890 to allow for the extension and frontage of Marischal College,
which opened in 1906.
College Gate Clothing House was next on the right and adjacent to the
Waterhouse which had a fruit shop in the Ground Floor in the former Fire
The reigns of
Charles II. and James were noted for the cruel persecution of the
and for great distress among the people generally, from which Aberdeen was not
exempt. Among the arbitrary acts of the latter, may be noticed his having on
several occasions controlled the election of magistrates, which was not restored
to its former freedom till 1689.
previous to- this (probably at the time when the disturbed state of the country
rendered it unsafe to dwell without the walls) a double row of houses was
erected, apparently at first of wood, in the middle of the Broadgate, by
which that street was, reduced in breadth from about 35 paces to its
present breadth of about 15 or 18 paces, and the west side of it,
known by the name of the Guestrow, or as it is called in some old
writings, the "vicus lemurum," thus became a separate street.
The old gateway on
Broad Street to Marischal College with the coat of arms of George Keith, 5th
Earl Marischal above it. This was demolished in 1890 to allow for the extension
and frontage of Marischal College, which opened in 1906.
beginning of the 18th century, the magistrates, anxious to deprive
marauders of the shelter afforded them by the Forest of the Stocket, gave
permission to such of the citizens as chose to take wood from it for that
purpose, to add balconies to the front of their houses, projecting eight or ten
feet into the street, viz. to the extent occupied by the outer stairs and thus
the streets were considerably narrowed, and the town rendered less healthy. One
or two of the houses thus altered still remain, having a wooden front, behind
which, at the distance of about 10 feet, is the original stone wall of the
(Inset) Foot of Broad Street
before the new Town House of 1837 was built, the turreted staircase
corner is the the entrance to Huxter Row where the Bon Accord Hotel and
the linear Old Lemon Tree Tavern stood near to the Tollgate. It was a
favourite meeting place for Civic Dignitaries and Public Auctions were often
held there for sequestered property.
is a corruption of Huckster which suggests it was also a Market
street for jobbing Pedlars with small stalls or carts.
Lord Byron's Residences
George Gordon, later
Lord Byron, was born in London in
1788 and was named after his maternal grandfather, George Gordon
of Gight Castle in Aberdeenshire; the child was brought to Aberdeen in 1790
by his mother, Catherine Gordon, after her worthless husband, ?Mad
Jack? Byron, had dissipated her inheritance, resulting in Gight Castle
being sold to the nearby Gordon's of Haddo.
Mother and child lived in
lodgings at No. 10 Queen St., then moved to No.
64 Broad Street. The tall Tenement building to
the right of the Turret House. Young George attended the
Grammar School in Schoolhill until 1798, when
he inherited his father?s brother?s title and returned to England, to continue
his education at Harrow. Byron said of the move 'it was a change to move from a
shabby Scots flat to a Palace'.
Queen Street opened 1776
James Gordon - Map of Aberdeen 1661
22 Broad Street
(Leslie) Court, 91 Broad St
Gordon's Court, 86 Broad Street
Ramage's Court, 83 Broad Street
Redlion Court, 77 Broad Street
Downie's Court, 65 Broad Street
Gordon's Court, Queen Street
Jopp's Court. 40 Broad St & 11 Queen Street
Rettie's Court, 26 Broad Street
Well Court, 14 Broad Street
from 56 Broad Street to North Street
off 10 Broad Street
This commemorates the site of a nearby hall in which the City?s 1st
organised Concerts were held. They were organised by Francis Peacock,
dancing master, and Andrew Tait, organist of St Paul's Chapel, who had founded the
Aberdeen Musical Society in 1748. In 1749, the Society leased a
house, the ?New Music Room? in adjacent Huxter Row. The Society
came to an end in 1806.
from Broad Street to 1 Castle Street - Corruption of Huckster a person who
trades small items peddled from a stall
Ghaist-Raw), the main remnant is the beautifully-restored 16th century
George Skene?s House, long known as
Cumberland?s Lodging following its requisition by
Duke of Cumberland on his way to Culloden Moor in
1746. His troops were billeted in
what is now
Robert Gordon?s College, built
1739 to the design of
William Adam, father of the Adam brothers, Robert and James, who are commemorated by
Adelphi Court, the name of which refers to dolphins ? a classical symbol of brotherhood.
Street and Guestrow map showing centre a as Blairton Lane and
b as Raggs Lane
and the Nether Mill near Flour Mill Brae with Skene's House named as
Victoria Lodging House
Gaps in the old Boothraw on the
West Side were left at Ragg's Lane
and Blairton Lane, and the Red Lion Inn Court was a public thoroughfare
or pend from the Guestrow to Broad Street long
ago. On the corner at No.
57 Broad Street
then was William Cheyne, Draper. A Public House waiter looks
down the lane at the camera.
Bleak Exteriors, Dormer Windows in Attics, and Communal
Chimney Stacks - The west side of Broad Street in the 1920's. James Mutch
Ltd., Ironmongers at No.47 continues on from the Old Bank House,
Lane is evident beyond the College Cafe leads through to the Guestrow. The
Gable End house at No 57 with the Alfred Ross shopfront was once the home
of James Milne of Blairton. At this time Alfred Ross, was a
Brush manufacturer who seemingly took over the premises from Geo Morrison & Co.
but formerly William Cheyne. Drapers, No.59
was Alex. Innes & Sons, Undertakers, then the entrance to Thomson Court,
No.63 A. B. Hutchison, Baker. J & A Massie were
Cabinetmakers at No.65 was just beyond the lane.
Bros., Stationers, Nos.71-73 Robert Cumming, Cabinetmaker, 75 J. & W. Cameron,
Massie took over rivals Robert Cummings next door at
Nos.67-73. The splendid building to the extreme right at No.75 was
the Emporium of Henry Gray, Clothiers later to house J & W Cameron, Drapers.
No. 85 J. G. Bisset, Bookseller
The Braid Gutter
Where the Gallowgate merges into Broad Street seems the proper place to locate
what is termed in the old
records of the town the Braid Gutter. This name occurs frequently, because it
was a landmark or boundary line on crossing which bearers of burdens from ships
discharging cargo at the Quay were entitled to an addition to their hire. In
1490 the Town Council enacted that for carrying a Barrel from the quay at Shore
Brae to the Braid Gutter - Pynours and Carters should get 1 penny Scots, and
pennies if they carried it beyond the Braid Gutter. Half these suras was allowed
for back burdens. In subsequent centuries, however, larger sums, 4d and 6d, were
allowed. In 1749 we find mention of "the Gallowgate Gutter or
Head of Broad
Street," which seems to settle that the Braid Gutter was a broad channel
crossing the south end of the Gallowgate to allow the sewage and
rain water from
the West side of the street to cross it and run down the narrow lane between
Littlejohn Street and Marischal College to the pools on the east side of
North Street. The low area there was drained by the Powcreek Burn. In recent
excavations on the East side of the Gallowgate it was seen that there had been a
deep hollow where it joined on to Broad Street, which had afterwards been filled
up to the present level.
Two requisites for the convenience and expansion of the town were a
and a supply of potable water for the high ground on the line of Broad Street
and the Gallowgate, in which direction the town could most conveniently extend.
Being a burgh the townsmen could do collectively what they had not been able to
do before. From the "Book of St George's-in-the-West " we see that there had
been a corn mill at the end of the block of building between the Guestrow and
Broad Street, facing Netherkirkgate. A local historian describes in it what was
seen in the beginning of last century when two houses on this site were taken
down to be rebuilt. They stood back to back, one fronting Broad Street and one
the Guestrow, with their ends abutting on the Netherkirkgate. He says workmen
came upon what had been a fall about 5 feet high, apparently for driving a
mill wheel, in the end of the house in the Guestrow. After serving the Mill the
water passed to the house in Broad Street, which it left in the Netherkirkgate
some 6 feet from the front,
and crossing Broad Street at an angle landed at or near the base of the steeple
of the Municipal Buildings. On digging the foundation of the steeple the remains
of a Waulkmill were found. Having found a Mill, it is necessary to bring water
to it. In the St George's Book we get a hint of a water course leading to the
Mill. In 1873 when a house was taken down to be rebuilt at the west end of Red
Lion Court, between Broad Street and the Guestrow, " the distinct remains of a
burn were observed passing from North to South, and close to the Guestrow. At
the Nrth end it was on the surface about 6 feet broad, tapering slightly to
the south end. The bed of the burn was fairly semi-circular, and about 3
feet deep." It must be observed that the surface of the ground in which the burn
ran was not the same as the present surface of the street, which has been made
up, for on rebuilding a house in Broad Street, a little further south, the door
of a cow byre was found at 8 feet below the present surface of the ground.
There was an old oak cask sunk into the floor with a paved channel leading into
its mouth. On the other side of the street stood the 16th Century Greyfriar's Church.
When it was taken down it was found that the original floor had been made up
several feet to bring it to the level of the surrounding ground.
The Stream had served the double purpose of
driving the Mill and giving the
people water. This had been followed by extending the Town upwards, and in
process of time Broad Street and the Gallowgate had been lined on both sides
with low houses, walls of clay or wood and roofs of thatch, having their gables
to the street and lanes in front for letting in cows and sheep and horses with
backloads of corn and peats. When the Town became more crowded and space was
more valuable the houses were made higher and roofed with tiles, with byres and
stables below and the dwellings above, as is seen in rural Switzerland still.
The dwellings were reached by a wooden stair ending in a gallery in front of the
house leading to the door. The space below the gallery and the forestair, as it
was called, was a convenient receptacle for the midden of dung from the byre and
stable or for a swine's cruive.
At 1st the water had run along in an open channel
near the West side of the original Broad Street, as it did
along in the Chanonry of Aberdon, and as it does to this day in towns in other
countries, especially where there is an abundant supply from snow-clad
mountains. In process of time traders from distant places were allowed to erect
lockfast wooden booths on the east margin of the water channel to serve as shops
in the fair time. These got the name of The Boothraw, which is mentioned in the
Chartulary of St Nicholas about 1430. To give the residents on the east side of
Broad Street access to the water, gaps in the Boothraw were left at Ragg's Lane
and Blairton Lane, and the Red Lion Inn Court was a public thoroughfare long
a cistern Water House, formed about
1766 at the
north side head of Broad Street, and fed by the
and other streams, 187,200 gallons of water were daily obtained: but this supply
proving insufficient, the police commissioners resolved in
to supplement it from the Dee.
The demand for water still increasing with the increase
of the population, it was resolved, in
bring an additional supply from the "Gilcomston Spring,"
and to erect a reservoir in
Broad Street for the
water brought from
which reservoir still remains. The execution of the work was committed
Mr. Selbie, plumber, from Edinburgh. Now,
this project appears to have been the source of
much curious contention. The building of the reservoir
was being proceeded with when a droll difficulty
was started by certain dwellers in the Broadgate
to whom a supply of mere water
appears to have been a secondary object.
They addressed to the Town-Council an earnest
memorial, setting forth that the said reservoir
"would shut up the dial-plate
on the College Kirk from public
view." True, there was the College
clock; but this time-measurer they charged with
such "insufficiency," that its vagaries " led the
neighbourhood into sundry errors and mistakes." It
would seem that these worthy citizens were conscious that it required a steady
clock, indeed, to keep them to time;
for they candidly confessed that
clock would tend much to promote regularity and
good order in their quarter, an event very desirable"
They prayed, therefore, that a
might be placed in
front of the triangular Pediment of the Water
Moved by this frank representation, and
duly perpending the grave necessity of providing the means of enabling the
fallible, but ingenuous petitioners
to keep good hours, the Council resolved to
put up the desiderated clock,
"in a handsome and
genteel manner." This looks like a considerate wish
on the part of the authorities to correct the irregularities
of their petitioners with as little offence
as might be to their feelings. Up, then, went
the clock! But, alas! for the unfortunate memorialists! In the course of
"regularity and good order" in their quarter were
still found to be as
event" as ever. A dial-plate, indeed,
had been administered in their case;
but it was far too obstinate to yield to anything short of the exhibition of a
bell, too! The merely
monitor" without, seems to have been as
"insufficient" as that within them. What availed
it to admonish them of the value of time through
one sense only the sense of sight bootless
o' nights, and, at any time, so liable to tantalising
fits of duplexity! No, their sense of hearing
must also be appealed to. They required something
striking to make a due impression.
a petition from a great number of the inhabitants, a
ordered to be added to the
Water House Reservoir. This seems to have had
the desired effect To this wise provision
may we, doubtless, ascribe the "regularity and
good order " which have ever since characterised the
worthy "nichtbours" in this quarter! Of elder denizens
of the gossipdom, old Time has spared a remnant
to enjoy well-earned ease, and a crack about
days of yore, amid the tasteful amenities of suburban
retirement. We may remark, by the way,
folks seem never to have complained
of the "insufficiency" of their clock; their
habitual discipline probably making amends for
the free and easy system pursued by their horologer.
Among other objectors to the Reservoir a
staid old lady complained that it
but whether of her domicile or understanding appeareth not ; while a
certain merchant took out an "interdict" against the unhappy building reasons not stated. Nevertheless
the Reservoir was completed, and did
its duty; when, in the course of some 20 years,
"the letting out of its water"
"the beginning of strife."
80 citizens memorialised the
Town-Council, to the effect that the
water of the reservoir was
with tar, in consequence of the improper mode of repairing the seams and rents
in its bottom, by which great disgust
was occasioned, and pernicious
consequences might arise, both to the
health of the citizens, and the public cisterns and pipes"
Here was a monstre grievance, and most disinterestedly
was it urged. Not for themselves alone
were the memorialists concerned, their sympathies
"cisterns and pipes."
Could either, albeit of mould so leaden, be expected
passively to act as the harbourers, or guides
of the reservoir was denounced as a
poisoner; placards were posted on the building itself,
"Tar water sold here!" No faith had
the citizens in the doctrines of good
who was at the trouble to write a treatise to
prove that tar water was as sovereign a
Parr's Life Pills
are now attested to be. An explanation
was demanded of the overseer. That he
was sorely puzzled appears from the fact that he
gave in a
When the cistern was nearly
empty not a rent appeared, but when it was full
there was a "continual dropping." Despairing of
finding out the mystery, he did tar the bottom of the
cistern. The worthy man ultimately discovered that
it was the weight of the water, when the cistern
was full, that
set the rent a-gaping, which of course
closed when the utensil was nearly empty! The
cistern was at length repaired without tar, and
the citizens, cisterns, and pipes were satisfied!
So much for
Old Wells, and for some of the old frets
of our forefathers. What was once cause of irritation
to them, is now a source of amusement to us.
We, too, shall have our turn. Our ancestors, mayhap,
will be avenged of our pleasantry at their expense
in the jokes cracked by a future generation on
the squabbles of our own day.
from 36 Broad street to 26 Guestrow
Head (Gargoyle) - This can be seen attached to the South-east corner of Provost Skene?s House
George Russell (1810-1899) carved this 'stone' effigy of himself.
Russell owned a building at 35 Ragg?s Lane (Broad St to the Guestrow), in
which he ran a bakery. The Town Council closed the bakery as it was near a
sewer. Believing his neighbour had complained to the council, Russell carved
this effigy of the offender and fixed it to his premises so that Stephen, his neighbour, would
always see the gargoyle pulling a face. The Russell Head was fixed on the corner
of Provost Skene?s House sometime after the demolition of Ragg?s Lane in 1959.
Others claim Russell was an Ironmonger so is this reddish effigy an Iron casting
from a wooden mould?
The Creation of the Guestrow
At the time when the disturbed state of the country rendered it unsafe to dwell
without the walls, a double row of houses was erected, apparently
at first of wood,
in the middle of the
by which that street was, reduced in breadth from about 35 paces to its
present breadth of about 15 or 18 paces, and the west side of it,
known by the name of the
or as it is called in some old writings, the
"vicus lemurum," [Book of Bon
Accord, i. p. 117.] thus became a separate street. About the beginning of
the 18th century, the magistrates, anxious to deprive marauders of the
shelter afforded them by the
Forest of the Stocket,
gave permission to such of the citizens as chose to take wood from it for that
to add balconies to the front of their houses,
projecting 8 or 10 feet into the street, viz. to the extent occupied by the
outer stairs -and thus the streets were considerably narrowed, and the town
rendered less healthy. One or 2 of the houses thus altered still remain,
having a wooden front, behind which, at the distance of about 10 feet, is the
original stone wall of the house.
Wooden buildings, which were numerous in the preceding century,
had now gone out of fashion, though numbers were in existence at a much later
date, for it was not till after a great fire which destroyed the
Broadgate in 1741
that the erection of houses having their outside walls of
was finally prohibited.