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The Doric Columns

Castlegate Mercat Cross The Citadel

Castle Street

This view was drawn by Robert Seaton in 1806.  On the left is the Tolbooth and adjoining it is the Mason Lodge (2nd Floor) and New Inn.  The property was sold in 1839 to the proprietors of the North of Scotland Bank and the bank offices were erected on the site in 1840-2. In the late 1990s, the bank closed and became a pub, called Archibald Simpson's, after the original architect.  The prominent building on the right side was the Aberdeen Bank, later to become the Bank of Scotland building. The tall man in the centre was John Ewen, jeweller talking to the ladies regarding embellishments, the man on the right with the drum was Wattie Leith, Town Drummer, and on the left is John Milne, the Town Hangman, talking to the fishwives, claiming his free fish as perks of his trade.

Some well known characters of the City including Johnny Milne, the hangman. John Ewen, a silversmith, printer and Seaton's patron, the Rev. Alex Ralcock, Episcopal Minister and Wattie Leith, drummer.  The original painting was raffled at 5 shillings a ticket and John Ewen sold the tickets at his shop in Castle Street.  The Plainstones are also evident as people are seated on the edge of what is a 2 stepped perimeter.

Note the Mercat Cross has added walls in the arches with doors or windows in the centre.  Also a staircase rose to the first floor entrance of the Tollbooth in this illustration with a Sentry on guard.

Castle Street Mercat and the Mercat Cross (bricked up archways) in its original position opposite the Tolbooth with a large lamp standards to illuminate the late day gloom in both Castle Street and the CastlegateThe New Inn now Archibald Simpson's extends from the Tollbooth and the Old Records Office precedes the CitadelMarischal Street is evident and the Gallows site would have been opposite near the standard lamp for Public Executions.  Much hustle and bustle with the artists viewpoint in front of the Atheneum looking towards the ForumWattie Leith a drummer stands to the right and a Highland Soldier to the centre no doubt offering the Kings Shilling in a Recruiting Drive.  Interesting piles of goods or rag cloth lie in the dirt.  Castle Hill Barracks not yet built.  Wide steps run up to the Sentry present pediment doorway of the Tollbooth no doubt where proclamations were read.  It appears the archway to Lodge Walk was already there. A man on a Pony appears to be seeking directions from the Rev. Alex Ralcock, Episcopal Minister, John Ewen, a silversmith, printer and Seaton's patron is addressing the ladies, As for John Milne, the hangman he may be in discussion with the Gordon Highlander.  A sentry guard stands in the Tolbooth's elevated entrance.

Near the spot now occupied by this erection originally stood the Flesh Cross, close to which were the shambles; lower down Castle Street was the Fish Cross, or Laich Cross, indicating the position of the fish market.

Pitfodel’s Lodging of 1530, the town house of the Menzies family of Pitfodels, a 3-storey turreted building, The first private residence in Aberdeen to be built of stone after its predecessor was destroyed by fire in 1529.   The Lodging was demolished in 1800 and replaced the following year 1801 by the premises of the Aberdeen Banking Co., from 1849 the (Union) Bank of Scotland.   The power and influence of the Menzies family had long been in decline by this time, and their old motte-and-bailey castle at Pitfodels, a stone-built towerhouse, was in ruins.   The associated earthworks were still to be seen at what became the entrance to the Norwood House Hotel until the 1970s, but not much is left there now.   The family had, in fact, moved to Maryculter House in the early 17th century.   In 1805, John Menzies, the last of his line, put the lands of Pitfodels up for sale (and also those of Maryculter, 6 years later) and, in 1806, purchased No. 37 Belmont St. (Lizars); this house had been built in the 1770s and thus pre-dates Belmont St. itself, which was laid down in 1784, well before Union St.   In 1831, John Menzies donated his mansion and lands at Blairs to the Catholic church for use as a College, and moved to Edinburgh.   He died there without heirs, the last of the Menzies dynasty, in 1843, receiving a spectacular Catholic funeral.   Up to about 1715, the deceased members of the Menzies family were buried in 'Menzies Isle' within St Nicholas Kirk; thereafter in the Kirkyard, but latterly at the 'Snow Kirk' in Old Aberdeen, just off College Bounds, where the Menzies family grave remains prominent.

The Town House, built at various periods, is situated on the North side of Castle Street, and has undergone frequent alterations; in 1750, the appearance of the front was greatly improved.  It has 5 spacious and handsome windows, and above the roof is a tower, surmounted by a spire 120 feet in height.

The Townhall is about 47 feet in length, and 29 feet wide, and is embellished with an elegant mantel-piece of variegated marble, executed in Holland, above which is a perspective view of the city, taken from the lands of Torry; the walls are hung with a full-length portrait of Queen Anne, by Sir Godfrey Kneller, and full-length portraits of the Earl and Countess Findlater by Alexander; a portrait of Provost James Hadden by Pickersgill, and one of Provost James Blaikie by Phillips. The hall, which is appropriated to the meetings of the Magistrates and Council, is, on public occasions, brilliantly lighted by three elegant cut-glass chandeliers, suspended from the ceiling, and by twelve sconces on the walls. In the upper part of the building, on the west, is the town armoury, in which are deposited 300 muskets, a very ancient coat of mail, the staff of the banner borne by the citizens at Harlaw, and the furniture of the provost's Charger, when he attended the coronation of Charles I. at Edinburgh.

In 1715 the Rebel Council under Provost Bannerman advanced the cause of the rebels as far as was possible. The Town’s Lochaber Axes were sent to the Rebels, as was the Printing Press with its type, whilst the town’s Ministers were ordered to pray for the Old Pretender.  A tax of £200 10s 9d was imposed on the town, with a further ‘loan’ ordered of £2000. 

In 1746, when the Rebel Council in favour of the Young Pretender was forced out of office, a new Council was elected. In the Town House the new Council deleted from the Burgesses’ Book the names of all Burgesses created by the Rebel Council, whilst all the acts of the Rebel Council were formally rescinded. From here the new Council took considerable pains to collect supplies of straw, oats, hay, beef, bear and bread from Aberdeen and its hinterland to aid the Government Army. In fact between February and 1 April the collecting of these provisions generated a shocking 115 papers. These papers are held in Aberdeen City Archives. The collection contains a fascinating wealth of information: papers generated by the Rebel Council sit alongside the lists of Jacobite prisoners and witness statements collected against them.

New Inn

Archibald Campbell's House stood on the site now occupied by the premises of the North of Scotland Banking Company, — and was a well known place of festive entertainment, in the City of Bon Accord, a 100 years ago. It was in that house, subsequently known as "The New Inn,'* about, or soon after, midnight of 26thDecember, 1768, - at which season, in consequence of the 20th December being held, in that part of Scotland, as one of the half-yearly money terms, many gentlemen from the country districts visit Aberdeen, - that, in the progress of a convivial meeting, a quarrel arose between John Leith of Leithhall, and James Abernethy of Mayen on Deveronside; which, from  its fatal termination, attracted at the time considerable public attention and was commemorated in a Ballad still remembered in some parts of the country. The origin of the dispute seems to have been forgotten; but the party then assembled had evidently entertained no apprehension of its terminating disastrously, as, on the two disputants leaving the room, the only remark which seemed to have been made was by one of the gentlemen still remaining in the apartment, who casually observed that "Leith would take care to keep out of harms' way." In a short time, the sound of fire-arms out of doors having been heard, the portion of the company that had remained at table rushed out in order to ascertain the cause, when Leith was found lying on the Plainstones, nearly opposite to Archibald Campbell's House, wounded, (and, as it soon proved, mortally), by a pistol bullet in his forehead. The unhappy gentleman died on the 3rd day thereafter. His adversary, reported to have been slightly wounded on the thigh, evaded justice by immediate flight to the Continent.  It is said that one of the balls fired on the occasion was to be seen, for many years, sticking in a neighbouring lamp post. - (The Book of Bon-Accord, 1889, p. 156). In the Scots Magazine for 1768 is chronicled the death, at Aberdeen, on 26th December, 1768, of John Leith of Leith-hall, Esq.  In reference to that occurrence, the Editor of the Black Kalendar of Aberdeen (Edition 1840, p. 77), observes :- " It has been stated, though we do not place unhesitating reliance on the story, that the quarrel between Leith-hall and Mayen might have been settled but for the interference of Patrick Byres of Tonley, who urged Mayen to the deed, and even loaded his pistol. It is certain that he left the country along with Mayen." Mr. Abernethy was indicted to stand trial at the Circuit Court of Justiciary, held at Aberdeen, in May, 1764,before Lord Auchinleck. In the Scots Magazine, for 1764 it is recorded that " At Aberdeen, James Abernethy of Mayen,- Esq., was outlawed, for not appearing to stand trial on an indictment for the murder of John Leith of Leith-hall, Esq."


One would not expect Dr Samuel Johnson to be greatly taken with the town, for it will be recollected that he could not obtain lodgings in the New Inn until it became known that he was a friend of the Advocate Boswell: and John Wesley to the discredit of Aberdeen be is said had the misfortune to be struck by a potato on the arm when he visited the town in 1761, the only occasion on which he was assaulted in Scotland. Yet the good man bore no grudge, and gave his testimony to the excellent qualities of the Aberdonians, as well as to the marvellously good singing which he heard in the Parish Church of Monymusk.

Lodge Walk was owned and laid out by the Freemasons, who had their meeting rooms on the 2nd floor of the New Inn in Castle Street, there was extensive stabling in this service street for the Inn but the street itself was dark and 'doore' and not very grand and there was also an arch link to King Street through a Pend with a large gate with a wicket door.  G M Fraser further relates, it came to be the site of the Courthouse and Jail, and to any Aberdonian of the 20th Century the term "Lodge Walk" was synonymous with "Police Headquarters" – aye the hae taen hem tae Lodge Walk.

The Old Tolbooth and Town House from the rear (Ross Court) with an arch leading to Lodge Walk
Matheson's Court, 15 Castle Street
Lobban's Court, 30 Castle Street
Milne's Court, 38 Castle Street
Commercial Bank Court, 35 Castle St
NATIONAL Bank Court, 42 Castle street
Duncan's Court, 45 Castle St
Commercial Court, 58 Castle St
Bursar's Court, 61 Castle St
Pirie's Court, 50 Castle Street

Smith's Court, 21 Castle St
Exchequer Row, from 62 Castle St to Shiprow

The Town Gaol, adjoining the town-house, has been considerably enlarged; above the entrance, is a strong vaulted chamber, in which were deposited the records and archives of the town, the church registers, and other valuable documents. Tolbooth dating from 1615-27 on site of predecessor built in 1394. The frontage to Castle Street is now obscured by modern buildings but a square 3-storey tower with corbelled bartizans, steeple and spire is still exposed in Lodge Walk.  The great square tower was built in 1615 and a Belfry and Spire added in 1627, although the present Spire dates from 1726 when the 1st clock was installed; the present clock dates from 1817.   The main function of the building was as a Prison, the town house proper lying to the West; this was repaired in 1670 and rebuilt in 1729 when a staircase was added.

Narrow Wynd was more important than it sounds, and ran across the Castlegate to Shiprow. The famous Aberdeen Philosophical Society, the fons et origo of what became known as the Aberdeen branch of the Scottish ‘Common-Sense’ Philosophy and a major contributor to the ‘Aberdeen Enlightenment’, was founded by Dr. Thomas Reid and Dr. John Gregory, both of King’s College, and held its fortnightly meetings in a tavern in Narrow Wynd from 1758 to1773. The remnant of Narrow Wynd was demolished in 1867 to make way for the new Municipal Buildings or Town House.

Early proposals - After a period of declining taste in Architecture, a revival began early in the 19th century under the guidance of Architects of genius such as Archibald Simpson and John and William Smith.

A great improvement was thereby effected in the general aspect of the city of Aberdeen, and their good work has been enhanced by that of their successors. It is necessary to repeat that it was long before the local granite came to its own. The earlier buildings of importance were all of sandstone; to-day he would be a bold Architect who suggested a sandstone building in Aberdeen.

The use of granite exercises an indirect effect on Architectural design. It lends itself to broad, classic, monumental and dignified effects, while its stubborn quality is a check against over-exuberance of detail, and fanciful, gimcrack trivialities. The plainness of the buildings was often remarked upon by strangers.  The newer buildings are not without adornment.

The County and Municipal Buildings (or the Town-House as it is familiarly called) on the north side of Castle Street were opened in 1870.

They form a magnificent pile which takes a high place amongst provincial town-halls, as regards both vigour and originality of treatment. The line of elliptical arches on the ground floor and of small arcaded windows in the floor above make an imposing front. The great tower, which rises to a height of 200 feet and dominates the whole city, has the castellated turrets which we have seen to be characteristic of Scottish Architecture. It is curious to see how latter-day Architects have not been able to get away from this feature.

It is conspicuous even in such buildings as the Grammar School and the new Post Office. The Municipal Buildings, Aberdeen, and Town Cross Municipal tower, if somewhat heavy-looking, is on the whole effective. The small tower and spire on the east is the old Tolbooth Tower, of the 17th century, preserved by being incorporated in the modern building.




Today’s impressive neo-Gothic Town House dates from the 1870s and incorporates elements of the previous Town House and Tolbooth, within which many of the great dramas and decisions of the Jacobite Rebellions were played out.  The County Buildings, in Union-street, erected in 1820, at the joint expense of the Counties of Aberdeen and Banff, for Festive Meetings, at a cost of £11,500, is a handsome structure of finely-dressed granite, in the Grecian style of architecture, with a stately portico of the Ionic order; the interior contains a spacious assembly-room, richly decorated, card, tea, and supper rooms, and various other apartments. - County Hall within the Municipal Buildings - (74 by 35 feet, and 50 high), with 5 lofty traceried windows, oak panelling, and open timber roof.

In June 1880 it was decided to hang a fine peal of bells in this Neo-Gothic Tower, which almost dwarfs the older one to the East; the sole relic of the former town-house.

Although its lead-covered spire has a height of 120 feet. Within are the vestibule and the grand staircase (35 feet square):

The richly-decorated town-hall, in the clock-tower (41 by 25½ feet, and 15 high), with three old crystal lustres. The courthouse behind (50 length by 37 feet, and 36½ high).

Special adornments are Provost Davidson's armour, Steell's marble statue of the late Provost Blaikie, a marble bust of John Phillip, and portraits by him of the Queen and Prince Consort, Queen Anne by Kneller, of Provost Hadden, the late Earl of Aberdeen, and others.

Contrasts in wealth Boater Hat Gentry and barefoot lads with caps

NB - The members are also Firemen attached to the Fire Insurance Offices; 2 who have the letters attached to their names, are Keepers and Carriers of the Sedan Chairs.

Hats, Brollies, Fox Furs and Fesh Quines such are the contrasts in wealth to be seen on the pavement near Lodge Walk - now what remark would turn a Ladies trim figure to admonish a lesser clad individual.  Note the sloping cills to the windows to prevent anyone even Pigeons standing on such to look in or outwards.

Concert Court off 10 Broad Street
This commemorates the site of a nearby hall in which the city’s first organised concerts were held. They were organised by Francis Peacock, dancing master, and Andrew Tait, organist, 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.

Huxter Row, ran from Broad Street to 1 Castle Street

Lemon Tree Hotel
The Lemon Tree in Huxter Row formerly Huckster Wynd was a much-loved favourite of the traders and businessmen of mid-19th century Aberdeen as a 'howff' or haunt where the excellence of the food was matched only by the hospitality of the hostess, Mrs Ronald. 

The Lemon Tree Tavern looked out towards Castle Street from the internal corner of Huxter RowAberdeen Chamber of Commerce's 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  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 the very Gods of Progress and Development that employed it

Preview thumbnailLemon Tree Hotel, Huxter Row, off Castle Street, The title was transferred to a house in St. Nicholas Street and more recently to the Lemon Tree arts venue in West North Street Quite a deep property site, it extended at the rear as far as the East Prison. The Lemon Tree alas had a less rosy future ahead. It, along with some other local taverns were demolished.  Next door to it on the left was the Bon Accord Hotel. This picture appears to be a hard hat demolition site meeting post closure of the dilapidated Hotel and adjacent Buildings.

Huxter Row or Huckster Wynd was a narrow street running from Broad Street, parallel with Union Street, to the old Town House and Toll Booth and then joining Union Street at right angles. The street derived its name because of the Booths of Hucksters - small street traders. Huxter Row, from Broad Street to 1 Castle Street - Corruption of Huckster a person who trades small items peddled from a stall

Union Street at its junction with Broad Street, with the tower of the Tolbooth at the right of the photograph. Huxter Row, starting below the tower at the left of the image, ran parallel with Union Street to the Old Town House joining Union Street at right angles. These buildings were demolished in the late 1860's and the site is now occupied by the Town House designed by Peddie and Kinnear in 1874.

Black Bull Close, 4 Huxter Row

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 1st deliverance is dated the 5th of March 1847.  The meeting to elect Interim Factor is to be held, at 12 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 12 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.

In 1838, the North of Scotland Bank purchased the New Inn and other properties at the corner of Castle Street and King Street. The architect Archibald Simpson was invited to submit plans for the Bank's Head Office on the cleared site.  One of his designs which was not accepted, shows a building with a curved corner topped with a Dome and Corinthian Columns running through the 1st and 2nd floors supporting a pediment over an elaborate cornice. The plan which was adopted also had 3 storeys but the entrance was a Corinthian Portico at the corner topped with an open platform with a terracotta sculpture group by James Giles, representing Ceres, Goddess of Plenty.

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Last modified: 01/09/2013