The Doric Columns
The Castlegate ~ 158ft 7" wide
Mercat Crosses - Flesh 3 and Fish 4 with the Castle Hill in 1661 as recorded by Parson James Gordon's map with numbered locations.
2 is the Flesh Stocks, 3 is the Flesh Merkatt Crosse, 4 is the Fish Merkatt Crosse, 5 is the Futty Porte, 6 is the Earl Marischal's House, 7 is the Laird of Pettfoddels House, 8 is the Site of Rwins of the Templars Tower (Within a Square), 9 is the Rwins of the Old Castell Wall, !0 is the Castell Chapel within a new Sconce.
Judging by the proximity of the Tollbooth the Castlegate area was clearly greatly extended eastwards. Justice Street, Park Lane were the former names of the Commerce Street later formed between the Castle and Heading Hills. Gordon places the Knights Templar Ruins nearer to the Model Home in East North Street than is otherwise claimed for Justice Street. (See No.6 top left of Gordons Map above)
Kennedy's " Annals " says that a branch of the Templars was established in Aberdeen and had a Convent and a Church situated at the East end of the Castlegate, in the lane which was formerly called Skipper Scott's Close, and Dr Alexander Walker believed that the Catholic Chapel of Justice Street had been built upon the site of the Templars' Church.
St Peter´s was the 1st permanent Catholic Church to be erected in Aberdeen after the Reformation. The 3 bay Gothic Church was designed by James Massie and built in 1803. The present building was erected on the site of the 1774 Church. In 1860 the Church closed, although No 2 Chapel Court was used as a Boys´ school and the Church was retained as its Chapel. In 1862, a Colony of Sisters arrived from Hammersmith in 1862 to occupy the Presbytery and the building is indicated on the 1st Edition Map of 1866-8 as a Home for the Aged and Infirm. The church was closed again in 1872 and finally re-opened in 1880.
In the late 15th or early 16th century a Chapel dedicated to St Ninian was placed on Castle Hill, as successor to the Castle Chapel. In the 16th century the chapel was converted into a lighthouse and in the 17th century used as a place for the ceremonial laying out of the dead. In the 1650s Castle Hill was fortified by Cromwell’s troops, using some stone quarried from the ruined chancel of St Machar’s Cathedral. Some of those fortifications are said to be represented by the existing southern boundary wall which overlooks Castle Terrace. The chapel was eventually demolished in 1794 to make way for a Barracks Complex, replaced in the 1960s by the present high-rise housing. The area of the present site is shown to be occupied by a number of buildings on the earliest map of Aberdeen produced by Parson James Gordon of Rothiemay in 1661. Before the construction of the Salvation Army Citadel, the Old Record Office of 1789 stood on the site.
Irivine's view of Castle Street - 1812 with the New Inn centre and the Castle Gate Well to the Right seemingly foreshortened in width and with recessed facade.
The Market Cross is in its original position opposite the Tolbooth with its arches bricked up with doorways on each side functioned once as a post office and the Castle Gate Well - with the lead Mannie figure - is in its original position in the foreground where women are collecting water and a gentleman waits for his appointment. The New Inn, built by the Freemasons in 1755, on the east side of the Tolbooth was visited by James Boswell and Dr Johnson in 1773; the Freemasons had their Lodge on the top floor, hence the now adjacent arch leading to Lodge Walk. The New Inn was replaced by the North of Scotland Bank, later the Clydesdale Bank, built in 1839-42 as the corner piece of Castle Street & King Street. It is now a large impressive interior pub named after its illustrious architect, Archibald Simpson and displays the former wealth of the banks.
About the middle of the 14th century a public clock had been placed in the Tolbooth; but so little progress had the mechanical arts made in Aberdeen, or indeed in Scotland, that in the beginning of the 15th century, when it required repair, it was found necessary to send it to Flanders for that purpose.
In 1802, the celebration of the anniversary of the King's birthday terminated in a melancholy and fatal manner, in consequence of some of the Officers of the Ross and Cromarty Rangers, at that time quartered in the Barracks, having become intoxicated while drinking the King's health in the Town-house. On their appearing in this inebriated state in the street, they were pelted by some idle boys, on which they immediately ordered out the regiment, and fired on the crowd assembled in the Castle Street, 4 of whom were killed and a good many wounded. It was found necessary, in order to avert further evil, to remove the Regiment from the Town next morning. The Officers and some of the soldiers who were most immediately implicated were apprehended, and soon after ordered to be sent to Edinburgh for trial, but about 2 months after, the Lord Advocate declined to prosecute any of them.
The citizens, much dissatisfied at this, raised a subscription for the purpose of prosecuting them at the instance of those whose relatives had been killed, and 3 Officers and 2 Sergeants were brought to trial, but after a trial of 2 days, 2 of the Officers were found not guilty, and the verdict was not proven as regarded the 2 sergeants; the other Officer did not stand his trial, and was outlawed.
An engraving exists of the Mercat Cross, while in the Castle Street location again bricked up arches with windows, public booth and door at the time when it was in use as a Post Office. Engraving by J. Swan of Glasgow, and based on a drawing by George Smith, architect of Aberdeen is dated 1822 and shows it guarded by soldiers. The Market Cross opened as a Post Office on 10 April 1822 with Alexander Dingwall as Postmaster.
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 Castlegate. The New Inn (now replaced by Archibald Simpson's Bank) extends from the Tollbooth and the Old Records Office precedes the Citadel. Marischal Street is evident and the Gallows site would have been opposite near the standard lamp for Public Executions. Much hustle and bustle on and near the Plainstones with the artists viewpoint in front of the Atheneum looking towards the Forum. Wattie Leith a drummer stands to left 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.
Thomas Menzies of Pitfoddel, one of Aberdeen's wealthiest merchants of the time, moved from his long-standing Town House on Castle Street (which is now the site of the North of Scotland Bank on the right) to a 5-bay 2-storey house on Belmont Street in 1788.
Pitfodel’s Lodging of 1530, the town house of the Menzies family of Pitfodels, a 3-storey turreted building, the 1st private residence in Aberdeen to be built of stone after its predecessor was destroyed by fire in 1529. Pitfodels Lodging in Castle Street was one of the earliest stone dwelling houses in the Aberdeen of the Middle Ages. William Jamesone, Master Mason, the grandfather of portrait painter, George Jamesone built a stone townhouse for the Menzie's in 1535 to replace a wooden structure burned down 5 years' previously. It had a long back garden, like many of its neighbouring houses, stretching down to the Quay. Later, the Jacobite John Menzie had a back extension added in 1740. The 'court' which was accessed from the archway or close on Castle Street was called Victoria Court by the 1860s and still exists today. 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 Menzie's 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 Castle occupied a prominent position overlooking the River Dee. The Castle originally belonged to the Murray family, passing in the late 14th century to the Reid family. The motte and bailey Castle has a summit diameter of 9m and originally controlled a nearby ford across the River Dee. 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 Kirk-yard, but latterly at the 'Snow Kirk' in Old Aberdeen, just off College Bounds, where the Menzies family grave remains prominent.
Earl Marischal’s Hall, dating from about
Mercat Cross winter scene looking North
High Level view of the Castlegate pre the Citadel showing the fence encircled Mercat Cross, no doubt to prevent urination and prostitution from using as a haven when the Barracks were occupied by soldiers. The Old Records Office on the top of a wider Justice Street; once also a Police Station it appears to have 3 colour granite facade with roof level balustrade and portico. Shops and a Public House are adjacent. Taken from a viewpoint above the Tolbooth complete with a distorted flagpole. The Chimney Stacks are prominent and one is actively belching smoke from the Footdee side of Heading Hill for some forgotten industry. The tenements to the right cast dark shadows at a near mid-day time and yet the area is sparsely occupied other than by Hackney Carriages. The links are apparent in the distance; Chimney Stacks and lums abound as do gas street lamps. Distant roofs of Castle Terrace are evident. There was a Pawnbrokers Shop in a 2 storey storage warehouse in Albion Street near where Hanover Street School was built.
The Ports or Gates The Upper and Netherkirkgate were the roads ‘above’ and ‘below’ the Mither Kirk of St. Nicholas. The narrow street to the west of the Kirk nowadays known as Back Wynd used to be called Westerkirkgate. The Upperkirkgate Port was the last of the six medieval town gateways to be demolished, sometime after 1794. It stood near the foot of the Upperkirkgate, just beyond No. 42, the gable-ended 17th century house which is still to be seen there now. The original six ports – solid walls pierced by gateways – had become an obstruction to the flow of traffic, having been in existence from the 1st half of the 15th century. The other 5 ports were: the Netherkirkgate Port, controlling movement around the north side of St. Katherine’s Hill; the Shiprow or Trinity Port, hence Trinity House and Quay) checking entry from the south side of St. Katherine’s Hill and the harbour; the Justice or Thieves’ Port to the north-east of the Castlegate, demolished 1787; the Futty Port on Futty Wynd, to the south-east of the Castlegate, and the Gallowgate Port on Port Hill, controlling movement from Old Aberdeen and the north.
The Castlegate before the Citadel was built with the Old Records Office built 1779 which became the Aberdeen General Dispensary on the left and the Mercat Cross and the Duke of Gordon Monument ring fenced to keep the urinating abusers and prostitutes at bay. Two Fittie Quines with creels selling 'Fish' perhaps Parten Crabs or Boiled Molluscs - Buckies. The Hackney Carriages serve the public as they in turn are served by the the standing 'cab rank' now visible from street level behind the statue.. The long Exposure has created Ghostly images - we hope. The principal family seat was Gordon Castle. The Dukedom became extinct in 1836, along with all the titles created in 1684 and 1784.
Nathaniel Parker Willis, the American journalist, has left us with an interesting account of life at Gordon Castle in the twilight years of the 5th Duke's life. He described the "canonically fat porter" at the lodges who admitted him to a "rich private world peopled by ladies cantering side-saddle on palfreys, ladies driving nowhere in particular in phaetons, gentlemen with guns, keepers with hounds and terrier at heel, and everywhere a profusion of fallow deer, hares and pheasants. At the Castle were a dozen lounging and powered menials." Willis continued: "I never realised so forcibly the splendid results of wealth and primogeniture." Just before dinner the Duke called at his room, "an affable white-haired gentleman of noble physiognomy, but singularly cordial address, wearing a broad red ribbon across his breast, and then led him through files of servants to a dining room ablaze with gold plate
Trams and subterranean public toilets arrive and a multi-head water dispensing Fountain with added Stone Trough for the thirsty beasts of burden - Cydesdale Horses
1867 OS Map
Alexander Macdonald's most important achievement was his sculpting of the granite statue of George, 5th Duke of Gordon, Aberdeen, which he carved from a model by the London sculptor Thomas Campbell, in 1842-8. This was erected in the Castlegate and relocated to Golden Square in 1952. The statue marked the beginning of a new era in the history of sculpture by proving that the lost arts of cutting, sculpting and polishing the hardest granite, as perfected by the Ancient Egyptians, had been re-discovered, and that this renaissance had taken place in MacDonald & Leslie's granite yard in Aberdeen. Carved from a 20 ton block of white granite quarried at Dancing Cairns, the statue was hailed at the time as 'the 1st granite statue made since the Ptolomies'.
The causey of the Castle Gate has now been repaired (it was so hollow the dubs (mud) and rains stood in pools) some 50 years after the other Streets were causeyed.
The New Inn, built by the Freemasons in 1755, visited by James Boswell and Dr Johnson in 1773; the Freemasons had their Lodge on the top floor, hence the adjacent archway to Lodge Walk. The New Inn was replaced by the North of Scotland Bank, later the Clydesdale Bank, built in 1839-42 as the corner-piece of Castle St./King St., now a pub named after its illustrious architect, Archibald Simpson
On left hand side were various shops, rented accommodation and another pub - coffee roasting smells from the coffee bean shop. They would roast your favourite bean mixes to order from large glass jars. Ice cream bars selling 'knickerbocker glories' for 1s-3d and the once J E Esslemont Store later invaded by a stampeded steer as Glass and China shop at the corner of King street destined to become Birnie's
The Transport hub - The Castlegate common denominator for several routes. The Mercat Cross was ring fenced in those days with a balustrade of spikes to prevent abuse or lewd use of its capacious cover and recesses. Needless to say the public needed their conveniences still and this was placed underground beneath the planter with male and female toilet segregation and glorious Shanks stalls in green coloured marble. Above these were what appeared to be fish tank Cisterns siphoning away all day to intrigue the young minds as to how they worked so tirelessly filling and emptying without supervision.
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