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Justice Street

Now much truncated and it led from the Castlegate to Park Street/Albion Street and led down to the Harbour and Footdee was the easiest of gradients available for ingress and egress of commercial goods.  This street had been initially called Justice Street (Leading to the Justicairy of Heading Hill) then called Park Lane and ran from Albion Street (Bool Road) to Waterloo Quay between Castlehill and Heading Hill.

The inset picture shows clearly the dogleg of the street and the entrance to the Street Market area is just visible on the left and the rear entrance to the Castlehill Barracks and Gymnasium was on the right

In early times the hollow between the Castlehill and the Heading Hill was but slight, and no bridge was necessary to connect the 2 hills. By lowering the south end of Park Lane, the depth of the gap between the hills was increased, and in 1839 the lane was widened and improved and a Cast Iron Bridge was built over it connecting the 2 Hills. From the Bridge, stone stairs at both ends lead down to the street below, which is now called Commerce Street but formerly Justice Street. The latter name was historically the more appropriate because the Bridge is probably on or near the spot where the Justiciar of the North of Scotland held his Courts. They were usually held in the open air near a small hill or artificial hillock. A Court was held near the Castle in 1299 (" Book of Bon-accord," p. 375). It is from being near the site where the Justiciar's Courts were held that Justice Street derived its name.  

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.8 top left of Gordons Map above)

Parson James Gordon says in 1661 : —
"Upon the north side of the Castlegate, among the gardens, there is to be seen a certaine obscure and scarcelie now discernible mine or foundatione of a small building overgrowne with briers and thorns, which sumtyme belongit to the Friers or Reed Freers Templar. No farther account can be givne theroff, for at this tyme the very mines are almost ruinated."

Gordon's chart of Aberdeen shows the Templars' Place as an enclosure near the north end of the gardens about 120 yards from the north-east corner of the Castlesgate. It will be seen that Gordon makes no mention of a Church; and Kennedy had no other ground for his statement than Gordon's. But if this spot had been a Templar Agency there can be no doubt that there had been a Chapel there also, for the Templars were a Religious as well as a Military Order, and it was the Chaplains who stirred up the people to contribute to its maintenance. Their wealth and military prowess led them to engage in war, the practice of the Chaplains of hearing the confessions of persons outside their own Order made enemies to them of the Franciscans and Dominicans, and the Knights Hospitallers were jealous of their success and influence.

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.  

Before the construction of the Salvation Army Citadel, the Old Record Office of 1789 stood on the site (Inset).

The Mauchlin Tower Site of the Red Friars Monastery - Knights Templar is halfway down Justice Street and is recorded on Milnes map of 1789.

1789 Survey Map - Alexander Milne

1-7 Justice Street
Earlier 19th century. 3-storey and Attic 6-bay Classic tenement building with shops to ground flanking central segmental-arched opening leading to
Chapel Court. Grey granite ashlar, rubble to rear. Band course, cill course to 2nd storey, low stepped blocking course. Central archway with pilastered reveals, surmounted with iron urns and with decorative Iron Gates. Central coped wall-head stack to street elevation (South) with pair of small window openings. Pair of attic dormer windows. Recessed entrance doors to shops. Predominantly 12-pane timber sash and case windows to upper storeys, plate glass to shops. Grey slates. Coped gable stacks.

This is a good example of a Classic City Tenement Dwelling, situated to the North-east of the Castlegate
 area. It makes a significant contribution to the streetscape and adjoins No.s 19-23 Castlegate. It is distinguished by its segmental-arched opening which leads into Chapel Court where St Peter's RC Church of 1803 is situated. The simple Classical style is typical of the cities granite buildings of this period before sophisticated cutting techniques were developed. This tenement was erected circa 1843, after the previous Tenement on the site was pulled down by the then Priest of the Church, Charles Gordon in 1828 as part of general alterations and extensions required for the expanding St Peter's 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.

The Justice Port constructed in 1439 was in the higher end of Justice Street, between the west front of the Salvation Army Citadel and Gardener's Lane. It was also familiarly called the. Thieves' Port. It took its proper name from being in the street leading from Castle Street to the seat of the Justiciar's Circuit Courts at Heading Hill beside the Castle Hill, and its colloquial name from thieves sentenced to be Hanged on the Gallow Hill passing through it, never to return. On such occasions a crowd of noisy spectators always accompanied the poor wretches. There were some people who never missed being present at an execution. The procession crossed the Powcreek Burn at the end of Jasmine Street by a small bridge called the Thieves' Brig. Criminals were usually executed 3 days after being sentenced. This gave time for an appeal to the Sheriff from inferior courts. The Bowl Road, (later Albion Road) which led from the Links to the Justice Port, was sometimes barricaded with booms of wood to keep out objectionable persons. The Battle of Corrichie was fought October 28, 1562, in a little hollow on the south side of the Hill of Fare, 17 miles from Aberdeen. The Marquis of Huntly lost his life in it, and 4 days after his 2nd son, Sir John Gordon, "the Queen's love," was executed in Aberdeen. His head was afterwards exhibited on a spike stuck on the top of the Justice Port.

This picture is taken from the heights of the tenements in Justice Street (Note the wash-houses in the foreground) and to the left of the Bill Boarded House was the remains of Justice Lane leading to the Model Home for 'Down and Outs'.  A Shop within this hoarded building had a fine collection of Toby Jugs in the window and it sold VP (Vine Products) Red Ruby Wine - a cheap un-aged product that would serve to give the Feekie Drinkers a buzz.  The Feek drinkers would doss in old abandoned properties and drink anything from Surgical Spirit, Methylated Spirit, Wood Alcohol to strained Brasso and they ingeniously bubbled available town gas into a pint of milk with a tube to induce a hallucinatory state from the absorbed compounds when they drank it.  Nothing is new eh compared to those more direct chemicals for junkies of today.

This view from the top of Albion Street (now Beach Boulevard) shows the old McGill saucy seaside card shop on the left  Just up from a corner shop and on the opposite corner site of Justice Street was Connon's Gents Hairdresser, where men would congregate for a read of old magazines and chat while waiting for an open razor shave (freshly sharpened on a leather strop) or a 'Short back and sides' and an ear and nostril trim for the very Senior Gents  The process seemed to take an age for a wee loon waiting his turn 'fir a haircut'.  Behind the tram can be seen the part of the Barrack's block whose rear entrance was through a break in the curved wall and led up steps to the Parade Square level or the lower Gymnasium at Justice Street level.  This route was used by schoolchildren to reach the communal school canteen located in the barrack square. The street had many shops on the right with high rise tenements above but with inside landing toilets and outside communal wash-houses. 

On leaving Castle Street we enter Justice Street, a name which recalls that this street was the way the condemned criminal was often taken to the place of public execution. Justice Street leads to 3 such places, the Heading Hill, on the east side of Commerce Street, opposite the Castlehill, and its name explains the nature of the punishment inflicted there. Between the 2 hills, on the site now occupied by Commerce Street, on the right, during the witch mania of the last decade of the 16th century, about 30 individuals were  burned alive here. Of these poor people, mostly women, many were condemned on their own confession of unlawful dealings with the powers of evil. Justice Street also led via Park Street to the Gallow Hill, on the east side of King Street, by way of the Thieves Bridge.

The Thieves' Bridge
For a long period the place where criminals were executed was the Gallow Hill, which was reached by Justice Street and Park Street. This street was the way to various enclosed pieces of grazing ground, to which the townsmen sent their cows in summer. It crossed the Powcreek Burn, in the line of Jasmine Terrace, by a small Bridge which criminals passed over on the way to execution. These being mostly thieves the Bridge was called the Thieves' Brig.
 A Charter of Andrew Ancroft mentions the Thevisbrig or Thieves Bridge - this crossed the Powcreek Burn between the Castlehill and the Gallow Hill. It was so called because it was crossed en route to the gallows - In a charter it is called ponte latronum.

 The Gordon Highlanders were, for nearly 200 years, North-East Scotland’s own regiment. Kilts require regular care and maintenance, particularly if they are in daily use. A foot-operated treadle sewing machine is being operated by 1 of the tailors in the right of the picture. Castlehill Barracks were in occupation from the 1790s until 1935, when new premises were built at the Bridge of Don. The Barracks themselves were demolished in 1965.  The Army Barracks were essentially lining 3 sides of the a large parade square atop Castlehill and this photo is taken at the rear  adjoining Justice Street

James Ogston, grocer and spirit dealer, 30 Justice Street - c.1874


This open site was used for a regular Street Market every Friday with roving crockery salesmen who would attract and entertain the crowds with their Showman's Patter "Not £10, not £5, Not £1---!" and offer to sell sell a full 2nds Dinner Set for 19s 11d 3 farthings - a farthing short of a Quid.  The pitches were marked out with paint and the area served as a car park when not in use as a Market.  It was approached from the entrances at the top of Justice Street or mid East North Street and the Model Home buildings can be seen in the background aboveThis was a good pitch for the Organ Grinder and his suited Monkey.  Also the site for the Timmer Market

Organ grinder's swing - a hand cart sight often seen at Street Markets.  Note the decorative panels and its protective Tarpaulin.

Allan's Public Supply Stores, 17 Justice Street

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Last modified: 01/09/2013