Prior to 1895, poor relief in Aberdeen was divided between
two parishes: St Nicholas, to the East of Denburn, and the more
well-to-do Old Machar to the West. In 1847, the two parishes briefly
agreed to set up a joint poorhouse for the city. However, after failing to reach
agreement on the scheme, the parishes proceeded to operate independently. It was
only in 1895 that the two parishes were united for poor law purposes and
administered by the Aberdeen City Council.
St Nicholas or East Poorhouse
The St Nicholas Poorhouse stood at the north side of
Nelson Street, Aberdeen. In 1847, the Board of Supervision for
Relief of the Poor published a model poorhouse plan "originally
prepared for the united Parishes of St Nicholas and Old Machar, Aberdeen,
and about to be erected with some slight modifications, for the Parish of St
Nicholas". A bird's eye view of the model poorhouse, designed by
architects Thomas Mackenzie and James Matthews, is shown below.
St Nicholas Poorhouse,
with 382 inmates in April
structure, built in
at a cost of £9300, and enlarged in
at a cost of £3350 more.
St Nicholas Poorhouse Site, 1890s
The location of the St Nicholas poorhouse are shown on the
1890s map. The layout appears to follow the model plan, with the addition
of extensions at the far end of each of the main the main wings.
Model Poorhouse Plan for Town Parishes, 1847
The buildings were sold in 1908 following the opening of
Poorhouse. The site was later used for St Peter's Roman Catholic School, now
ABERDEEN INDUSTRIAL SCHOOL AND REFORMATORY SCHOOL FOR
PROTESTANT GIRLS, MOUNT STREET
a.k.a. Mount Street Female Penitentiary
ABERDEEN REFORMATORY SCHOOL FOR GIRLS
Certified 5th March 1862 for 30 girls.
of the area, between Westburn Road and
Mid Stocket Road, were some houses, but a
large area of the built up land consisted of an “Industrial Asylum and
Reformatory for Girls”. Much of the south-east and eastern areas was devoted
to industry – with a Tannery and Dye Works close to the Denburn for a
supply of water, some ‘Handloom’ factories, the Rosemount Works and Winery,
and the Gilcomston Brewery.
Mount Street, the name of which may have derived from the remains of the motte or 'mount'.
Machar operated a poorhouse, location unknown, from around 1849, with
accommodation for 47 inmates. A new poorhouse, capable of housing up to
200, was erected in 1853 at the north side Fonthill Road,
Aberdeen. The building was designed by William Henderson. The new
poorhouse's location and layout are shown on the 1890s map.
Old Machar site, 1900.
Following the opening of Oldmill Poorhouse in 1908, the buildings
were acquired by the Territorial Force Association and converted into
The site has now been cleared and redeveloped for housing.
Ellon Road, Gordon Barracks Parade Ground Barracks Block a, Old
Block A 1935. 2-storey, 7-bay range with wider advanced and
crowstepped centre bay with apex stack. Squared granite rubble with rock-faced
base courses, finely tooled ashlar dressings with long and short quoins. Centre
bay, 3 windows each floor. Outer bays, windows in pairs. All windows narrow with
multi-pane. Sash and case glazing. Straight skews, end stacks, slate roof.
Entrance at rear.
2-storey, 7-bay range with wider advanced and crowstepped gabled centre bay with
apex stack. Squared granite rubble with rock-faced base courses, finely tooled
ashlar dressings and long and short quoins. Door off-centre left of wide central
bay, 2 windows to left 3 above. Outer bays windows in pairs. All windows narrow
with multi-pane sash and case glazing. Entrance
to rear: straight skews, stack at E. Slate roof. Block C 1935. 2-storey,
7-bay symmetrical range with 3 window advanced centre gabled bay with straight
skews, stepped skewputt and centre stack. Squared granite rubble. Windows paired
in outer bays; multi-pane sash and case glazing throughout. Slate roof; end
stacks. Entrance at rear (S).
The Oldmill Poorhouse, Skene Road, Aberdeen,
to replace the existing
East and West Poorhouses. It
site location and layout are shown on the
Alexander Brown and George Watter, the new poorhouse
for the united parishes appears in many respects to follow the model plans
earlier. The central clock tower is, however, somewhat more substantial than
that in the original design.
had opened his industrial school, to ensure the feeding and clothing as well as
the teaching of "ragged" children even earlier than the same idea was developed
in Edinburgh by Dr. Guthrie. The foundation of other industrial schools
followed his. Aberdeen also possessed, till recently, a large Boys' Reformatory
Though, in a local work published in
it was optimistically stated that "the lads receive a good education at
tempered with refining influences such as music and singing - and are healthy
and happy," yet the institution has since been proved to be such an utter
failure in attaining its purposed ends that it has been abandoned. The whole
question of the best method of dealing with neglected, depraved or "difficult"
children was still in its infancy.
ABERDEEN OLD MILL REFORMATORY SCHOOL FOR BOYS
for 150 boys. Closed in
Certified 9th March
were intended to shelter the
sick, insane, handicapped and disabled
poor. But their Board of Supervision discouraged them from taking in those they
thought to be lazy or immoral.
Oldmill Reformatory (1857), near the eastern border, 2¼ miles West
of Aberdeen, was a large building, occupied by about 150 boys.
A reformatory was something like a
school and a prison for boys.
It was set up in
It held boys under
16 years old.
These were boys who were getting into trouble in Aberdeen. The boys might be
orphans. They were all poor. So they might be begging or stealing. The boys were
held for at least
but no more than 5. Whilst there they were educated, and taught a skill. Later
the reformatory became a
Oldmill Poorhouse 1901.
Woodend Municipal Hospital.
It now stands as the
Glenburn Wing at Woodend General Hospital, Aberdeen.
Inspector commented "Special attention was drawn in the course of the
year to the case of a boy named
who died after a long and tedious illness. Complaint was made by the
relatives that he had been much neglected at the school, and left to linger
in a dying state, without proper medical treatment. Inquiry was made
into the facts of the case, and though the charges of cruelty and neglect
were not substantiated, it was clear that the arrangements for special cases
of continued and incurable sickness were defective. The boy was left
and no decided steps were taken to
remove him to an infirmary,
where he would have received regular
and careful nursing. The want of cordial co-operation on the part of
the officials has been the chief cause".
~ Yet another
The premises were described as
‘A handsome residence’ Built in 1855 - James Matthews Architect
On the 11th December 1914, the children's block,
which accommodated 116, was totally gutted by fire. The blaze started at
10.30pm and all the children were rescued. However, one 2½-year-old boy went
back into the building and died.
Between May 1915 and June 1919 Oldmill was
evacuated and used as a military hospital, the patients and ordinary
inmates being sent to other hospitals and poorhouses in the area.
The site was taken over by the Town Council in 1927 and
became Woodend Municipal Hospital. It was again used as a Military
Hospital during the Second World War.
The Hospital facilities transferred to the National Health
Service in 1948, although Oldmill Home, the former poorhouse block,
initially stayed under local council administration. It eventually became the
hospital's Glenburn Wing, now renamed Woodend South, providing
care for geriatric patients.