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Schoolhill

Wordies Pend can be seen centre left of lower School Hill with a trademark trail of fresh Horse Manure

This rather plain building which stood in Schoolhill and was demolished about 1882-3 was the old Grammar School. It was closed as a school in 1863 when the new school in Skene Street was opened. The Grammar School seems to date back to the 13th century with successive buildings on this site. Pupils were taught Latin, Greek and English grammar with the aim of preparing them for entry to university. One of the more famous pupils here was Lord Byron, who attended from the age of 7 in 1795 for 4 years. The site is now partly occupied by buildings belonging to the The Robert Gordon University

Aberdeen Grammar School, sited on the edge of the Denburn, before the installation of its illuminating tower clock (popularly known at one time as "the Grammar moon"). The exact date of Aberdeen Grammar School's foundation is unknown, but the school has existed for at least 550 years. The first documentary reference to the town Grammar School occurs in the Burgh Records for the year 1418, when the Provost and the Council nominated John Homyll as 'Master of the Schools', in place of Andrew of Chivas, deceased, and the Chancellors of the Cathedral confirmed his appointment. 

The Grammar School, dating from about 1262, shows a list of 26 Rectors from 1418 to 1881 and of other classical masters from 1628. The representative secondary school of the North of Scotland, it attracts advanced pupils from the best primary schools, and has close connection, by Charter and Constitution, with the University. Its teachers, till 1863, were only a Rector and 3 Classical Masters, but number now a Rector and 10 Under-masters. The building, from 1757 till 1863, was a plain structure, on School Hill, erected at a cost of £400, on part of the grounds of the Dominican Friary, forming three sides of a square, and containing a public hall with four class rooms: and this building it was proposed, in 1880, to fit up as a permanent art gallery and museumUntil 1863 the Grammar School was situated in Schoolhill and the curriculum latterly consisted of Latin, Greek and Ancient Geography. In the-mid 1790s, the famous poet and writer Lord (George Gordon) Byron attended Aberdeen Grammar School for 4 years. A commemorative  statue to Byron stands outside the new Grammar School in Skene Street West.

Gibbs Map of Aberdeen 1888


James Dun's House It is a beautiful building on Schoolhill that was a popular museum and gallery with changing exhibitions but in 2001 was converted into a hairdresser and cafe. It was built in 1769 and was owned by James Dun who was the Rector of Aberdeen Grammar School which used to be located on Schoolhill before being moved in the 19th century.

Description:
Possibly by William Law, 1769, 5-bay, 2-storey with basement and attic symmetrical Classical townhouse with lying-pane glazing. Grey granite ashlar; mixed granite dressings; slightly raised margins; architraved central doorway. Smaller piended-roof dormer flanked by pair of larger, canted dormers. Building now recessed from existing street line with paved area and low wall to front; cast-iron railings with central arch and lantern. Shouldered attic gable to rear elevation flanked by canted dormers. Later, single-storey glass extension to rear.  Lying-pane timber sash and case windows with horns. Grey slate; stepped roof. Broad chimney stack to right gable; ridge stacks elsewhere; coped ashlar skews and skewputs. Cast iron rainwater goods.

INTERIOR: Altered, 1994. Fine central curving staircase to all floors; cast-iron banisters and hardwood hand-rail. Stone stair to basement; granite flagstones to basement floor. Sections of corbelled-out wall to rear of original building exposed within glass extension.

Notes:
No 61 Schoolhill is one of the earliest buildings to survive on Schoolhill. Originally one of a terrace of three similar houses, its simple Classical style and seemingly diminutive proportions are somewhat overshadowed by the later, taller and more exuberant buildings that surround it. The later buildings made use of 19th century granite cutting techniques and now make up the character of the street. No 61 is further distinguished by being set back from its neighbours and it retains much of the character of an early townhouse. The lying pane glazing is particularly unusual in this area of Aberdeen.

Built for James Dun, a former Rector of the Grammar School which originally stood immediately opposite. W A Brogden, Author of `Aberdeen, An Illustrated Guide´ suggests the architect may have been William Law, designer of Marischal Street. Following the `rig plan´ of the late 18th century, No 61 originally had a long garden plot to rear

Farquharson's Court, 10 Schoolhill
Donald's Close, 14 Schoolhill
Donald's Court, 18 Schoolhill
Gordon's Court, 4 Schoolhill

Ross's Court, 22 Schoolhill
Harriot Street. from 32 Schoolhill to Loch St

 

 

 

 

 


John Alexander Ogg Allan, Architect
This strongly detailed building in the Rennaissance style was built in 1901 for the Aberdeen Central School. The striking triangular plan and use of horizontal coursing anchors the building to its prominent corner site, situated opposite the Art Gallery. The building features a prominent landmark dome and wealth of Classical features. The building´s relatively late date accounts for the unusually decorative scheme making use of the advances in granite cutting techniques available at that time. The Architect, John Alexander Ogg Allan, attended Robert Gordon's College and Gray's School of Art on the opposite side of the road, 1883-87. His RIBA Journal Obituary reads, 'Mr Allan held a distinguished place among architects in Scotland and was regarded in the north, throughout the first half of the present century, as the leading authority in the field of educational building and architecture´. In 1963 the school moved out to form Hazelhead Academy.

1901. Bold 3-storey, multi-bay Renaissance style former Aberdeen Academy building now part of Academy Shopping Centre with 4-storey 3-bay corner tower with leaded dome occupying prominent near-triangular site. Near-symmetrical treatment to principal N and W elevations terminating in advanced gable bays. Grey granite ashlar; rock-faced base course and ground floor; moulded string course between ground and 1st floors. Strong horizontal styling with broken cill courses and raised bays. Round-arched Venetian windows to top storey with Roman-Doric columned mullions.  NW corner tower: double-leaf timber doorway with open pediment above. Horizontal banding throughout corner elevation and projecting single bays flanking tower; 2nd storey openings pedimented; circular key-stoned windows above. Dentiled cornice to leaded dome with louvred lantern and finial.  Advanced terminating bays to N and W elevations with similar treatment at 1st and 2nd floors; gable with round-arched panel at apex. Grey slate, broad gable end stacks, ashlar skews and skewputts, clay cans.


Wordie's Horses

The old and narrower Schoolhill cobbled street and Tenements and shops including Jamesone's Turreted House soon to be demolished in order to widen the thoroughfare.  In the distance is the Spire of the Triple Kirks.  Wordie & Co.'s premises has a sign indicating his association with the Caledonian and North of Scotland Railways.  Hand and single axle Horse Carts are present and ladders up to houses on the south side in front of the Mither Kirk.  Alexander Smith's Shop is adjacent to Wordie's Pend leading to his stable block

“workin’ as hard as a'en a Wordie’s horses” – (working as hard as one of Wordie’s horses).  in days gone by, Mr. Wordie' owned the carts and horses that worked at the Harbour.  His business was located off Harriet Street, where the Bon Accord Centre (a large shopping centre) now stands.  She said that every morning, Wordie’s horses left to go down Market Street to the Harbour, and every evening, up they came again at the end of their long day of hauling and carting.  Wordie’s is long gone, but it lives on in the expression “working as hard as one of Wordie’s horses” and also in the name of the Ale House at 16 Schoolhill, just around the corner from where Wordie’s used to be.

_ who's there - 'Ina' - Ina who - 'Ina Wordie's Horses'

Twenty Horses in a Row - Everyone of Wordie & Co.
This modest number of beasts was the tiniest fraction which went on to serve the company, because it was reckoned that at one time Wordie had well over 2000 horses stabled at depots all over Scotland.  "Like many great concerns, Wordie & Co. had humble beginnings, and the earliest mention of the destined-to-be haulage empire came in the early 19th century when John Wordie, carrier of Stirling, omitting to inform the Government of the day, endeavoured to supplement his income by running an illegal mail service between Stirling, Glasgow and Edinburgh, charging 6½d to Glasgow, and 8d to the Capital."  John Wordie's heart suddenly failed him one day when out for his Sunday walk, (much like some of his horses) and he died leaving half a dozen horses and carts to his son William.

The Railway was now spreading its tentacles all over Scotland, and wherever the railway went, William Wordie was sure to go. In 1851 he became agent for the Caledonian Railway and then secured a contract for the Scottish Central Railway.  William Wordie had fixed his wagon to a star in orbit. But on 9th October, 1874, his industrious life came to an end at his Lenzie home. He died leaving a family of seven – five daughters and two sons, John and Peter, who took over the business and still found time to move the family into more spacious accommodation, at Millersneuk House, in Lenzie.  All things must end, however, and the proud slogan – "You'll find Wordie & Co. wherever you go" – was soon consigned to history. In 1945, the Government passed the Road Traffic Act, and Wordie & Co became part of the now nationalised British Road Services.

The newer No.s 8-26 Schoolhill make a significant contribution to the run of buildings that make up the stretch of Upperkirkgate and Schoolhill. In its raised position towards the top of the hill, it overlooks the St Nicholas Kirk Burial ground.  Formerly known as the `Wordie Buildings´, 8-26 Schoolhill was designed by Alexander Marshall Mackenzie soon after the completion of his Aberdeen Art Gallery and associated buildings also situated on Schoolhill. Mackenzie is one of Classical Aberdeen´s most prominent Architects, responsible for a number of its most celebrated buildings included the Neo-Gothic additions to Marischal College.

The Baronial details at Nos 8-26 are uncommon among Mackenzie´s output, while there are few Baronial buildings within central Aberdeen in general. The design of the building appears partly in the manner of Edinburgh´s Cockburn Street while following the style of the houses that occupied Schoolhill in earlier times. A central pend once located below the crowstepped gable at ground floor now houses a pub infill named the `Wordie Alehouse´ in acknowledgement of the Building's origins.

Description:
James Mathews & Alexander Marshall Mackenzie, circa 1886. 3-storey and attic, 11-bay range of Classical commercial and residential buildings with Scots Baronial detailing on gently sloping site. Composition balanced by near-symmetrical arrangement of crowstepped gables breaking wall-head at central and outer bays. Stugged granite ashlar; finely tooled, chamfered openings. Shops to ground; stepped cill course at 2nd floor; moulded blocking course; shallow, castellated cornice. Corbelled-out, stone-roofed shallow canted oriels with tripartite windows at 2nd floor and attic; crow-stepped gables with rose and thistle finials. Tripartite `candle-snuffer´ capped dormers to 8 remaining bays.  Plate glass timber sash and case windows throughout; grey slate; lead flashing to ridge and dormers caps; broad, corniced ashlar stacks; clay cans. Recessed cast iron rainwater goods.

INTERIOR: Dog-leg stair with cast-iron banister and timber handrail to communal inner stair. Retains some original fireplaces, presently boxed in at 1st floor commercial premises (2006).


The Old Manse of St Nicholas, Schoolhill, Aberdeen. In 1620, the house became the residence of George Jamesone, the celebrated portrait painter. By the 1880s it had became a common Lodging House and it was demolished in the late 1880s and its site is now commemorated by a plaque. 

This building was erected as a Manse or a Residence for the Minister of St Nicholas' Church, but the date of erection cannot be satisfactorily ascertained. On the 2 inner wings is the date 1729 but the body of the house appears to have been erected before that date. It was no longer used as a manse but was let off into several tenements 1895.  On the site now occupied by Nos 16-26 School Hill, Aberdeen, was a Temple Tenement of St John, formerly George Jameson's House.

The Strewn Rubble - Old houses skirting St Nicholas Churchyard once formed part of the south side of Schoolhill.

They were demolished in 1884-85 as part of a street widening scheme and the present wall and railing now stands in their place. On the other side of Schoolhill could be seen the roof and turrets of George Jamesone's House, demolished in 1886

St Nicholas Churchyard had a row of houses which stood between it and Schoolhill. These houses were demolished around 1884 as part of an improvement scheme to widen Schoolhill - named after the Old Grammar School which stood nearby. A dwarf wall with ornamental railings was erected in place of these buildings and a Porter's Lodge was removed from Robert Gordon's College to form a lodge for the Sexton at the entrance to the churchyard.  Note the mortar and pestle indicating a Apothecary or Chemist Shop on the left corner.

Would that Jamesone's House still survived as a monument to the Aberdonian Artist at 22 School Hill.  It was built by Andrew Jamesone a Master Mason who lived in from 1588 till his death in 1625 and inherited by his son George Jamesone Portrait Painter. A young loon looks over wall of the graveyard of St Nicholas at the photographer (circa 1898) who seems to be recording the already crumbling and condemned 300 year old but magnificent building.  demolished in by the Council for the 'widening' of Schoolhill - some suitable excuse.  This appears to be a centre of attraction for pedestrians perhaps posing and anxious to get their 'photie took' for posterity to ponder over.  It is at least fitting that the Gray's School of Art and Art Gallery lies at the top of Schoolhill. Interesting that the corner recess was made into a shop much like Mar's Castle recess in the Gallowgate.

The house was located on the north side of Schoolhill until it was taken down in c.1885. Andrew Jamesone Mason, father of the Painter George Jamesone (1588-1644), built it in 1586. 

In illustrations and photos it appears as if it had a T or L shaped tower, but the form of the house is uncertain. It had a `projecting turret with a pair of corbelled, angle round, moulded window surrounds and strong courses. Corbelled stair turrets connected the main block and the west re-entrant angle wide-arched entrance gave access to a pend through the lower eastern range'. 

It had a projecting turret with distinctive pair of corbelled angle round, moulded window surrounds and strong courses. A corbelled stair turret adjoined the main block in the west re-entrant angle wide arched entrance gave access to a pend through the lower more elaborate eastern range'. 

An illustration by Billings shows the turrets with tapering roofs and some repairs to the building but the turrets were taken off and roof finished.  It has been claimed as a Manse of St. Nicholas, the Bishop's Palace, the residence of Mary Queen of Scots and the prison of Samuel Rutherford but there is no evidence to suggest that this house was used for these purposes. It was taken down at a time when slum clearance and redevelopment was taking place in the City centre in general. The removal of this venerable and much loved structure provoked much hostility and anger at the time. Demolished in c. 1885

Judging by the throngs of men stood here it makes one wonder what the purpose of the adjoining shop was - a convenient meeting place, Lodging House or a labour exchange?


School Hill Cotton Factory
Prime Nursery of Vice and Sorrow
William Thom was born in 1798 of parents steeped in poverty, in a tenement in Sinclair's Close, Justice Port, Aberdeen, and at the age of 10 began his apprenticeship to life in a Cotton Factory. At the age of 15 or 16 say 1814 he entered the "School Hill Factory," of Messrs Gordon, Barron, and Co a Hand-Weaving building since swept away, - as a weaver hand, and remained there for 17 years till 1833. The wages of the best operatives averaged through good and bad times from 6 to 9 shillings weekly, and of the 2nd-class from 3 to 5 shillings. The daily hours of labour were 14. What that meant, not in poverty, but in absolute want of food, warmth, and the means for the sustenance of life, the degradation of rags, the shutting out of all glimpses of heaven and earth, leaving the only alleviation to the hours of toil at the rattling machines, and the squalid suffering in the reeking tenements, in the cheap and fiery stimulants of the taprooms, can be only faintly imagined. An inheritance of bad habits had also descended to the weaving class. When the factories were 1st established in 1770, after the invention of the spinning jenny, the wages of skilful workmen were 40/- a week, and the operatives usually remained drunk from Saturday night until Wednesday morning, wore frilled shirts and powdered hair, sported canes, and quoted Volney in their discussions on the rights of man in the taprooms. The surplus of labour gradually reduced the wages to the starvation point, while the habits of dissipation and recklessness remained as characteristic of the craft.

Thorn gives a most affecting picture of the lives and thoughts of these men, many of them, strong with native intellect and passion, condemned to a life of unending servitude and degradation, too ragged to dare to enter a church, even if they wished, and getting their only glimpse of nature in the garden of Gordon's Hospital, which was open on the Sunday holiday, while the whiskey shop gave them their only taste of joy and exhilaration; and yet who had a native feeling for poetry, repeating the verses of Burns and particularly of Tannahill, their brother weaver, as they tended their looms, and applauding the poets and singers in their own ranks, whose rude verses expressed their feelings or appealed to their sympathies in the gatherings in the taprooms. The moral influences of such a life, where 300/400 men and women were herded together in common workrooms was also very bad, and many a young girl dated her ruin in life, bringing additional desolateness to the miserable home, from the promiscuous association, and being barred out into the streets with a heavy fine for failing to be at the factory door at its opening in the early morning. How virtue, morality, or any of the decency and self-respect of humanity  could exist at all in such a life may be considered a marvel, and it is a proof of the inherent strength of the Scottish character and its inherited virtues that these factories were not greater plague spots than they actually were, and that honest lives and human affections flourished at all. In a poem, entitled Whisperings to the Unwashed, in the fiercely declamatory style of the Corn Law Rhymer, Thorn draws a grim picture of the awakening of the weavers at the call of the Town Drum, used for that purpose in the smaller Burghs, at 6 o'clock in the bleak and dark Northern mornings.

Rubadub, rubadub, row-dow-dow !
Hark how he waukens the Weavers now;
Who lie belaired in a dreamy steep -
A mental swither, 'tween death and sleep,

Gordon, Barron, & Co. cotton spinners and manufacturers, Woodside - Office, 20, Belmont Street

Well o' Spa
The Woolman Hill, which all the rest outvies
In pleasantness, this city beautifies;
There is the Well of Spa, that healthful font,
Whose yrne-hewed water coloureth the mount;
Not far from thence a garden’s to be seen
Which unto Jamesone did appertain:
Wherein a little pleasant house doth stand,
Painted as I guess with its master’s hand."

Water was taken into the Medieval Town by a lead pipe following the Denburn to the Well of Spa. There it left the course of the burn and went up by Black's Buildings and along Schoolhill. At the east end of Schoolhill, on the south side of the street, it supplied a stone cistern well. Here the main pipe divided into 2 branches. One going south supplied a cistern well in Netherkirkgate at the head of Carnegie's Brae, opposite the end of Flourmill Lane. This well is shown in "Scotia Depicta"  Descending Carnegie's Brae, the pipe supplied a Well in the Green, shown on Taylor's Map, 1773, and another at the Shore. The other branch ascended Upperkirkgate, and supplied a Well in the Gallowgate near Mars's Castle and another in Broad Street in front of Greyfriars Church, where a reservoir or Water House was afterwards erected. There was another Well near the south end of Broad Street, east side, and a large cistern well in Castlegate. (The Mannie)


Blackfriar's
The Dominicans were brought to Aberdeen by Alexander II. (1214-49), who gave them a large piece of ground with a house on it, lying between Schoolhill and the Loch. The west boundary of their ground extended to the back of the houses in Blackfriars Street, and the East approached Harriet Street. Within this area they built a "very splendid" Monastery and Church. They had got a supply of water from a deep well. In the course of excavations made in 1833 some remains of the Monastery were found, from which it appeared that the front was 60 ft long and faced the south. The Monastery and the Church were dedicated to John the Baptist, and the small knoll at the east side of Schoolhill Station is called St John's Hill on Gordon's chart.
 

The place of the Blackfriars then consisted of 3 portions, namely, the Monastery and Church [with its Cemetery] and other subsidiary buildings - Barn, Kiln, and Pigeon-house, (Dovecote) with garden and orchard; an incroft lying to the west of the Monastery and included within the same walls; and the yard croft, lying between the wall on the south and the Loch on the north.

These parts are shown on Gordon's chart, 1661. When the Monks were expelled in January, 1560The University had to get decrees in Court against the numerous occupants of the properties before it could establish its rights and get payment of rents. In 1732 the University feued the Blackfriars property between the Schoolhill and the Loch to the Town Council, to be the site of Gordon's Hospital, and in 1883 a part of the Hospital ground was parted with to the Town Council, for the site of an Art Gallery which was opened in 1884.

The Duke of Cumberland, while on his march to Culloden, stayed, from 25th February to 8th March, at a large house called Sillerton, said to be at the end of Aberdeen at that time. This house Cumberland fortified strongly for the purpose of a magazine and hospital for his sick  and wounded soldiers. At the same time he left a suffioient force to- defend it against enemies, of whom Glenbucket's followers are specially mentioned.  Sillerton House was the Gordons Hospital and is a corruption of Silvertown

Shirras Laing, 40-50 Schoolhill/Harriet Street 1978
Shirras Laing's retail shop within a stone's throw of James Dun's house is remembered by a great many Aberdonians.  Shirras Laing were also electrical contractors installing, amongst other commissions, the wiring in the very modern electrification of the Aberdeen Royal Infirmary that was carried out in 1892

Schoolhill and Harriet Street, Buildings for Mitchell & Muil Ltd., Bakers..
Architect: Matthews and Mackenzie 1887.

Mitchell & Muil Ltd - This company was a well-known Aberdeen-based bakery that had been in operation since 1833, and had headquarters on ‘The Granite Mile’, 25 Union Street in the middle of Aberdeen. The company also seems to have had various shops in Aberdeen, including one on Elmbank Terrace dating from the 1930s. In 1906 they listed themselves as bread and biscuit manufacturers.  In 1933 the biscuit division was sold to Canadian biscuit manufacturer Garfield Weston,  and moved to Edinburgh. However the bakery continued to operate, with delivery boys still being employed in the 1960s. It appears that the company became absorbed by a wider conglomerate of other Companies in the 1980s, and ceased operating as an independent brand at about that time.

The Denburn ran as an open burn throughout this area area of town with bleaching greens next to it, until the railway was constructed in 1865-7, when the burn was covered over and the sun bleaching method surpassed. In the late 1870's, Union Terrace Gardens was laid out next to the railway, and it was sometimes referred to as the 'Trainie Park'. The old bandstand has long since been removed. The iron footbridge on granite supports which allowed access across the gardens from Schoolhill to Union Terrace was replaced by Schoolhill Viaduct in 1886/7 but sections still survive in the Duthie Park.

 Corner of Blackfriars Street and Schoolhill, adjacent to the Art Gallery

Duncan Fraser, drapers, Schoolhill. had a cash Pneumatic tube system. Closed around 1960s.  Duncan Fraser was 152nd Lord Provost of Aberdeen c. 1949.

In 1889, Schoolhill Viaduct was built along with Schoolhill Station. At that time the station was part of the Great North of Scotland Railway Company. These street level offices and station stood in splendid isolation a few 100 yards along from His Majesty's Theatre. The station, besides acting as a left luggage office also acted as a waiting room for the GNSR Bus Services to the outlying villages of Aberdeenshire. To the left of the entrance can be noted a clock which indicated the time of the next train to Dyce. The station was closed in 1937 and for several years was a tea room. The building was finally demolished in 1977.

Suburban Railway Station
In 1893 after several years negotiation with the Town Council, Schoolhill Station was opened. It was located within sight of the Joint Station, but was more convenient for George St, Rosemount and Woolmanhill areas.  Schoolhill Station was a granite building with entrances from both Schoolhill and the Denburn levels.

The station was also used as a bus terminus for the Great North of Scotland Railway bus service.  The station restaurant survived until the 1970's, and the station was demolished in 1973Current Status: The railway is now single track at this point. Traces of building remains in the car park beside the theatre.

The was indeed a Tearoom in my time and looked like a a complete folly as a freestanding structure with a footbridge to the Viaduct as its original use had long since faded from memory.


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Last modified: 01/09/2013