The Doric Columns
Castle Street, and Castlegate was the terminus of most of the car routes, was the Ancient Market Place of the Burgh, and is one of the oldest places in the city. As a market place it was still used every Friday, and on the last Wednesday of August a meagre survival of the old fairs is still held here. Round the Castlegate are clustered the memories of much that has gone to form the history of the past, for it was within the market square that the life of the old Burgh ebbed and flowed. The name is derived from the Castle of Aberdeen, which stood where the military barracks now stand, behind the Salvation Army buildings on the east side of the square. The last vestige of this ancient stronghold, dating back to the days of Wallace and Bruce, was removed when the old chapel of St. Ninian was demolished to make room for the present barracks in 1794.
The chief ornament in the Castlegate is the Mercat Cross erected in 1686 to replace the 2 ancient crosses - the Fish Cross and the Flesh Cross - which formerly stood there. This structure, the work of a local mason, cost the sum of about £230, and in many respects has not perhaps its equal. It is hexagonal in shape, and the balustrade surmounting the arches is divided into 12 panels, in 10 of which, enclosed within, oval-shaped wreaths, are sculptured portraits in high relief of the following Scottish Sovereigns - James. I., II., III., IV., and V., Queen Mary, James Vl, Charles I. and II., and James VII. The remaining 2 panels are filled in with the Royal Arms and the Insignia of the city. The armorial bearings of the city, which the visitor will come across in various places, are gules, three towers triple towered, within a double tressure flowered and counter flowered argent, supporters 2 leopards proper, and the motto " Bon- Accord." The column which rises from the centre of the Cross is wreathed with thistles, and resting on the capital is a unicorn in white marble bearing on its breast a shield with the Scottish arms. The Cross was at one time closed in below, and was let out for small shops or booths, but in 1822 these were cleared out, and for a short time the building was used as the post office.
Duke of Gordon's Statue. - In front of the Cross, and standing almost on the site of the gallows when executions took place on Castle Street, is the monument of George, 5th and last Duke of Gordon. This statue, erected in 1843, is an example of the possibilities that the native granite can be put to, and although no great progress has been made since this statue was cut, there is at present a tendency to utilise granite, more in the future for such work, especially in view of the great improvements in working made possible by pneumatic tools. North of Scotland Bank. - The. building at, the corner of King Street is the head office of the North of Scotland Bank, Limited, built m 1836 from the design of Archibald Simpson, and considered by many one of his best efforts. The site of the bank prior to 1836 was occupied by the New Inn, a famous hostelry, and that in which Dr. Johnson and Boswell lived during their stay in the city while making the famous tour to the Hebrides. Attached to the bank by an archway is the tower of the old Tolbooth, the front of which is now faced with granite to harmonise with the County and Municipal Buildings. From Lodge Walk, however, part of the old tower, erected in 1622, can still be seen. Opposite the North of Scotland Bank the chief Aberdeen office of the Union Bank of Scotland, occupying the premises originally erected in 1801 for the Aberdeen Banking Company. The site of this bank and that of the adjoining street, Marischal Street, were at one time occupied by the picturesque town residences of the Earl Marischal and Menzies of Pitfodels. The County and Municipal Buildings were erected under the powers of an Act obtained in 1866, and were completed and opened for use in 1870. Part of the site had been occupied by the Town House from 1393, when a licence was granted by Robert lll. to build a Town House anywhere within the Burgh save in the midst of the Market Place. The clock tower at the West end of the buildings rises to a height of about 200 feet, and the doorway at the foot gives entrance to the Municipal Offices. In the vestibule there are statues of Queen Victoria, by Alexander Brodie, and Lord Provost James Blaikie, by Sir John Steel. The former statue stood originally at the corner of St. Nicholas Street and Union Street, but as it was being ruined by our northern climate it was placed here in 1888. A stand of old armour, which tradition asserts was that in which doughty Provost Davidson fought and fell at Harlaw in 1411, also finds a place in the hall. Of course, tradition is wrong in this case, but as good citizens we are bound to credit the story. In the Council Chamber there are some good portraits of ex-Provosts by Phillip, Pickersgill, Orchardson, and Reid. The heraldic ceiling of the room and the old Dutch Candelabra have been much admired.
The large hall adjoining the Council Chamber is the joint property of the City and County, and contains several portraits, among others those of Queen Victoria, Prince Albert, by Phillip, Queen Anne, George, last Duke of Gordon, the Premier Earl of Aberdeen, and others. From the balcony in the clock tower a magnificent view of the City and surrounding country can be obtained on a clear day. The tower also contains the City Charter room, where the records of the Corporation are preserved. These consist of a series of Charters from the time of William the Lion to Queen Anne, and the proceedings of the Council from 1398 downwards. The doorway in the centre of the buildings gives access to the Court House, where the Justiciary and Sheriff Courts are held. The thoroughfare on the left is one of the old streets of the city, and is named the Shiprow, or Shipraw, since it led to the quay. Entering this street from Castle Street is the Exchequer Row, which preserves the memory of a time when a branch of the Scottish Mint was established in Aberdeen.
In Union Street, opposite Shiprow, is Broad Street, leading to Marischal College, the opening of the new buildings of which is to form so important a part in the programme of the Quater Centenary proceedings (1906). Marischal college was founded in 1593 by George, Earl Marischal, who endowed it with the revenues of both the Blackfriars and Whitefriars, which had come into his hands by gift and purchase. The Corporation had become possessed at the Reformation of the buildings of the Convent of the Greyfriars, established on this site in 1469, and they supplemented the Earl's endowment by conveying the buildings for the purpose of the new College. The Greyfriars place served their purpose up till about 1639, when a great part of the buildings were destroyed by fire. In 1679 and in 1747 large additions were made to what was left of the Friary, but being built at different periods, and without regard to any plan, the buildings were found to be utterly inadequate for the growing requirements of the University. By aid of a grant from Government of £20,000, and private subscriptions, new buildings were erected in 1837-41 from the designs of the late Archibald Simpson. After the lapse of half a century the need for enlarged facilities for teaching began to be felt, and in 1893 an Act was obtained for acquiring the properties necessary to make a large extension on the then existing buildings. Government aid to the extent of £42,000 was obtained, and from a large number of generous donors, including the late Tyne Shipbuilder Charles Mitchell, LL.D., of Jesmond Towers, Newcastle; his son, the late Charles W. Mitchell; the Chancellor, Lord Strathcona; and the Town Council, a fund was raised which in the aggregate amounted to about £200,000. The new buildings, including the Mitchell Hall and Tower, were erected from the designs of Mr. A. Marshall Mackenzie, A.R.S.A. Since the amalgamation of Marischal and King's Colleges in 1860 to form the University of Aberdeen, Marischal College has been the headquarters of the faculties of Medicine and Law, and here also the various Science Classes are now accommodated. In Marischal there is a good museum and a large library, relating to subjects in Medicine, Law, and Natural History. The collection of pictures is also a feature, and includes one of the founder, several portraits by Jamesone, an allegorical picture by Sir Joshua Reynolds of Dr. Beattie, and others.
Special attention is also drawn to the large window in the Mitchell Hall, in which by portraits and Coats of Arms the History of Marischal College is commemorated. When the Town Council handed over the Greyfriars place to the Earl Marischal, they specially reserved the Church of the Convent, built in the early years of the 16th century by Bishop Elphinstone. The scheme for the new buildings involved its removal, as well as that of a literary landmark in the house No. 64 Broad Street, in which Byron, when a boy, resided with his mother, while receiving his education at the Grammar .School. The new Greyfriars Church, built by the Town Council in place of the old structure, stands at the corner of Queen Street, and is also the design of Mr. Mackenzie.
In the neighbourhood of Marischal College are many of the older streets of the city, including the Gallowgate, the' Upper and Netherkirkgates, and the Guestrow. To those interested in old buildings a visit should be made to No. 45 Guestrow, now the Victoria Lodging House (Skenes House), the oldest part of which dates from 1580. Originally in one of the fashionable parts of the old burgh, it was the residence of Provost Sir George Skene, whose Coat, of Arms is above the doorway, and it was here that the Duke of Cumberland stayed while going and coming from the field of Culloden.
Returning to the car route in Union Street, and proceeding westwards, the bronze Statue of Queen Victoria, by C. B. Birch, A.R.A., is reached, at the junction of St. Nicholas Street. This statue was a gift by the Royal Tradesmen of the City, and was erected in 1893 to take the place of the marble statue by Brodie, now in the Town House.
Market Street, on the opposite side of Union Street, is named from the Market Hall, the property of a joint-stock company, who built the market and laid out the street in 1840-2. The building was almost wholly destroyed by fire in 1882, and advantage was taken when it was rebuilt to introduce several improvements.
The East and West Churches stand on the north side of the street in the churchyard of St. Nicholas, separated from the street by an Ionic facade, designed by the late John Smith, the Inspector of Town's Works. Part of the churchyard is very old, and contains many interesting monuments, such as that of Beattie, author of "The Minstriel" of Cant, the famous Covenanter ; and many others whose life story is the human side of the City's history. The churches practically occupy the site where the parish church has stood from at least the 12th century, although tradition affirms that the nave of the old church was. begun in 1060. The church dedicated to St. Nicholas, the patron saint of the city, when finally completed in the opening years of the 16th century, consisted of a nave and choir, with side aisles and transepts. For a purely parish church it was perhaps the most pretentious in Scotland. At the Reformation the nave and choir were separated by a stone partition and used as 2 places of worship. In 1730 the nave became ruinous, and in 1755 the present West Church, built from the design of James Gibbs, the famous London architect, himself a "toon's bairn," was opened for public worship. In 1836 the old choir was replaced by the present East Church, designed by Simpson. The transepts, now known as the Drum and Collison Aisles, from the families who buried there, were capped by an old oak steeple containing 8 fine bells, but on the night of 8th October, 1874, the East Church, with the steeple and bells, were utterly destroyed by fire. The present steeple was erected from the design of the late Mr. William Smith, and contains a peal of 38 Belgian bells from the foundry of Messrs. Aerschodt, Louvain. In the transepts and in the West Church the visitor will find many objects to claim attention, such as the tapestries of Mary Jamesone, the Liddel and Drum brasses, the effigy of Provost Davidson, of Harlaw fame, some early heraldic tombstones, and other subjects of interest. Below the East Church is a small crypt called St. Mary's Chapel, built probably about 1430, and within recent years the subject of a judicious restoration. An altar tomb has been placed in the apse as a memorial of the foundress, Elizabeth Gordon, and of Sir John Gordon, who is supposed to have been buried here after his execution on the Castlegate already referred to. The chief charm of St. Mary's Chapel is, however, the large collection of 16th and 17th century carved work which has been brought into it for preservation. This work formed part of the stalls and pews in the old church of St. Nicholas, and both in the quantity and quality of the carving the collection is unique.
The Incorporated Trades Hall is situated just before crossing Union Bridge, and was erected in 1847. It is the meeting place of the Seven Incorporated Trades, viz., Hammermen, Tailors, Bakers, Wrights and Coopers, Fleshers, Shoemakers, and Weavers.
These bodies possess large funds, the annual revenue of which is divided among the older members and widows of members by way of annuities. The 2 halls contain a number of paintings, chiefly portraits of patrons and benefactors, together with a selection of curious chairs, the workmanship of the craftsmen in the olden days.
After crossing Union Bridge, built in 1801-5, is part of the large scheme of opening up new streets, the Statue of Prince Albert, by Baron Marochetti, was first seen occupying the recess at Union Terrace but now adjacent to Wallace's Satue. The design of the statue is marred undoubtedly by the chair and the prominence given to the Prince's jack boots. Opposite to the now George Vll statue is the offices of the Northern Assurance Company, one of the recent buildings in which the ornate use of the native granite is well represented.
A little further west are the Music Hall Buildings, easily distinguished by the massive portico and colonnade of Ionic pillars. The Assembly Rooms, as they were first called, were erected in 1820, the large hall at the back being opened by Prince Albert during the visit of the British Association in 1859. On passing Huntly Street, on the same side, a glimpse is obtained of the Roman Catholic Pro-Cathedral, with its finely-proportioned steeple, in which hangs a small peal of bells. The building with the square clock tower at the top of Union Street is the United Free Church Divinity Hall. The College has a staff consisting of a Principal and 3 Professors, is fairly well endowed, has a good library, and a museum.
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