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The Doric Columns

First Trinity Hall 1633~1846

DR. WILLIAM GUILD (1586–1657) was brought into close contact with the Craftsmen of Aberdeen through his father being a prominent member of the Hammermen Trade, and took an active and practical interest in the welfare and prosperity of the Craftsmen and their associations during the last twenty years of his life. He gifted to them in 1633 the old Trinity Monastery and Chapel to be an Hospital and Meeting House; founded a Bursary Fund that has proved a most valuable addition to the educational schemes of the Aberdeen Trades, and these benefactions alone entitle him to prominent mention in a History of the Craft Guilds of his native city.

Tarnty Gate at Trinity Corner C1830 before work started on the construction of Guild Street approaches for the Railway. 
The 1st Trinity Hall is concealed behind the Bequestor's Gate and the Trades Hospital is on the right - the left Building is the Trinity Church - (2 gates with a corner infill to discourage fly piissing etc. - a humble fish quine with creel contrasts with the portrayed Gentry).

Trinity Lane  - Trinity Street and Trinity Lane itself takes its name from the ground in the area once owned by the Trinity Friars. The building in the foreground was once known as Trinity Chapel, being opened for public worship on Sunday, 27th April, 1794. For a number of years, the Chapel was an important centre of religious life and activity. The Disruption of 1843 however eventually dispersed the congregation. The building itself was eventually sold by the Presbytery and became for a number of years the Alhambra Music Hall.

In 1794, when a division occurred in the East Church Congregation on account of a minister being presented to the charge who was distasteful to them, an application was made to the Presbytery for permission to erect a Chapel of Ease. This permission having been granted, a new church was erected on the site of the Old Trinity Chapel, which was demolished. A manse was also erected adjoining the new church; but neither church nor manse was long devoted to the purposes for which they were erected. They were fated to undergo even greater changes than the Friars' Monastery and Chapel, for the Chapel of Ease became the Alhambra Music Hall, and the manse forms part of an adjoining public-house.  In later years it became, as is evident from the photo, a fruit warehouse, then a showroom and later a fish restaurant.

Trinity Corner, ran from 102 Shiprow to 2 Putachieside

1828 - John WOOD - Plan of the Cities of Aberdeen

When Dr. Guild acquired the buildings in 1631, he obtained subscriptions from the different Trades to assist in reconstructing them, the contributions he received being entered as follows in the Convener Court Book :-

15th June, 1632 - The said day the haill traids according to their abilities, did enter in to Doctor William Guild for building and repairing their meeting house and chappell, everie traid proportionallie as follows, but since that tyme everie particular man's offering is notted in ane book whilk is keepit always in the custody of the present Miaster of the Traids Hospital.

HAMMERMEN. - Imprimis - William Udny, Deacone of the Hamermen, payit in that day in name of his craft to the said foundator, in part of payment of their offerings, the sum of fyve hundred thirty-three pounds six shillings eight pennies Scots.

BAKERS.- Item, George Leslie, Deacon of the Bakers, payit the said day in name of his craft to the foundator, in pairt of payment of their offerings, the sum of two hundred pounds Scots.

WRIGHTS AND COOPERS.- Item, Robert Irvine, Deacon of the Wrights and Coopers, payt the said day in name of his traid to the foundator, in part of payment of their offerings, the sum of five hundred and forty merks.

TAILYEOURS. - Item, Thomas Gardin, Deacon-Conveener for the tymn, in name of the Tailyeour Craft, payt in the said day to the foundator, in pairt of payment of their offerings the sum of three hundred merks, by and at+.our ane hundred thirty nyne pounds, which the said Thomas Gardin had debursed upon the said work, as his particular compt given in by him did bear.

CORDINERS. - Item, Thomas Robertson, Deacon of the Cordiners, did pay in name of his craft to the said foundator, in pairt of payment of their offerands, the sum of three hundred and fifty merks money with ane bond of John MIercles, containing ane hundred and fifty merks payable at Martinmas next to come.  Cordiner is the Scottish word for shoemaker.

WEAVERS. - Item, Thomas Clark, Deacon of the Weavers, did pay in the said day in name of the said craft to the said foundator, in pairt of payment of their offering, the sum of three hundred merks.

FLESHERS. - Item, It is to be remembered that at the tyme the fleshers was not as yet received with the traids, but at the time of their admission, which was in the year 1657, Andrew Watson, their present deacon, did give in for the use of the hospital funds in name of the said traid two hundred and forty pounds Scots.

Notwithstanding these contributions, amounting in all to about £2200 Scots, the following appeal had to be made to the Town Council, a petition which reveals that, at that time, the Trades had very little funds at their command:-

19th September, 1632. - The said day anent ane supplicatioune given in to the Prouest, Bailies, and Counsell, be Thomas Gairdyne, tailzeour, deacone convenir of the -haill craftis of this burghe, for himself and in name and behalf of the remnant deacones and bretherne of the said craftis, makand mentioune that they hed causit build and repair the Trinitie Frieris Plais of this burghe, quhilk Mr. William Guild, ane of the towne's ordinar ministers, hed laitlie conqueist and mortifiet to be ane hospitall for decayet craftismene within the samen ; upon the bigin quharof thay had bestowit the best pairt of thair monies quhilk thay bade to the fore in thair comon boxis, sua that thair stock and rent for the present will be verra meane, and seeing that poore decayed craftismene hes no plais in the gild bretherene's hospitall, and the nichtbouris of the craftis are most willing to contribute to the worke according to thair power, quhairby thair brethren may be supplyit, and the toune and sessioune easit of ane burdeine: Thairfor they humblie desyrit thair Wisdomes of the Counsell to put to thair helping hand to the furtherance of the worke, and in regard that they ar memberis of this commoun wealthe, to grant unto thame thair charitabill help and support thair unto, for the quhilk they sail endeavour to approve thame selffis thankfull, and both redie and forward in anything concerning the guid and weil of the toune, according to thair power, as in the raids supplicatioune at lengthe wes contenit. Quhairanent the saidis Prouest, Bailies, and Counsell, advysing and considdering the necessitie and gudness of the wark, thay gave and grant to the deacones and maisteris of the craftis of this burghe the composition of ane Gild Burgess sic as thay sail present to the Counsell (except the wyne siluer), quhilk will be twa hundreth markis, yeyrlie, and ilk yeir for the space of fyve yeirs nixt efter the dait heirof, to be employit on profite, and maid furthcumand be thame in al tyme curving, to the behoof of the decayit craftismen quho sail happen to be admitit in the said Hospitall as bedalls thairoff : with conditione alwayis that the decones, maisteris, and friemen of the said craftis, and thair successouris, earie and behave thame selffrs dewtifullie in al thingis to the counsell, which sail tend to the comon

In assessing the position which these Craft Guilds held in the community, it is necessary to bear in mind the large proportion of the population that came within their jurisdiction. The families, journeymen, apprentices, and servants, as well as the Craftsmen themselves, were all subject to the authority of the Deacons and Masters of the different crafts, and amenable to the laws and statutes enforced under the powers conferred by Royal Charters, Seals of Cause, and Acts of Council; and taken at a moderate computation, these classes would represent about 2/3rds of the whole Community. The history of the Craft Guilds, therefore, ought in no small measure to reflect the conditions of life among the great bulk of the Industrial Classes.

The Old Trades Hall in the Shiprow, Aberdeen. c.1850 This area, at the southern end of the Shiprow, was the site of the Monastery of the Trinity Friars until 1559 when it was burnt to the ground by Protestant Reformers. In 1631, having purchased the lands, Dr William Guild, gifted their old Chapel and other buildings to be a Hospital and Meeting House for the Seven Aberdeen Incorporated Trades. These were Hammermen, Bakers, Wrights and Coopers, Tailors, Shoemakers, Weavers, and later the Fleshers. Guild.  He was one of Aberdeen's ministers and afterwards became Principal of Kings College. The Chapel became an Episcopal Church until 1794 when it was removed and replaced by the building seen at the left of the photograph. It was vacated in 1843, when the congregation joined the Free Church, and was then sold and eventually became the Alhambra Music Hall until 1902. On the right was the Trades or Trinity Hall - often known as the Tarnty Ha'.  It had a projecting wing tower and corbelled angle turret, and was demolished around 1857 for Railway development. The Trades had already moved into their new premises in Union Street in 1846.

The extension of the Railway system to Aberdeen sealed the fate of the Old Trades Hall. When the Aberdeen Railway was projected in 1844, the Hall and site, which extended from the foot of the Shiprow to near the present lines of the Railway, were scheduled, and although not required for Railway purposes, the buildings had to come down when Guild Street and Exchange Street were constructed. The last of the buildings was taken down in 1857, and while the excavating operations were in progress a careful watch was kept for relics and antiquities, the following notes being taken by a local antiquarian at the time -

"A great number of human bones were found when the digging for Guild Street commenced, which had probably been the site of the ancient burial grounds of the Trinity Friars. It had extended to the south end of the Convent, and ran east from the side of the church for some space. The bones were generally in a very great state of decay, the skulls dropping to pieces when lifted. The remains of a coffin in one instance were found, which fell to dust on exposure. About the middle of this part of the ground were found a bit of iron resembling a key, and the bowl of a small spoon curiously ribbed on the back. The foundation walls of the Hall, which were probably those of the old Convent, were built with lime on the outside and with clay between the stones. The walls were several feet in thickness. At the east end of the Hall, 12 or 13 feet below the surface, were found the remains of a more ancient building, composed of rude stones cemented with clay. Below some of the lowest were found oaken boards which seem to have formed part of some ancient vessel, and near the same place 5 or 6 oaken beams were found, which had probably supported rafters in the old building (King William the Lion's Palace). They had holes in the side as for the ends of posts being morticed into them. The ground here was very moist, puddled with clay and small stones. On excavating westward, the old wall was found continued along the side of the more modern one at the distance of about 14 inches. About the middle of this part of the building a silver tablespoon was found, much corroded as if by the action of fire. A portion of what looked like a buff jerkin, and some remains of old shoes with very large hobnails in the heels, were also found."

Charles Whyt, painter, anent renewing King William the Lyon, his pictur, as cheap as possible, always not exceeding fifty shillings sterling." Fortunately the "renewing" did not go the length of any interference with the face. We have it on the authority of an artist who took a drawing of the work in 1821 for Lieutenant-General Hutton [David Anderson of Finzeauch, the artist's uncle, was married to Jean, sister to Dr. Guild.] that the face had been left untouched.

The King is represented wearing a curiously-formed helmet, and holding a book in one hand and a rod in the other. There is a chain round his waist - indicative, it is said, of penance for the part which history says he had in the murder of Thomas-a-Becket.

The depiction of William the Lion above may have adopted a representation of a Lions Head Helmet.  The helmet represents the head of the Nemean Lion, whose impenetrable pelt was worn as a head-dress and armour by the mythological hero Hercules



The "Transactions of the Antiquarian Society of Scotland," along with the following letter from Lieutenant-General Hutton to the secretary of the Society :-"London, 34 Southampton Row, "Russell Square, 22nd Oct., 1821.

"Dear Sir, - I request the favour of you to present from me to the Society the picture of King William the Lyon, which I took the liberty of sending to your care lately, and I shall be much honoured if it should be deemed worthy of a place in the Society's Museum. It is a copy made by an artist a few years ago from the original painting, which is supposed to have belonged to the Monastery of the Trinity Friars of Aberdeen, of which the King was the Founder, and is now preserved in Trinity Hall there. It appears from the records of the Incorporated Trades of Aberdeen that in the year 1715, it having become much defaced in consequence of its great age, an agreement was made with Charles White, a painter, to repair it for a sum not exceeding fifty shillings sterling, which was accordingly done, with the exception of the face, which, the artist who copied the picture informed me, has been fortunately left untouched. It is painted in fresco, and its dimensions are about 4 feet in height by about 2 feet 9 inches in breadth.- I remain, yours & c., "H. Hutton. "John Dillon, Esq., Secretary."

In 1822 there appears - "By cash to William Mossman, painter, for mending Dr. Guild's picture, £12 12s. Scots." This sum is equivalent to 21 shillings sterling. [At the same time the Convener Court expended about £500 Scots in decorating the hall, the Master of Hospital having been authorised "to employ Robert Norrie, of Edinburgh, painter, to mint and colour the Trinitie Hall in the Lest and genteelest manner."] On the 18th May, 1731, the Convener Court granted warrant "to their Master of Hospital, at the sight of the Deacons, to satisfie and pay William Mossman, painter, for drawing Dr. William Guild, their foundator, his picture, for which this is warrand." This seems to have been an order for a drawing taken from the original, which there are good reasons for believing is the picture now in the hall, and for mending which Mossman was paid a guinea 10 years after. It is hardly probable that his own drawing could have required "mending" so soon after it was executed. It is much more likely that, in 1731, Jamesone's original had been showing signs of decay, that Mossman had been ordered to make a copy of it ; and that then 10 years after he had been employed to " mend " the original itself. The picture, as it stands, notwithstanding its renovation, is an excellent one. An admirable engraving was taken from it some years ago by R. M. Hodgson, who also ascribes the original to Jamesone.

With regard to the portrait of Matthew Guild, father of Dr. Guild, there is less doubt of its being a genuine Jamesone. It bears the inscription, - which Jamesone put upon nearly all his portraits - the date of the birth and age of the subject; and we have also the familiar broad hat which appears in not a few of Jamesone's male figures.

There also hang in the new hall several examples by Cosmo John Alexander, a grandson of Jamesone's, all very fair specimens of portraiture. The portrait of Alexander Webster, Advocate, by Dyce, is justly regarded as one of the finest bits of portraiture in the collection, and has on more than one occasion been exhibited in collections of old Scottish masters in the south.  Alexander Webster had no direct connection with the Trades, but he took a warm interest in the Trades School, which was instituted in 1808, about the time his father held the office of Deacon-Convener.

It has also been claimed that the Trinitarian Friary was established some time between 1186 & 1214. However, the early date of 1186 also seems unlikely as the order of Trinitarians were not founded until late 1189. If the supposed story of 2 Friars of the order being sent to Scotland by Innocent III in order to establish a house in Aberdeen is to be believed, it was likely that the Friary was founded between 1198 & 1216.

Re-sited Bequestors gate

The House was said to be founded by King William I and Queen Ermegard in order for the Trinitarians to support poor pilgrims and to help ransom captives in the Holy Land. (This would not be surprising as the 3rd Crusade began in c. 1187 and ended in c. 1197). An unreliable date of c.1211 has been suggested as its date of Foundation because King William (1143-1214) was said to have gifted his Royal Residence to the Friary at this time. In addition, he also granted the lands of Banchory, Coway, Merelley with fishing on the Dee and Don, and the Mills of Skerthar, Rothenny, Tullifully and Manimuch in the same year. If the date of foundation can be placed at c. 1211 with the gift of King William and the coming of the Friars sent by Innocent III, this would make Holy Trinity the earliest establishment of a Friary in Aberdeen.

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Last modified: 01/09/2013