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Virginia Street

Virginia Street. was laid down in 1768 on the reclaimed Shorelands, as were Commerce Street, Sugarhouse Lane, Water Lane, Pork Lane (Mearns St.), James Street and the lower end of Marischal Street.  Until then, the waters of the Harbour had extended to the foot of the Castlehill at high tide.   The name of Virginia Street. refers to the expanding trade with the Americas, as does that of nearby Sugarhouse Lane. Two Medieval bronzes found in Virginia Street were held at James Dunn House Museum - Schoolhill - (a museum nae maer).


Shore Lane, from Regents Quay to Virginia Street

South side and West end of Virginia Street showing the Shore Porters Society on the corner of shore Lane taken from Bannerman Bridge, Marischal St. -

Just off scene to the left was a flight of stairs leading to Bannerman Bridge on Marischal Street.  Scottish Baronial Architecture was employed to embellish the structure.  Where is that detail in modern times. The Shore Porters, Removers & Haulage Contractors. It is with pride that their vehicles all carry the Date: Est. 1498, making them the oldest established business in the World still working.  The East end of Virginia Street was mainly tenements, shops and warehouses.

Opposite this building was the old multi storey Shire Horse Stables now demolished.  The hard worked Clydesdale Shire Horses were lead up slippery timber barred ramps to tiered stables for overnight rest and feed.

Porters used mostly horse drawn four wheel large flat bed carts, these were large horses, especially bred for heavy haulage, and plough work on the farms the best know breed was “The Clydesdale”  also they were known as “Shire Horses“. These were huge animals, but in almost all cases were very docile and easy to handle. When the carters came back at night  we would help in taking the harness off the horses, there stable mangers were filled with hay and they always had a bucket of oats mix.

Weigh-House Square
This is a particularly striking set of warehouses with near intact street elevations, situated near to the Harbour. They add significant value to the streetscape in this part of the city.

At one time the Harbour area possessed a great number of granite warehouses, but these have become increasingly uncommon and survivors of this quality are rare. The timber hoist doors and regular fenestration are particularly distinctive features of these warehouses. Warehouses are an important part of Aberdeen's commercial and social history.

They are a visible reminder of the harbour's importance to the prosperity of the expanding 19th century city.  The site of Nos 6-10 Virginia Street originally contained several houses and workshops, which were bought for £320 in 1860 by The Shore Porter Society. They were then initially converted into shops and dwelling houses in 1861. In 1891 the building was converted into a bonded warehouse and used as to provide additional storage facilities to the warehouses at 5 and 7 Weigh-House Square.  No 5 Weigh-House Square was purchased in 1906 by the Society from John Begg, an Aberdeen merchant. Begg had purchased the building in 1847 and it is assumed that the conversion to a bonded warehouse dates from this time. It is now a general warehouse. No 7 Weigh-House Square was erected circa 1862 on the site of previous tenements owned by the Society and was built as a bonded warehouse. It remains as such.

The Shore Porters Society, established in 1498, claims to be the oldest established transport business in the world. The porters were originally called The Pynours or Workmen until 1836, when it become The Shore Porters Society. The porters would originally trundle barrels of goods, unloaded from the ships at the nearby harbour, up Shiprow and into the town for payment of a penny. The Society today continues to provide both storage facilities and a removal service. 

Ellis & McHardy occupy the Regents Quay End - Originally Coal Merchants they developed into Oil Distribution

Prying With the Pynours, 1498 - 1978, an Intimate Look at the Aberdeen Shore Porters Society and Their Times

Established in 1498 – 6 years after Columbus discovered America – The Shore Porters Society began as a group of porters, or ‘Pynours’ who worked at Aberdeen Harbour and formed, for their mutual protection, what must be one of the oldest co-operatives in existence.

In 1666, as the Great Fire of London raged, the Superannuated Members Fund, or Property and Warehousing Department, was founded as one of two distinct trading units to provide for retired and sick partners. The other unit was known as the General Haulage Department, the Horse and Van Department, or simply the Working Department.  For centuries the Society was a semi-public body under the control of Aberdeen Town Council, but by 1850 – the year before the Great Exhibition – it was completely independent.

Pynours Tablet Mounted in the Square Tower Tollbooth in Leith

Residence 23 Virginia St set well back from the roadway and under the old Sick Children's Hospital was typical of a number of old houses built beyond the old shorelines

Magical ancient properties with gates and white painted arched closes from another age were occupied by poor families and perhaps squatters. 

The Leiper's was one such family who commanded the area like a child street gang..  The ground sloped steeply upwards as was the topography of Castlehill.  Josie Lieper while 'playing' on oor 'greenie' below Castle Terrace with a bayonet fixed to a metal lance stabbed his own foot right through and lay in agony until a senior citizen deftly extracted the bayonet in a soldierly manner. Josie promptly hopped to his feet and and single legged it home urgently using the dangerous weapon as an improvised and still stabbing crutch.

Gordon's Court, 23 Virginia Street











First Floor West Room>














Gibbons Shipbuilders
The family business was "Robert Gibbon and Sons, merchants" at 
11 Virginia Street, on the north side.

"Robert Gibbon and sons, merchants" and owners of the ship Castle Forbes at 11 Virginia St, Aberdeen, the business is still listed there with that name in Aberdeen Directories 1824-25 and 1825-26, 

Captain Robert Gibbons
No. 11 Virginia St was also the family home, his unmarried daughters the "Misses Gibbon" are listed there in 1824-25 to 1839-40.

'All and whole that Lott or piece of ground of the Shorelands belonging to the Town of Aberdeen lying immediately to the East of the ground belonging to William Gibbons Shipmaster in Aberdeen containing 80 ft in breadth from the West to East, and in length from Virginia St upon the North to the Quay or Pier upon the South.' (Aberdeen City Archives Sasine Register, LXVI, folio 254 recto),

Alexander, Brewer, 5, Virginia street

Walker's Court, 30, Virginia Street
James, -spirit-dealer and ginger beer brewer, 47, Virginia St.

An archaeological evaluation was undertaken, between 30 July & 17 August 2007, on the site of a proposed  housing development located to the South West of the junction between Virginia St and James St. Trial trenching revealed the foundations of the 19th- and 20th -century warehouses that used to occupy the site. These were cut into a fairly homogeneous dark soil (up to 2m deep) that had been imported to the site during land reclamation associated with the construction of Aberdeen Docks.  All deposits sat on top of clean estuarine sand (Virginia St marks the late medieval boundary of Aberdeen harbour. waterfront). A wooden structure to the North East of the site comprised a raft of horizontal timbers compacted into the sand (approx 2 x 6m in plan). These were tied into and aligned with a number of wooden posts driven vertically into the sand and would appear to be the supports and decking for a pier or jetty. There were also a number of outlying posts sharing a similar alignment to the surviving structure, suggesting that the original structure was larger.  The location of the structure at the edge of the late medieval shoreline fits well with the idea that it functioned as a pier or jetty prior to the land reclamation that established the present harbour over 100m to the South. Finds evidence has proved inconclusive regarding dating and timbers were sent for radiocarbon dating.

Bannerman Bridge - Marischal Street in the distance

Sugarhouse Lane:
This lane cuts through a piece of ground which was feued to a group of merchants in 1776 to form a sugar refining manufactory. At the time the sugar business was highly lucrative and growing in importance: the raw product was grown in the southern states of America and the West Indies on slave plantations. The sugarhouse here in Aberdeen imported the raw product and refined it for sale to the public. Despite good circumstances the business here failed within a few decades and little else in known about it. A plaque was erected in 2008 at the end of a series of Heritage Lottery Fund funded projects which sought to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the abolition of the slave trade within the British Empire.  'At this time sugar was often sold as a loaf, in fact a conical shaped solid figure of sugar which people would purchase whole or in part.  Hence the various Sugar Loaf Mountains

Virginia Street Area Survey 1866

The Canal
Nelson and King Streets there were two locks; at King Street and at Park Street, bridges; at the Powcreek Burn, probably in or near the City Hospital grounds, a culvert; just above Constitution Street, a lock and at Fish Street, near Albion Street, another, with bridges at both these streets. The lowest street-bridge was at Virginia Street, and below this came the terminal basin, now occupied by the goods depot. The basin was formed by excavation, and an embankment carrying a road was built between it and the harbour; the overflow was regulated by what Milne calls a lock, but before the navigable entrance was made in 1834 it is more likely to have been a sluice. The entrance was situated about 150 ft. east of the angle between the Regent and Waterloo Quays.

Theatre Lane, runs from Regents Quay to Virginia Street under the the old theatre on the west side of Marischal Street since a church
Devanha Brewers Bottling Plant in Virginia Street
Connons Premises north side

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Last modified: 01/09/2013