1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Aberdeen (burgh)
ABERDEEN, a royal burgh, city and county of a city, capital of Aberdeenshire, and chief seaport in the north of Scotland. It is the fourth Scottish town in population, industry and wealth, and stands on a bay of the North Sea, between the mouths of the Don and Dee, 130½ m. N.E. of Edinburgh by the North British railway. Though Old Aberdeen, extending from the city suburbs to the southern banks of the Don, has a separate charter, privileges and history, the distinction between it and New Aberdeen can no longer be said to exist; and for parliamentary, municipal and other purposes, the two towns now form practically one community. Aberdeen’s popular name of the “Granite City” is justified by the fact that the bulk of the town is built of granite, but to appreciate its more poetical designation of the “Silver City by the Sea,” it should be seen after a heavy rainfall when its stately structures and countless houses gleam pure and white under the brilliant sunshine. The area of the city extends to 6602 acres, the burghs of Old Aberdeen and Woodside, and the district of Torry (for parliamentary purposes in the constituency of Kincardineshire) to the south of the Dee, having been incorporated in 1891. The city comprises eleven wards and eighteen ecclesiastical parishes, and is under the jurisdiction of a council with lord provost, bailies, treasurer and dean of guild. The corporation owns the water (derived from the Dee at a spot 21 m. W.S.W. of the city) and gas supplies, electric lighting and tramways. Since 1885 the city has returned two members to Parliament. Aberdeen is served by the Caledonian, Great North of Scotland and North British railways (occupying a commodious joint railway station), and there is regular communication by sea with London and the chief ports on the eastern coast of Great Britain and the northern shores of the Continent. The mean temperature of the city for the year is 45.8° F., for summer 56° F., and for winter 37.3° F. The average yearly rainfall is 30.57 inches. The city is one of the healthiest in Scotland.
Streets and Buildings.—Roughly, the extended city runs north and south. From the new bridge of Don to the “auld brig” of Dee there is tramway communication via King Street, Union Street and Holburn Road—a distance of over five miles. Union Street is one of the most imposing thoroughfares in the British Isles. From Castle Street it runs W.S.W. for nearly a mile, is 70 ft. wide, and contains the principal shops and most of the modern public buildings, all of granite. Part of the street crosses the Denburn ravine (utilized for the line of the Great North of Scotland railway) by a fine granite arch of 132 ft. span, portions of the older town still fringing the gorge, fifty feet below the level of Union Street. Amongst the more conspicuous secular buildings in the street may be mentioned the Town and County Bank, the Music Hall, with sitting accommodation for 2000 persons, the Trinity Hall of the incorporated trades (originating in various years between 1398 and 1527, and having charitable funds for poor members, widows and orphans), containing some portraits by George Jamesone, a noteworthy set of carved oak chairs, dating from 1574, and the shields of the crafts with quaint inscriptions; the office of the Aberdeen Free Press, one of the most influential papers in the north of Scotland; the Palace Hotel; the office of the Northern Assurance Company, and the National Bank of Scotland. In Castle Street, a continuation eastwards of Union Street, are situated the Municipal and County Buildings, one of the most splendid granite edifices in Scotland, in the Franco-Scottish Gothic style, built in 1867–1878. They are of four stories and contain the great hall with an open timber ceiling and oak-panelled walls; the Sheriff Court House; the Town Hall, with excellent portraits of Prince Albert (Prince Consort), the 4th earl of Aberdeen, the various lord provosts and other distinguished citizens. In the vestibule of the entrance corridor stands a suit of black armour believed to have been worn by Provost Sir Robert Davidson, who fell in the battle of Harlaw, near Inverurie, in 1411. From the south-western corner a grand tower rises to a height of 210 ft., commanding a fine view of the city and surrounding country. Adjoining the municipal buildings is the North of Scotland Bank, of Greek design, with a portico of Corinthian columns, the capitals of which are exquisitely carved. On the opposite side of the street is the fine building of the Union Bank. At the upper end of Castle Street stands the Salvation Army Citadel, an effective castellated mansion, the most imposing “barracks” possessed anywhere by this organization. In front of it is the Market Cross, a beautiful, open-arched, hexagonal structure, 21 ft. in diameter and 18 ft. high. The original was designed in 1682 by John Montgomery, a native architect, but in 1842 it was removed hither from its old site and rebuilt in a better style. On the entablature surmounting the Ionic columns are panels containing medallions of Scots sovereigns from James I. to James VII. From the centre rises a shaft, 12½ ft. high, with a Corinthian capital on which is the royal unicorn rampant. On an eminence east of Castle Street are the military barracks. In Market Street are the Mechanics’ Institution, founded in 1824, with a good library; the Post and Telegraph offices; and the Market, where provisions of all kinds and general wares are sold. The Fish Market, on the Albert Basin, is a busy scene in the early morning. The Art Gallery and Museum at Schoolhill, built in the Italian Renaissance style of red and brown granite, contains an excellent collection of pictures, the Macdonald Hall of portraits of contemporary artists by themselves being of altogether exceptional interest and unique of its kind in Great Britain. The public library, magnificently housed, contains more than 60,000 volumes. The theatre in Guild Street is the chief seat of dramatic, as the Palace Theatre in Bridge Place is of variety entertainment. The new buildings of Marischal College fronting Broad Street, opened by King Edward VII. in 1906, form one of the most splendid examples of modern architecture in Great Britain; the architect, Alexander Marshall Mackenzie, a native of Aberdeen, having adapted his material, white granite, to the design of a noble building with the originality of genius.
Churches.—Like most Scottish towns, Aberdeen is well equipped with churches, most of them of good design, but few of special interest. The East and West churches of St Nicholas, their kirkyard separated from Union Street by an Ionic façade, 147½ ft. long, built in 1830, form one continuous building, 220 ft. in length, including the Drum Aisle (the ancient burial-place of the Irvines of Drum) and the Collison Aisle, which divide them and which formed the transept of the 12th-century church of St Nicholas. The West Church was built in 1775, in the Italian style, the East originally in 1834 in the Gothic. In 1874 a fire destroyed the East Church and the old central tower with its fine peal of nine bells, one of which, Laurence or "Lowrie," was 4 ft. in diameter at the mouth, 3½ ft. high and very thick. The church was rebuilt and a massive granite tower erected over the intervening aisles at the cost of the municipality, a new peal of 36 bells, cast in Holland, being installed to commemorate the Victorian jubilee of 1887. The Roman Catholic Cathedral in Huntly Street, a Gothic building, was erected in 1859. The see of Aberdeen was first founded at Mortlach in Banffshire by Malcolm II. in 1004 to celebrate his victory there over the Danes, but in 1137 David I. transferred the bishopric to Old Aberdeen, and twenty years later the cathedral of St Machar, situated a few hundred yards from the Don, was begun. Save during the episcopate of William Elphinstone (1484–1511), the building progressed slowly. Gavin Dunbar, who followed him in 1518, was enabled to complete the structure by adding the two western spires and the southern transept. The church suffered severely at the Reformation, but is still used as the parish church. It now consists of the nave and side aisles. It is chiefly built of outlayer granite, and, though the plainest cathedral in Scotland, its stately simplicity and severe symmetry lend it unique distinction. On the flat panelled ceiling of the nave are the heraldic shields of the princes, noblemen and bishops who shared in its erection, and the great west window contains modern painted glass of excellent colour and design. The cemeteries are St Peter’s in Old Aberdeen, Trinity near the links, Nellfield at the junction of Great Western and Holburn Roads, and Allenvale, very tastefully laid out, adjoining Duthie Park.
Education.—Aberdeen University consists of King’s College in Old Aberdeen, founded by Bishop Elphinstone in 1494, and Marischal College, in Broad Street, founded in 1593 by George Keith, 5th earl Marischal, which were incorporated in 1860. Arts and divinity are taught at King’s, law, medicine and science at Marischal. The number of students exceeds 800 yearly. The buildings of both colleges are the glories of Aberdeen. King’s forms a quadrangle with interior court, two sides of which have been rebuilt, and a library wing has been added. The Crown Tower and the Chapel, the oldest parts, date from 1500. The former is surmounted by a structure about 40 ft. high, consisting of a six-sided lantern and royal crown, both sculptured, and resting on the intersections of two arched ornamental slips rising from the four corners of the top of the tower. The choir of the chapel still contains the original oak canopied stalls, miserere seats and lofty open screens in the French flamboyant style, and of unique beauty of design and execution. Their preservation was due to the enlightened energy of the principal at the time of the Reformation, who armed his folk to save the building from the barons of the Mearns after they had robbed St Machar’s of its bells and lead. Marischal College is a stately modern building, having been rebuilt in 1836–1841, and greatly extended several years later at a cost of £100,000. The additions to the buildings opened by King Edward VII. in 1906 have been already mentioned. The beautiful Mitchell Tower is so named from the benefactor (Dr Charles Mitchell) who provided the splendid graduation hall. The opening of this tower in 1895 signalized the commemoration of the four hundredth anniversary of the foundation of the university. The University Library comprises nearly 100,000 books. A Botanic Garden was presented to the university in 1899. Aberdeen and Glasgow Universities combine to return one member to Parliament. The United Free Church Divinity Hall in Alford Place, in the Tudor Gothic style, dates from 1850. The Grammar School, founded in 1263, was removed in 1861–1863 from its old quarters in Schoolhill to a large new building, in the Scots Baronial style, off Skene Street. Robert Gordon’s College in Schoolhill was founded in 1729 by Robert Gordon of Straloch and further endowed in 1816 by Alexander Simpson of Collyhill. Originally devoted (as Gordon’s Hospital) to the instruction and maintenance of the sons of poor burgesses of guild and trade in the city, it was reorganized in 1881 as a day and night school for secondary and technical education, and has since been unusually successful. Besides a High School for Girls and numerous board schools, there are many private higher-class schools. Under the Endowments Act 1882 an educational trust was constituted which possesses a capital of £155,000. At Blairs, in Kincardineshire, five miles S.W. of Aberdeen, is St Mary’s Roman Catholic College for the training of young men intended for the priesthood.
Charities.—The Royal Infimary, in Woolmanhill, established in 1740, rebuilt in the Grecian style in 1833–1840, and largely extended after 1887 as a memorial of Queen Victoria’s jubilee; the Royal Asylum, opened in 1800; the Female Orphan Asylum, in Albyn Place, founded in 1840; the Blind Asylum, in Huntly Street, established in 1843; the Royal Hospital for Sick Children; the Maternity Hospital, founded in 1823; the City Hospital for Infectious Diseases; the Deaf and Dumb Institution; Mitchell’s Hospital in Old Aberdeen; the East and West Poorhouses, with lunatic wards; and hospitals devoted to specialized diseases, are amongst the most notable of the charitable institutions. There are, besides, industrial schools for boys and girls and for Roman Catholic children, a Female School of Industry, the Seabank Rescue Home, Nazareth House and Orphanage, St Martha’s Home for Girls, St Margaret’s Convalescent Home and Sisterhood, House of Bethany, the Convent of the Sacred Heart and the Educational Trust School.
Parks and Open Spaces.—Duthie Park, of 50 acres, the gift of Miss Elizabeth Crombie Duthie of Ruthrieston, occupies an excellent site on the north bank of the Dee. Victoria Park (13 acres) and its extension Westburn Park (13 acres) are situated in the north-western area; farther north lies Stewart Park (11 acres), called after Sir D. Stewart, lord provost in 1893. The capacious links bordering the sea between the mouths of the two rivers are largely resorted to for open-air recreation; there is here a rifle range where a "wapinschaw," or shooting tournament, is held annually. Part is laid out as an 18-hole golf course; a section is reserved for cricket and football; a portion has been railed off for a race-course, and a bathing-station has been erected. Union Terrace Gardens are a popular rendezvous in the heart of the city.
Statues.—In Union Terrace Gardens stands a colossal statue in bronze of Sir William Wallace, by W. G. Stevenson, R.S.A. (1888). In the same gardens are a bronze statue of Burns and Baron Marochetti’s seated figure of Prince Albert. In front of Gordon’s College is the bronze statue, by T. S. Burnett, A.R.S.A., of General Gordon (1888). At the east end of Union Street is the bronze statue of Queen Victoria, erected in 1893 by the royal tradesmen of the city. Near the Cross stands the granite statue of the 5th duke of Gordon (d. 1836). Here may also be mentioned the obelisk of Peterhead granite, 70 ft. high, erected in the square of Marischal College to the memory of Sir James M‘Grigor (1778–1851), the military surgeon and director-general of the Army Medical Department, who was thrice elected lord rector of the College.
Bridges.—The Dee is crossed by four bridges,—the old bridge, the Wellington suspension bridge, the railway bridge, and Victoria Bridge, opposite Market Street. The first, till 1832 the only access to the city from the south, consists of seven semicircular ribbed arches, is about 30 ft. high, and was built early in the 16th century by Bishops Elphinstone and Dunbar. It was nearly all rebuilt in 1718–1723, and in 1842 was widened from 14½ to 26 ft. The bridge of Don has five granite arches, each 75 ft. in span, and was built in 1827–1832. A little to the west is the Auld Brig o’ Balgownie, a picturesque single arch spanning the deep black stream, said to have been built by King Robert I., and celebrated by Byron in the tenth canto of Don Juan.
Harbour.—A defective harbour, with a shallow sand and gravel bar at its entrance, long retarded the trade of Aberdeen, but under various acts since 1773 it was greatly deepened. The north pier, built partly by Smeaton in 1775–1781, and partly by Telford in 1810–1815, extends nearly 3000 ft. into the North Sea. It increases the depth of water on the bar from a few feet to 22 or 24 ft. at spring tides and to 17 or 18 ft. at neap. A wet dock, of 29 acres, and with 6000 ft. of quay, was completed in 1848 and called Victoria Dock in honour of the queen’s visit to the city in that year. Adjoining it is the Upper Dock. By the Harbour Act of 1868, the Dee near the harbour was diverted from the south at a cost of £80,000, and 90 acres of new ground (in addition to 25 acres formerly made up) were provided on the north side of the river for the Albert Basin (with a graving dock), quays and warehouses. A breakwater of concrete, 1050 ft. long, was constructed on the south side of the stream as a protection against south-easterly gales. On Girdleness, the southern point of the bay, a lighthouse was built in 1833. Near the harbour mouth are three batteries mounting nineteen guns.
Industry.—Owing to the variety and importance of its chief industries Aberdeen is one of the most prosperous cities in Scotland. Very durable grey granite has been quarried near Aberdeen for more than 300 years, and blocked and dressed paving “setts,” kerb and building stones, and monumental and other ornamental work of granite have long been exported from the district to all parts of the world. This, though once the predominant industry, has been surpassed by the deep-sea fisheries, which derived a great impetus from beam-trawling, introduced in 1882, and steam line fishing in 1889, and threaten to rival if not to eclipse those of Grimsby. Fish trains are despatched to London daily. Most of the leading industries date from the 18th century, amongst them woollens (1703), linen (1749) and cotton (1779). These give employment to several thousands of operatives. The paper-making industry is one of the most famous and oldest in the city, paper having been first made in Aberdeen in 1694. Flax-spinning and jute and comb-making factories are also very flourishing, and there are successful foundries and engineering works. There are large distilleries and breweries, and chemical works employing many hands. In the days of wooden ships ship-building was a flourishing industry, the town being noted for its fast clippers, many of which established records in the “tea races.” The introduction of trawling revived this to some extent, and despite the distance of the city from the iron fields there is a fair yearly output of iron vessels. Of later origin are the jam, pickle and potted meat factories, hundreds of acres having been laid down in strawberries and other fruits within a few miles of the city.
History.—Aberdeen was an important place as far back as the 12th century. William the Lion had a residence in the city, to which he gave a charter in 1179 confirming the corporate rights granted by David I. The city received other royal charters later. It was burned by the English king, Edward III., in 1336, but it was soon rebuilt and extended, and called New Aberdeen. The burgh records are the oldest in Scotland. They begin in 1398 and with one brief break are complete to the present day. For many centuries the city was subject to attacks by the neighbouring barons, and was strongly fortified, but the gates were all removed by 1770. In 1497 a blockhouse was built at the harbour mouth as a protection against the English. During the struggles between the Royalists and Covenanters the city was impartially plundered by both sides. In 1715 the Earl Marischal proclaimed the Old Pretender at Aberdeen, and in 1745 the duke of Cumberland resided for a short time in the city before attacking the Young Pretender. The motto on the city arms is “Bon Accord,” which formed the watchword of the Aberdonians while aiding Robert Bruce in his battles with the English.
Population.—In 1396 the population was about 3000. By 1801 it had become 26,992; in 1841 it was 63,262; (1891) 121,623; (1901) 153,503.