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Encyclopedia > Aberdeen, Scotland
This article is about the Scottish city. For other uses see Aberdeen (disambiguation)
Note: This article incorporates text from the public domain 1911 Encyclopędia Britannica. Portions of it are badly outdated.

Aberdeen is a royal burgh, the major component of the City of Aberdeen, capital of Aberdeenshire, and chief seaport in the north-east of Scotland.

It boasts the title of Oil Capital of Europe thanks to the plentiful supply of crude oil in the North Sea. It is the third Scottish city in population, industry, and wealth, and stands on a bay of the North Sea, between the mouths of the rivers Don and Dee, 125 miles (202 km) N. E. of Edinburgh by road.



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 indeed built of granite, but to appreciate its more poetical designation of the "Silver City by the Golden Sands", it should be seen after a heavy rainfall when its stately structures and countless houses gleam pure and white under brilliant sunshine.

The area of the city extends to 6602 acres (27 km²), 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.

As of 1996, Aberdeen has been governed by the single body "Aberdeen City Council" and no longer has any direct control over the neighbouring area of Aberdeenshire (although ironically the headquarters of Aberdeenshire Council are located within the city's boundaries). Water supplies are provided by the national body Scottish Water, the main water plant is located some 21 miles (34 km) WSW of the city and water is extracted fresh from the River Dee

Aberdeen has good links to the rest of Scotland and the UK. The main road south to Edinburgh is a fast dual carriageway and plans are in hand to build a bypass round the city. Aberdeen is served by a good rail links to the south and north to Inverness, all services run from the Joint Station in the city centre. Although there are no direct sea links south any more there is still a ferry service running to Orkney and Shetland. Aberdeen airport is located at Dyce, about 5 miles (8 km) north west of the city centre, and has frequent services to London and several international destinations.

The mean temperature is 8 °C (47 °F) and it varies between 0.4 °C in winter and 17.6 °C in summer. The average yearly rainfall is 816 mm. The city is one of the healthiest in Scotland.

Streets and buildings

Union Street

Roughly, the extended city runs north and south. From the new Bridge of Don to the "auld brig" of Dee there was tramway* (see note below) communication via King Street, Union Street, and Holburn Street--a distance of over five miles (8 km). Union Street is one of the most imposing thoroughfares in Britain. From Castle Street it runs W. S. W. for nearly a mile (1.5 km), is 70 ft (21 m) wide, and originally contained the principal shops and most of the 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 Union Bridge, a fine granite arch of 132 ft (40 m) span, portions of the older town still fringing the gorge, fifty feet (15 m) below the level of Union Street. Union Street was built from 1801 to 1805, and named after the 1800 Act of Union with Ireland.

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), now a department store; the office of the Aberdeen Free Press, one of the most influential papers in the north of Scotland; the Palace Hotel; the former 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 fought in the Battle of Harlaw, near Inverurie, in 1411. From the south-western corner a grand tower rises to a height of 210 ft (64 m), 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 (6.4 m) in diameter and 18 ft (5.5 m) 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, 12.5 ft (3.8 m) high, with a Corinthian capital on which is the royal unicorn rampant.

On an eminence east of Castle Street were the military barracks, demolished in 1965. They have been replaced with two tower blocks.

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, was a busy scene in the early morning but has since been demolished. 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.

Marischal College as seen from Upperkirkgate

The public library, magnificently housed, contains more than 60,000 volumes. His Majesties Theatre (presently _2005_ under renovation) is a fine granite theatre which provides a home for popular entertainments. The buildings of Marischal College fronting Broad Street, opened by King Edward VII 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. This magnificent building is sadly no longer a seat of learning and is under renovation as the new home of Aberdeen City Council.

  • There is no tramway in Aberdeen. The last tram went through the streets on 3 May 1958. All trams except one were scrapped. The last tram is on display in the Transport Museum in Alford, Aberdeenshire.


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 facade, 147.5 ft (45 m) long, built in 1830, form one continuous building, 220 ft (67 m) 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 (1.2 m) in diameter at the mouth, 3.5 ft (1 m) 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 the Netherlands, being installed to commemorate the Victorian jubilee of 1887.

The Roman Catholic Cathedral in Huntly Street, a Gothic building, was erected in 1859. The episcopal 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 metres 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. There is also a crematorium near Hazlehead.


The first of Aberdeen's two universities, the University of Aberdeen, was founded in 1495 by William Elphinstone, Bishop of Aberdeen and Chancellor of Scotland. The University of Aberdeen is Scotland's third oldest, and the UK's fifth oldest University.

Robert Gordon's College in Schoolhill (originally Robert Gordon's Hospital) was founded in 1729 by the merchant Robert Gordon, grandson of Robert Gordon of Straloch the map maker, and further endowed in 1816 by Alexander Simpson of Collyhill. Originally devoted 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 in the 1990s became co-educational and a day-only school. It also produced the Robert Gordon Institute of Technology, upgraded to the Robert Gordon University in 1992.

Aberdeen College has several campuses in Aberdeen and offers a wide variety of part-time and full-time courses leading to several different qualifications.

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.

Besides two High School's for Girls and numerous board schools, there are many private schools in Aberdeen.

Under the Endowments Act 1882 an educational trust was constituted which possesses a capital of £155,000.

At Blairs, in Kincardineshire, five miles (8 km) S.W. of Aberdeen, is the abandonned St Mary's Roman Catholic College, for the training of young men intended for the priesthood, with plans to turn it into a hotel.


The Royal Infirmary, 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 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 (0.2 km²), the gift of Miss Elizabeth Crombie Duthie of Ruthrieston, occupies an excellent site on the north bank of the Dee. It was opened by Princess Beatrice on 27 September 1883.

Victoria Park 13 acres (53,000 m²) and its extension Westburn Park of 13 acres (53,000 m²) are situated in the north-western area.

Farther north lies Stewart Park of 11 acres (45,000 m²), 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 racecourse, and a bathing_station has been erected.

Hazlehead park is a large park to the west of the city.

Seaton Park is located in Old Aberdeen.

Union Terrace Gardens form a popular rendezvous in the heart of the city.


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 Robert Burns and Baron Charles Marochetti's seated figure of Prince Albert.

In front of Robert 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 George Gordon, 5th Duke of Gordon (1770_1836).

Here may also be mentioned an obelisk of Peterhead granite, 70 ft (21 m) high, erected in the square of Marischal College to the memory of Sir James McGrigor (1778-1851), the military surgeon and director_general of the Army Medical Department, who was thrice elected lord rector of the College. In the 1890s when the College was extended, the obelisk was moved to the Duthie Park.


The Dee is crossed by a number of bridges, from west to east:

  • Old Bridge of Dee
  • King George VI bridge
  • Railway bridge
  • Wellington suspension bridge
  • Queen Elizabeth bridge
  • 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 (10 m) 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 14.5 to 26 ft (4.4 to 8 m).

The Bridge of Don has five granite arches, each 75 ft (23 m) 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 George Gordon Byron, 6th Baron Byron in the tenth canto of "Don Juan".


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 John Smeaton in 1775_1781, and partly by Thomas Telford in 1810-1815, extends nearly 3,000 ft (1 km) into the North Sea. It increases the depth of water on the bar from a few feet (some metres) to 24 ft (7 m) at spring tides and to 18 ft (5 m) at neap. A wet dock, of 29 acres (117,000 m²), and with 6000 ft (2 km) 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 (360,000 m²) of new ground, in addition to 25 acres (100,000 m²) 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 (300 m) 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 formerly mounting nineteen guns. It is worth noting that Aberdeen Harbour was the first publicly limited company in the United Kingdom.


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. Quarrying finally ceased in 1971.

This, though once the predominant industry, was surpassed by the deep-sea fisheries, which derived a great impetus from beam-trawling, introduced in 1882, and steam line fishing in 1889, and threatened to rival if not to eclipse those of Grimsby. Fish trains were then dispatched to London daily.

Most of the leading pre-1970s industries date from the 18th century, amongst them woollens (1703), linen (1749), and cotton (1779). These gave 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 combmaking factories also flourished, 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 was a fair yearly output of iron vessels.

Of later origin are the jam, pickle, and potted meat factories, many square kilometres having been laid down in strawberries and other fruits within a few kilometres of the city.

With the discovery of significant oil deposits in the North Sea during the late twentieth century, Aberdeen became the centre of Europe's petroleum industry, with the port serving oil rigs off_shore. The number of jobs created by the energy industry in and around Aberdeen has been estimated at half a million. In the mid 1980s, the city was dealt a heavy blow by the loss_of_life suffered during an explosion and fire aboard one such rig, the Piper Alpha.


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 King Edward III of England 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.


In 1396 the population was about 3,000. By 1801 it had become 26,992; in 1841 it was 63,262; (1891) 121,623; (1901) 153,503; in 2001 it was 197,328.


Aberdeen Football Club was founded in 1903. Its major success was winning the European Cup Winners Cup in 1983, under now Manchester United F.C. manager Alex Ferguson. The club's stadium is Pittodrie.

Aberdeen Golf Club was founded in 1815. It has two 18-hole courses at Balgownie, north of the River Don. There are other golf courses at Auchmill, Balnagask, Hazlehead and King's Links.


  • The charters of the burgh;
  • extracts from the council register down to 1625;
  • selections from the letters. guildry and treasurer's accounts, forming 3 vols. of the Spalding Club;
  • Cosmo Innes, Registrum Episcopatus Aberdonensis, Spalding Club;
  • Walter Thore, The History of Aberdeen (1811);
  • Robert Wilson, Historical Account and Delineation of Aberdeen (1822);
  • William Kennedy, The Annals of Aberdeen (1818);
  • Orem, Description of the Chanonry, Cathedral and King's College of Old Aberdeen, 1724_1725 (1830);
  • Sir Andrew Leith Hay of Rannes, The Castellated Architecture of Aberdeen;
  • Giles, Specimens of old Castellated Houses of Aberdeen (1838);
  • James Bryce, Lives of Eminent Men of Aberdeen (1841);
  • J. Gordon, Description of Both Towns of Aberdeen (Spalding Club, 1842);
  • Joseph Robertson, The Book of Bon-Accord (Aberdeen, 1839);
  • W. Robbie, Aberdeen: its Traditions and History (Aberdeen,1893);
  • C. G. Burr and A. M. Munro, Old Landmarks of Aberdeen (Aberdeen, 1886);
  • A. M. Munro, Memorials of the Aldermen, Provosts and Lord Provosts of Aberdeen (Aberdeen, 1897);
  • P. J. Anderson, Charters, &c., illustrating the History of Records of Marischal College (New Spalding 1890);
  • Selections from the Records of Marischal College (New Spalding Club, 1889, 1898..1899);
  • J. Cooper, Chartulary of the Church of St Nicholas (New Spalding Club, 1888, 1892);
  • G. Cadenhead, Sketch of the Territorial History of the Burgh of Aberdeen (Aberdeen, 1876);
  • W. Cadenhead, Guide to the City of Aberdeen (Aberdeen, 1897);
  • A. Smith, History and Antiquities of New and Old Aberdeen (Aberdeen, 1882).


The replacement wax head of Jeremy Bentham's preserved body was once found in a luggage locker at Aberdeen station (it is rumoured).

External links

  • Aberdeen City Council (http://www.aberdeencity.gov.uk/acc/default.asp)
  • Aberdeen Dialect (http://www.scots-online.org/grammar/aberdeen.htm)

  Results from FactBites:
Aberdeen - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia (5769 words)
Aberdeen is the chief commercial centre and seaport in the north-east of Scotland.
Aberdeen Grammar School, (now a comprehensive, despite its name) founded in 1263 and one of the oldest schools in Britain, was removed in 1861-1863 from its old quarters in Schoolhill to a large new building, in the Scottish baronial style, off Skene Street.
Aberdeen Airport, in the neighbouring town of Dyce, serves European destinations for passenger and freight flights and is the largest helicopter terminal in the world, serving the many North Sea oil installations.
University of Aberdeen - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia (957 words)
The University of Aberdeen is one of the ancient universities of Scotland.
The two universities in Aberdeen were merged on 15 September 1860 in accordance with the 1858 Universities (Scotland) Act, which also created a new medical school at Marischal.
The 1858 act stated that the "united University shall take rank among the Universities of Scotland as from the date of erection of King's College and University." The University is thus Scotland's third oldest and the United Kingdom's fifth oldest University.
  More results at FactBites »



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