Aberdeen - 'New Aberdene from the Block house'

Here we have Aberdene – now Aberdeen – from the banks of the River Dee. We are looking west, just above along pier or bulwark, constructed on the Torry shore in 1607. New Aberdeen is on the left with the spires of St Nicholas’ Church (left) and Town House (centre left). Old Aberdeen – with the spires of St Machar's Cathedral visible - is on the right.

The 'blockhouse' Slezer mentions in his title for the drawing is the round building almost in the centre. A blockhouse is a small isolated fort consisting of a single building.

On the water are people in boats and in a coble, or ferry, while tall ships are moored at the riverside.

Perspective is distorted in the prospect. Figures on the jetty are smaller than they should be compared to the set of wheels we can see.

Image from Theatrum Scotiae by John Slezer, 1693.

view / zoom large image  |  help

Slezer Engraving

enquiries / copies

view related town plans

See also:

  Read what Robert Sibbald wrote in Theatrum Scotiae about New Aberdeen

To the Right Honourable GEORGE Earl of Aberdeen, Viscount of Trumartin, Lord Haddo, Mechlick, Tarvis and Kellie, &c.

New Aberdeen

Aberdeen, as I have said, is twofold, the New Town and the Old. They are distant the one from the other about a Mile. Abredonia seems to be the same which Ptolomy calls the City Devana, placed in the Province called Texale, upon the mouth of the River Dee; for Aber in the old British Tongue signifies or denotes the mouth of a River, and Deva, or Dee, is the name of the River upon whose mouth this City is situated. But New Aberdeen is the Capital of the Sheriffdom of Aberdeen, and the Seat of the Sheriff for Trial of Causes. It is placed at the Eastern Corner of the Shire, where it is wash'd with the German Sea. This City very much exceeds the rest of the Cities of the North of Scotland in Bigness, greatness of Traffick, and Beauty; it enjoys a wholesome Air, and abounds with well-bred Inhabitants, and has a great Revenue from its Salmon fishing. The Old City seems to have been placed upon a Bank of the Sea; because it is the common Opinion that the Monastery of the Holy Trinity which is thought to have been formerly the Palace of King William, is situate in the very Creek of that Sea, and not far from it are the Ruins of an old Praetorium. In tract of time the Inhabitants seem to have filled several neighbouring little Hills with Houses, and now the City is chiefly built upon Three of those Hills, and the greatest part upon the highest. It hath an access by an ascent every way. The exteriour parts thereof are spread out upon the Plain, as Suburbs in many places.

That there was a Mint heretofore in the City, appears by Silver Coyns there stamped with this Inscription, Urbs Aberdeae, which are yet preserved in the Closets of the curious.

The Streets are Paved with Flint, or a very hard Stone resembling Flint; the Houses beautiful both within and without, are Four Stories high, or more, and have for the most part Gardens and Orchards belonging to them; so that the whole City, to those that approach it, gives the resemblance of a Wood.

At the West-End of the City, a little round Hill adjoyning offers it self to sight, from the foot of which Hill breaks forth a Fountain of clear Water, and in the middle of the same, another Spring flowing down to the foot of the Hill, bubbles out, and sends forth a Stream as rapid as a Torrent, but the spring it self is easily distinguish'd both in Colour and Taste from a Torrent. It is called the Aberdonian Spaw, because both in Taste and Quality it comes very near to the Spaw Water in the Bishoprick of Liege. This Water is cold to the touch. Doctor William Barclay a Physician, has written a Treatise concerning it.

In the High Street there is a Church of the Franciscans worthy to be taken notice of, built of Free-Stone; a Work begun by Doctor William Elphingston, then Bishop, and finished at the charge of Gavinus Dumbar, Bishop of Aberdeen about the Year of Christ 1500.

The said Bishop Gavinus Dumbar, hath also got himself immortal Honour, by a Famous Bridge of seven Arches laid over the River Dee, about a Mile from the City, built very firm and durable, of Free-Stone, which in more places than one by Inscription testifies its Author or Builder.

But the great Ornament of the City is its College, called the Mareshallian Academy, as founded by the Earl Marshal, George Keith, in the Year 1593, which the City of Aberdeen hath very much adorned with several additional Buildings. It has, besides a Primary Professor, who is called Principal, Four Professors of Philosophy, a Professor of Theology, and a Professor of the Mathematicks. There is also a famous Library Founded by the City of Aberdeen, supplied by the Gifts of Learned Men, and furnished with divers Mathematical Instruments.

Add to these the School-House, Founded by Dr. Dune, which has one Head Master, and three Ushers under him. There is also a School for Musick.

The Cathedral Church nominated from St. Nicholas, its Patron, is built of Free-Stone and covered with Lead; has a Steeple resembling a Pyramid, and covered likewise with sheets of Lead to a considerable heighth. It was divided formerly into Three Churches, the bigest whereof was called the Old Church, the other the New Church, and the third the Arched, named the Arch of the Lady of Mercy. This Cathedral is propt with Pillars of Free-Stone, and has Three Bells of a vast weight, which by their quick and continual Sounds divide the half Hours. The body of this Church is adorned with a Tower and pinacled Steeple. Here is kept the Court for the publick Trials of the Townsmen, and the County Courts, where is also a Prison and a Work-House. Besides these there is an Alms-House for the maintenance of the Old People of Aberdeen, that are come to Decay, with Three Hospitals Founded by several persons. And adjoyning to the Custom-House lies the Port or Wharf.

Who was Robert Sibbald?

Back to top   NLS Home | Digital gallery