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Publication Account

Date 1997

Event ID 1019109

Category Descriptive Accounts

Type Publication Account


There were representatives of the Carmelite order in Aberdeen from the late thirteenth century. As early as 1273 a grant was made to the Carmelites 'till their buildings should be completed'. Indications are that building had commenced by the end of the century; and a series of grants was made to the house between 1273 and 1350 which were confirmed by David II in 1361. Robert I granted annual rents to the house from the burgh fermes 'till their church be completed'. This church may have been finished as late as 1355, although a grant of an annual rent in that year 'for the repair of the fabric of their church' suggests an earlier date.

The friary complex appears to have had the southern edge of the Green as its northern boundary, and extended east to west over Rennie's Wynd, Martin's Lane and Carmelite Street. The exact boundaries have yet to be defined, both by documentary and archaeological research. The southern boundary would doubtless have been limited by confluence of the Dee and Denburn, as there is evidence of flooding, tidal flows and water-logged conditions, unfavourable to building.

The choice of this site for a Carmelite House and also the site of the Trinitarian House nearby would suggest that this area, to the west and south-west of St Katherine’s Hill, was not the focal point of the main urban settlement by the late thirteenth century. Regular religious orders usually chose to place their houses outwith main settlement, on the periphery of the town.

Archaeological research has shown that considerable rebuilding took place in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, which would suggest a community somewhat larger than ‘at least four friars’ at the Reformation as evidenced in documentary sources. The friary was destroyed in 1560, during the Protestant Reformation, and the Carmelite property fell to the crown, thereafter to be granted to private individuals and the town council. Marischal College benefited in due course by the gift of Friars’ Glen in Drumtochty from the Early Marischal and in the mid seventeenth century from revenues gifted by the daughter of the artist George Jamesone who fell heir to a portion of the Carmelite gardens.

Information from ‘Historic Aberdeen: The Archaeological Implications of Development’ (1997).

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