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Aberdeen, Castlehill, Cromwell's Bastion

Barracks (18th Century), Barracks (First World War), Fortification (17th Century)

Site Name Aberdeen, Castlehill, Cromwell's Bastion

Classification Barracks (18th Century), Barracks (First World War), Fortification (17th Century)

Alternative Name(s) Castle Terrace; Cromwellian Fort; Castlehill Barracks

Canmore ID 20072

Site Number NJ90NW 167

NGR NJ 94661 06390

Datum OSGB36 - NGR


Ordnance Survey licence number 100057073. All rights reserved.
Canmore Disclaimer. © Copyright and database right 2021.

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Administrative Areas

  • Council Aberdeen, City Of
  • Parish Aberdeen
  • Former Region Grampian
  • Former District City Of Aberdeen
  • Former County Aberdeenshire

Archaeology Notes

NJ90NW 167 94661 06390

(Location cited as NJ 946 064). In 1654, St Ninian's Chapel (NJ90NW 38) was 'enclosed with a sconce built with lyme and stone to a great hight by the Englishes'. It was slighted by command of George, Duke of Albemarle at the end of 1659, and the garrison remove d. (This fortification is shown on Gordon's accompanying map.)

J Gordon 1842.

The SE bastion of this fortification still survives.

W A Brogden 1986.

(Location cited as NJ 9465 0640). The remains of the Cromwellian citadel of 1651-2 comprise a low pentagonal bastion (subsequently raised) and two adjoing stretches of wall of pinned bulder rubble.

NMRS, MS/712/83.

What is evidently is this feature is indicated on the 1971 edition of the OS 1:1250 map at NJ 9468 0639.

Information from RCAHMS (RJCM), 25 June 1999.

Air photograph, Cromwell's bastion and site of the castle: AAS/00/08/CT.

NMRS, MS/712/100.

The Cromwellian fort at Aberdeen was built in the 1650s on the Castlehill, a bluff overlooking the harbour at the NE end of what is now Union Street / Castle Street. All that is visible of the fort today is a four-facetted bastion at the SE corner, with short stretches of the adjoining walls. The battered walls are constructed of random rubble, with roughly dressed granite quoins at the angles of the bastion. Measuring up to 4m in height, the walls are also backed by a grass-grown embankment that supports a concrete pavement. Set into the walls at irregular intervals and at varying heights are five boundary stones. The stones are numbered from 5 to 9 and bear the incised initials WD (War Department) accompanied by an upward-facing arrow, but the character of each is slightly different.

This bastion is probably a feature of the original fort, although a plan of 'The New Town of Aberdeen' by Gordon of Rothiemay dated 1661, shows the roughly square fort with a wedge-shaped demi-bastion projecting from each corner. In 1659 the fort at had been 'slighted' on the orders of George, Duke of Albemarle, and the English garrison was removed. It is not known to what extent the defences were demolished by this slighting, but a later plan of Aberdeen by Alexander Milne (in Rettie 1868, 56), dated 1789, shows that only the SE corner remained by the late 18th century. This map again reproduces the wedge-shaped plan of the demi-bastion shown on Gordon of Rothiemay's map. Apart from St Ninian's Chapel (subsequently demolished), the interior of the fort at this time was empty, although an observatory had been built on the top of the SE bastion, and the NW corner appears to have been partly built upon.

In the late 18th century the site of the derelict fort was acquired by the government as the location for a new infantry barracks, and on the 24th June 1794, the Duke of Gordon laid the foundation stone. The barracks, which was designed to accommodate a garrison of 600 men in response to the perceived threat from France, was completed in 1796 (Fraser 1905, 75). A street-plan of Union Street and its vicinity, drawn by Thomas Fletcher in 1807 (Aberdeen Art Gallery), shows the position of the barracks, and the SE bastion had clearly been incorporated into the new structure. Fletcher's depiction obscures the shape of the SE bastion, but the 1st edition of the Ordnance Survey 50-inch map (Aberdeenshire, 1871, sheet lxxv.11.14) shows it in more detail and confirms the present shape. Further, it shows that the bastion was surmounted by the barrack's magazine. This detail confirms that the bastion is probably an original feature of the Cromwellian fort, for the only reason to have rebuilt it in 1794-6 would have been as a gun platform.

The infantry barracks remained in use as the depot of the Gordon Highlanders until 1935, and it was demolished in 1965 to make way for a block of flats (Wyness 1971, illus 206-7).

Visited by RCAHMS (JRS), 14 September 2000.

G M Fraser 1905

Architecture Notes


Aberdeen, Castle Hill, Castlehill Barracks.

Probably 18th Century, 1794-6.


Project (March 2013 - September 2013)

A project to characterise the quantity and quality of the Scottish resource of known surviving remains of the First World War. Carried out in partnership between Historic Scotland and RCAHMS.

External Reference (29 June 2016)

There are another 4 stones marked WD 1 to 4 and one stone marked CB 1675.

Information from Mr S McRae, Aberdeen City Council, 29 June 2016


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