IHBC 2020 Yearbook

R E V I E W A N D A N A L Y S I S 31 Aberdeenshire. A recent archaeological discovery at Tap o’ Noth indicates that it once accommodated a large Pictish settlement, possibly the largest yet discovered in Scotland. The Year of Scotland’s Coast and Waters 2020 reminds us that every part of Britain – be that Brighton or Aberdeenshire – is very much shaped by Britain’s island status. We are never far from the sea or river course which, for much of our history, was the safest and quickest mode of trade and transit, as well as being a source of food. Jutting into the North Sea and including the most easterly point in mainland Scotland, Aberdeenshire was ideally positioned for trade. Aberdeen’s harbour was first established as a business in 1136 and has continued in operation ever since. Harbour infrastructure, improved by successive eminent surveyors, allowed development of trade with markets on the east coast of the UK, the Low Countries, the Baltic states and further afield. Aberdeen’s burgeoning 19th-century granite industry saw building, paving and memorial stones transported across Britain and the globe. Via the Baltic trade routes, Scotland and Aberdeen in particular had strong connections with Poland from the 15th century. Some estimates put the Scottish contingent in Poland at 30,000 by the 17th century. Alexander Chalmers from Dyce, in Aberdeen, a resident of Poland, served four terms as Mayor of Warsaw between 1645 and 1703. Among the many local beneficiaries of the wealth created by this trade were William Forbes, so called ‘Danzig Willie’, who by 1626 had built the photogenic fairy-tale Scots Baronial Craigievar Castle in Aberdeenshire. Another beneficiary was Robert Gordon, a local merchant, who spent most of his life in Poland. His bequest provided funds which allowed the founding of his Hospital for Boys, an early school building designed by William Adam and constructed in 1750. The foundation became the bedrock to technical education in the 19th century, culminating in the creation of Robert Gordon University in the 20th. Aberdeen has long ranked as a European place of learning with its two early Universities. King’s College was founded by Papal Bull in 1495, while Marischal College, was established in 1593; the two establishments amalgamating in 1858, making the University of Aberdeen the fifth oldest in the United Kingdom. Coastal and fishing villages and ports developed on sometimes the merest slivers of land. Herring or the ‘silver darling’ were followed and brought in along the coast in an industry peaking in the early 20th century. The harvesting of white fish, once the dominant industry in the ports of north-east Scotland, as vividly captured in the BBC TV series Trawlermen in the 2000s, has had a chequered economic history with commensurate impact on local economies and their historic environments. The exposed edge against the Moray Firth and the North Sea presented physical and environmental challenges for those settling there. Traditional buildings responded to this brutal maritime environment by being built gable-end on and huddling together against the prevailing on-shore winds and seas. The result is villages like Pennan which, with its red telephone box, was immortalised in the 1980s film Local Hero. Improvements and reapportionment of land during the 18th century saw villages and towns in the North East of Scotland improved or created by landowners as part of the wider movement of agricultural reform and, post-Culloden, by reallocation of lands by Commission. The area’s turnpike construction improved communication with main trading centres. Aberdeen’s King Street and Union Street (the ‘Granite Mile’) linked into five turnpikes, connecting city and shire and opening up tracts of land in the city to relieve overcrowded accommodation in the late 18th century. Meanwhile, it was in remote parts on the edge of Aberdeenshire and Speyside such as the Cabrach that the whisky industry first developed. The illicit production in small farm steadings contrasts sharply with the recently-completed cutting-edge Roger Stirk Harbour & Partners’ Macallan distillery. Victoria and Albert played their part in popularising the area. The mid-century construction of William Smith’s Scots baronial revival Balmoral Castle, at the edge of the Cairngorms, encapsulates a Walter Scott-inspired romantic notion of Scottishness legitimised Craigievar Castle, home of William Forbes (Photo: Aberdeen City Heritage Trust) Crovie on the Moray coast, with houses gable-end to the sea (Photo: Douglas Campbell)