Exhibition marks 400th anniversary of one of Aberdeen’s oldest buildings

To mark the 400th anniversary of one of Aberdeen’s oldest buildings a new exhibition ‘Tales from The Tolbooth’ has opened, which explores the early years of one of the best preserved 17th century gaols in Scotland.

The Tolbooth Museum, Castle Street - originally the Wardhouse of the Tolbooth - was built between 1616 and 1629 by master mason Thomas Watson. The Wardhouse served as the prison for both the Royal Burgh of Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire until the 19th century.

Over the years many notorious local characters stayed at the Tolbooth and the exhibition explores the history of the building, and crime and punishment through the experiences of five of its earliest residents - Alexander Fraser, Lillias Skene, Margaret Campbell, Charles Duff and Peter Williamson also known as Indian Peter - whose stories are recorded in Aberdeen’s well-preserved historical archives.

The exhibition has been created by Aberdeen City Council’s curator of history Jenny Pape, who worked closely with Aberdeen City and Aberdeenshire Archives, and the University of Aberdeen’s special collections centre to reveal the grim experiences of the five captives to new visitors to the Tolbooth Museum.

Aberdeen City Council’s Deputy Leader Councillor Marie Boulton, said: “This exhibition offers a fascinating insight into the history of the Tolbooth and what it must have been like for those being held in what was called the Wardhouse. Visitors can enter the cells and see first-hand how cramp conditions were there remains an eerie atmosphere to this day. It’s well worth a visit.”

Curator of the exhibition Jenny Pape said: “Working on this exhibition has been an amazing opportunity to explore the building through the fascinating characters associated with the Tolbooth and how their stories have been brought to life.”

To mark the anniversary the ‘five residents’ will ‘come to life’ during the museum’s participation in Doors Open Day on Saturday 10 September, with a range of activities for visitors to enjoy.

The exhibition runs until Saturday 13 April 2018.

Opening times

Monday-Saturday 10am-5pm

Sunday 12noon-3pm

Free admission