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Aberdeen's Edinburgh Connection

31 Jul 2014

A guided architectural walk in the West End led by the Trust highlighted Aberdeen's Edinburgh connection.

Forty-four members of the Royal Northern and University Club turned out on 22 June 2014 to find out more about the expansion of the city, west of Union Street, in the mid-nineteenth century. During a mile-and-a-half walk Trust Project Officer, Douglas Campbell, highlighted a change in national mood which led to changing styles of architecture.

Architecture from the late eighteenth century started to reflect a search for Scottish identity, post-Culloden, spurred on by literary giants Burns, Scott and Stevenson and their contemporaries. Rediscovery of the Scottish Crown Jewels, George IV's visit to Edinburgh in 1822 and royal patronage by Victoria and Albert from 1849 legitimised Scottishness and helped fuel an interest in a freer, more romantic Baronial Revival architecture of turrets and crow-steps; reminiscent of baronial tower houses of old but with added practicality from generous Jacobean style bays.

Development of the Damlands of Rubislaw in the mid nineteenth century saw James Skene's New Town vision (articulated by Archibald Elliott 1819) implemented in much modified form by Archibald Simpson and his architectural heir James Matthews. Conceived in a classicist idiom, by the mid-nineteenth century, architectural thinking had moved on. A growing appreciation of the romantic and celebration of Scottishness is manifested in the understated Scots Baronial Revival styling of Matthews and Mackenzie's Rubislaw Terrace, with its crow-stepped gables and generous bays.

James Skene lived in Albyn Place in Edinburgh for a time and was a long-standing collaborator with Sir Walter Scott, who he refers to as his affectionate friend in correspondence. Skene's illustrations are used extensively in Scott's work. It is no surprise then to find streets in the area named after Waverley and Prince Arthur, Scott literary characters or in honour of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. The naming of Albyn Place after the Edinburgh street gives this part of Aberdeen a connection with the Capital.