Peterhead

From Pratt (1858)

. . . in the year 1560, the town—then only a small fishing-village—with the adjoining lands, belonged to the abbey of Deer; and that in that year, Mary, Queen of Scots, appointed Robert Keith, son of William, fourth Earl Marischal, Commendator of Deer. In 1593 the town was erected into a burgh of barony, by George, Earl Marischal, the nephew and successor of the said William, and the same who founded Marischal College, Aberdeen. It continued to be a part of the estates of the earls marischal until the attainder of the last earl, after the attempt in favour of the Stuart family in 1715, when his estates were confiscated to the Crown; and this portion of them was soon after purchased by the York Building Company, who, in 1728, sold the town and the adjoining lands to the Governors of the Merchant Maiden Hospital of Edinburgh, for the sum of £3000 sterling.

. . . The town is built of Peterhead granite, said to be very similar, in colour and texture, to the Egyptian syenite, being composed of quartz, shorl, and feldt-spar. Of the public buildings the principal is the Town-house, situated at the west end of Broad Street. It was built in 1788, and is surmounted by a handsome spire, in the Sir Christopher Wren style, 125 feet in height, in which are a clock and bell—the former said to be of superior workmanship; the is of a full deep, rich tone.—The Parish Church is situated at the entrance of the town, was built in 1803, and is of large dimensions. It is in the Renaissance style. Over the portico rises a tower, lantern, and spire 118 feet high, in the style of Sir Christopher Wren, of which it is a very fair specimen. It is furnished with a bell of good size,not equal, however, in quality of tone, to its elder sister of the Town-house.

. . . A Museum, bequeathed to the town by Adam Arbuthnot, Esq., contains numerous specimens interesting to the antiquarian, the naturalist, the mineralogist, and the geologist. The collection of coins is extensive and complete. The English department embraces the whole period from Edgar to Victoria; the Scotch from William the Lion to James VI.; the Grecian comprehends that of Philip of Macedon, Alexander the Great, and most of the principal petty states . . . The municipal authority, to whom this rare and valuable collection has been intrusted for the public benefit, will doubtless evince their appreciation of this noble bequest by providing a suitable place for its preservation and exhibition.

Peterhead is the largest of the towns of Buchan. It has a population of about 17,500 people, and much of the employment now is to do with the oil industry. In the past, the main industry was fishing and fish processing, and the town was also a spa-town with a widely known mineral spring believed to be therapeutic. In earlier times, sea-bathing was also held to be beneficial to health and a variety of baths, warm as well as cold were available to those seeking the benefit of bathing.

The Town-House is much as it was in Pratt's day, though the open arcade at the ground floor has been enclosed, and a pedimented porch, disdainfully described by McKean (1990) as a nosebag, has been added: despite this the building remains an impressive edifice closing Broad Street at one end, facing Arbuthnot House at the other, with the Reform Monument in between. A statue of Field Marshal James Francis Edward Keith stands to the left of the entrance of the Town-house. The statue was presented to the town of Peterhead by the King of Prussia.

Adam Arbuthnot's collection is now housed in the Public Library and Arbuthnot Museum, another of the Carnegie libraries, built in 1892.

In the past, fishwives, loaded with creels that might contain a hundredweight of fish walked into the inland fermtouns, bartering fish for cheese, butter, and eggs. They were famous for their hardiness, stamina, and for their sharp tongues. The fishwives of Peterhead are commemorated by the statue of Fisher Jessie at the corner of Chapel Street and Broad Street.

(Revision date: Friday 16th March 2012)




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