Aberdeen City HER - NJ90NW0040 - MARISCHAL COLLEGE

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Main Details

Primary ReferenceNJ90NW0040
NRHE Card No.NJ90NW359
NRHE Numlink 125349
HES LB No. 20096
Site Form Standing Structure
Site Condition Complete 2
Details College and site of a Franciscan friary founded in 1469, some of whose buildings were used by the original Marischal College after the reformation. A new church was built for the friars in 1518-32; and in 1559 they resigned their whole property to the Town Council so the buildings survived the reformation. In 1567 permission was granted for the buildings to be converted into a hospital but the church was derelict until it was restored in 1624. A north addition was made in 1768 (it remained in use as a parish church until demolished in 1903 to make way for a new front to the college - see NJ90NW0572 for new Greyfriars Church). The other buildings of the friary passed to George, Earl Marischal, who founded Marischal College on the site in 1593 although new college buildings were not constructed until c. 1676. These original college buildings were grouped around a courtyard behind Broad Street. The college was rebuilt on the site in the early 19th century, designed by Archibald Simpson 1837 with a Tudor style quadrangle in white granite behind the original houses of Broad Street. A Mitchell Mackenzie built the Mitchell Tower in 1891. Conversion of the college to the new headquarters of Aberdeen City Council included gutting the standing buildings, with retention of the facades and construction of new walls and services. A watching brief was carried out in September 1995 on five trial trenches. Building foundations were recorded in three of these. A watching brief on 5 trial trenches in June 2002 recorded some fragments of worked stone, possible from a medieval building. A watching brief carried out by S Farrell in March 2005 recorded two stretches of walling of unknown date (see NJ90NW1027). A programme of archaeological work was carried out by Aberdeen City Council (ACC) Archaeological Unit 2008-9 during redevelopment works to convert the former college buildings to the ACC headquarters. A watching brief was carried out in March-April 2008 on engineers' test pits. One test pit in the northeast of the site showed evidence of the survival of buildings shown on the OS 1st edition map, bit most revealed little archaeological evidence due to their locations. Four trenches (1-4) were excavated in June-July 2008 at the south end of the front quadrangle adjacent to the standing building to evaluate the proposed locations of concrete supports for propping the existing facade of the buildings. These uncovered walls, one on the possible alignment of the cloister, another probably the northeast corner of a 1768 extension to the church, and the corner of a foundation (trench 4) which may be the remains of the corner of the medieval church. Cobbled surfaces around this building may have been contemporary, and a scatter of green window glass may have come from one of the windows of the church demolished in 1768 during the foreshortening of the building. Almost all of trench 3 was occupied by a surface of small and medium cobbles edges with large rectangular cobbles, although there was no evidence for dating. Four trenches excavated in the rear quadrangle in August 2008 (trenches 5-8) recorded the remains of tenements depicted on the OS 1st and 2nd edition maps, medieval pits/dumps, a stone lined drain, and houses or cottages shown on the 1st edition OS map but demolished by 1901 to make way for an extension to Marischal College. Material recovered included clay and daub (demolition material from a medieval structure), ceramic floor tile, roof tile and pottery including 15th or 16th century stoneware. Further excavation in this area in April to June 2009 also recorded walls of demolished 19th-20th century tenements. Excavation between September 2008 and April 2009 in the front quadrangle (trenches 10-16) recorded It recorded buildings probably belonging to (but possibly pre-dating) the friary. A series of stone walls, pits (one containing two complete 15th - 16th century pots), post holes, pottery, ceramic floor tile, stone roof tile and window glass of probable friary origin were recorded. No structural evidence of the Greyfriars Church was uncovered, but possible cloister walls surviving to a height of 1.5m were recorded. A series of seven burials of older male individuals with hands clasped were buried with their heads to the southwest against a cloister wall. Some of the subsequent demolished college buildings survived under the quadrangle to a height of over 1m, and plastered walls, doors, windows and a fireplace were recorded. A demolished wing of the 19th century college development was uncovered, also numerous drains some containing glass stirrers and other objects probably discarded from the laboratories of one of the science departments which had been housed in Marischal College. Monitoring of engineering trenches within the standing college buildings recorded a large medieval pit, a stone and mortar wall and the base of a 19th-early 20th century furnace. A watching brief was carried out by CFA in June - August 2010 during drainage works within the Quadrangle as part of renovations to the College. Features uncovered included a series of large cut features, the base for the now removed McGrigor Obelisk (relocated to Duthie Park NJ90SW1105), and a section of granite masonry which may relate to the Franciscan Friary. Finds recovered included sherds of medieval pottery and floor tiles. Watching brief January - April 2011 by City Archaeological Unit for groundworks associated with excavations at Broad Street frontage, drainage works to the west of the building and new sewerage installations beside the new multi-storey car park. This recorded a medieval midden, 18th century tenements, and later remains. A watching brief in 2011-12 during trenching for City Centre Heating Phase 1 recorded the foundations of 19th century tenements in Broad Street. A watching brief was carried out by Cameron Archaeology in November 2017 on a trench (NJ 94311 06500) for Aberdeen Heat and Power cables into the college. This revealed that the area had been previously excavated for services, and an iron pipe was located at the bottom of the trench. See also NJ90NW1381, NJ90NW0260.
Last Update06/03/2020
Updated Bycpalmer
Date of Compilation13/09/2017

Easting: 394278.701994698, Northing: 806510.141304486

Google Map for NJ90NW0040

National Grid Reference: NJ 9427 0651

Event Details

Event DateEvent TypeOASIS ID
2008 Evaluation aberdeen3-53479
2010 Watching-Brief cfaarcha1-102482
2011 Watching-Brief aberdeen3-113456
2012 Watching-Brief
2005 Watching-Brief
2009 Excavation
2017 Watching-Brief camerona1-302679
1988 Watching-Brief
2008 Watching-Brief
1995 Watching-Brief
2002 Watching-Brief

Excavations and Surveys

Artefact and Ecofact

Date MDate YArtefact TypeFinderRecovery MethodConditionStorage LocationAccess No.
 2008 GREEN WINDOW GLASS AAU Excavation  
 2008 DAUB AAU Excavation  
 2008 STONEWARE AAU Excavation  
 2009 FLOOR TILE AAU Excavation  
 2009 ROOF TILE AAU Excavation  


Ecofact Notes

Monument Types

Monument Type 1Monument Type 2Monument Type 3OrderProbability
PITS  F100