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Main Details

Primary ReferenceNJ90NW0285
NRHE Card No.NJ90NW24
NRHE Numlink 146275
Site Form Documentary Record Only
Site Condition Destroyed
Details Site of a town gate. Aberdeen had 8 ports or town gates in total that it controlled. The term port in this sense derives from the French port‚ meaning door. In Scotland town's gates or ports are also known as bows, from the arch of the gate. The first evidence for Aberdeen's ports comes from the late date of 1435, but it seems fair to assume that the ports existed from several hundred years before that date. There is evidence in other burghs of ports dating from the 12th century. The Castlegate was in the unique position of having two of the burgh's ports, which reflects the high status of the area. One Castlegate port was Justice port, which may date from 1440, when there is a reference to its `edificacione'; however, that can be interpreted as either building anew or rebuilding. It is most probable that the port was built earlier on and that in 1440 it was rebuilt. Whilst later on 1 November 1587, the Council Register records 20 merks out of 40 merks outstanding paid to John Kennedy town clerk by Dean of Guild for rebuilding. The Justice port was also the called Robbers' gate) and in at least one document, named as Thieves Port. This was because it was from this port that the condemned were led out from the Tolbooth and along to nearby Gallowshill where public executions were carried out until the mid 18th century. It has been argued that a limb of the Marquis of Montrose was displayed here after the Civil Wars in the 1640s. Montrose had started off as a Covenanter in the Wars, on the side of Parliament, but had changed sides to that of the king. After the collapse of the royal position Montrose was tried as a traitor in Edinburgh. He was found guilty and hanged and his body butchered into five parts. The head was displayed on a spike at Edinburgh's Tolbooth whilst the legs and arms were sent to the principal burghs. Aberdeen was supposed to get a leg but records make it clear that an arm was dispatched here. This arm was subsequently impaled on the Justice Port for 5 weeks before being taken down and stored in Huntly's Aisle in St Nicholas Church. Eleven years later at the Restoration an attempt was made to reassemble the parts of Montrose but only the arm from Aberdeen seems to have been traced, although that may have been stolen. There are plenty of other examples of parts of malefactors, especially their heads, being displayed on a port. A typical sentence reads: `Johne Wschartt, cordinar, departtit the xviij day of Merche, yeir of God 1588 yeris, quha was slayne be James Paterson, hangman of Aberden, and the said James hayngit, and his heid sett on the Portt thairfor.' Generally the sentences do not stipulate which port it is that parts of the executed were to be exhibited upon. However, given the naming of this port it would seem fair to sugest that it was upon the Justice Port that these parts were displayed. In 1710 the Council ordered that this port be repaired along with the Fittie and Gallowgate ports. In 1769 Aberdeen Council ordered that the Justice port be removed along with the Gallowgate and Netherkirkgate ports in order to allow better traffic flow. Justice port survived until 1787 when it was dismantled as part of a deal with a local house-owner to widen the street and allow him to build an outer stair.
Last Update22/02/2019
Updated Bycpalmer
Date of Compilation13/09/2017

Easting: 394551.193442167, Northing: 806429.579901903

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National Grid Reference: NJ 9455 0642

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