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Grammar School, Skene Street, Aberdeen

A Category B Listed Building in Aberdeen, Aberdeen

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Latitude: 57.1469 / 57°8'48"N

Longitude: -2.1148 / 2°6'53"W

OS Eastings: 393149

OS Northings: 806228

OS Grid: NJ931062

Mapcode National: GBR S92.TW

Mapcode Global: WH9QQ.HM5H

Plus Code: 9C9V4VWP+Q3

Entry Name: Grammar School, Skene Street, Aberdeen

Listing Name: Skene Street and Esslemont Avenue, Aberdeen Grammar School

Listing Date: 12 January 1967

Category: B

Source: Historic Scotland

Source ID: 354530

Historic Scotland Designation Reference: LB20084

Building Class: Cultural

Location: Aberdeen

County: Aberdeen

Town: Aberdeen

Electoral Ward: Midstocket/Rosemount

Traditional County: Aberdeenshire

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James Matthews, 1861-1863; classrooms and library to NW, J A O Allan, 1905; E and W wings, J A O Allan, 1913; gymnasium to NW, J A O Allan, 1926; 20th century additions and alterations; fire damage 1986; reconstruction and internal re-design by Robertson's of Elgin Ltd., 1992. 2-storey and attic, 15-bay, E-plan Scots Baronial school. Tooled coursed granite ashlar finely finished to margins. Base course; cill course; dividing string course; chamfered reveals; curved angles at ground floor, corbelled to form right angles at upper floors; crenellated parapet to principal block, corbelled at base; crowstepped gables; eaves course.

SE (PRINCIPAL) ELEVATION: near-symmetrical; 7-bay central block arranged 1-2-1-2-1 by James Matthews, rebuilt in places 1992: gabled entrance bay advanced to centre, decorative ashlar doorpiece, segmental-arched doorway with decorative roll moulding, keystone bearing initials "AAP", corniced, scrolled tablet above bearing Aberdeen coat of arms flanked by spherical finials, deep set 2-leaf panelled timber door; architraved window to centre of 1st floor, roundel enclosing sculpted tree above; window to centre of attic floor, spherical finial to apex; single window to ground and 1st floors of left and right returns; engaged turret circular-plan turret to re-entrant angle to left, battered at base, small windows to ground and 1st floors, dormer breaking base of conical spire with fishscale slates, decorative iron weathervane finial to apex. Bipartite windows through ground and 1st floors of 2 flanking bays to left and right. Gabled bays to outer left and right, rectangular-plan tripartite windows through ground and 1st floors, louvred narrow opening set in gablehead, spherical finial to apex; angle turrets to inner angle corbelled-out at 1st floor, arrow slit openings to 1st stage, small window to 2nd stage, conical spire with fishscale roof and spherical lead finial; window to ground and 1st floors of inside returns; regular fenestration to ground floor of 4-bay outside returns, gableted windows breaking eaves to 1st floors with thistle, rose, shamrock and fleur-de-lys finials. 2 3-bay recessed links to 1913 wings to left and right. E link: asymmetrical; segmental-arched, roll-moulded doorway to right of ground floor, 2-leaf door, fanlights, flanked to left by 2 windows, 2 windows to left of 1st floor, crenellated parapet above, recessed floor behind, gableted window breaking eaves "JM Architect" tooled in gablehead; window to right of 1st floor, rising to circular-plan tower at 2nd floor, window to centre, balustraded parapet, slender turret to re-entrant angle to left, irregular fenestration, lead ogee roof with spherical finial. W link: square-plan 4-stage engaged tower advanced to bay to left, segmental-arched doorway with 2-leaf door to 1st stage, windows to centre of 2nd and 3rd stages, gableted 4th stage above crenellated parapet tooled "PD 1631", with clock set in gable to SE and NW, spherical finial to apex; tall circular turret corbelled out from 1st floor of re-entrant angle to right, irregular fenestration, gableted window breaking eaves of conical spire, decorative iron weathervane to apex; 2 flanking bays to right advanced at ground floor, window to each, crenellated parapet above, window recessed behind, single gableted window breaking eaves to 1st floor above, tooled monogram set in gablehead, stone thistle to apex. Gabled 1913 wings adjoining to outer right and left, bipartite windows to centre bays, shallow oriels at 1st floor, flanked to left and right by single windows at ground and 1st floors, louvred narrow opening set in gablehead, spherical finial to apex. Outer returns see below.

NE ELEVATION: asymmetrical; 9-bay block with 5-bay wing advanced to left. 9-bay block: gabled bay advanced to outer right, with louvred narrow opening set in gablehead; recessed bay flanking to left, regular fenestration; bipartite windows to 3rd bay from right at ground and 1st floors, crenellated parapet above; 2 gabled bays flanking to left, doorway to left of ground floor, regular fenestration to remainder, narrow opening set in gablehead; regular fenestration to ground and 1st floors of 4 bays to left, louvred bipartite dormer to attic above. 3-bay block linking advanced wing to outer left, regular fenestration. E-wing: 1913; 5-bay NE elevation, regular fenestration to ground floor, gableted windows with decorative finials breaking eaves to 1st floor; 7-bay right return, 2 gabled bays to left with regular fenestration, louvred opening set in gablehead, irregular fenestration to flanking bays to right, modern iron fire-escape to centre; SW (rear) elevation, 2 gabled bays with regular fenestration, adjoining link block to outer right.

NW ELEVATION: asymmetrical; 3-bay 1905 block and 6-bay wing obscured by modern courtyard. 3-bay block advanced to left, near-symmetrical; bipartite window to ground floor of gabled advanced centre bay, flanked to left and right by single windows, obscured to right by modern flat-roofed porch; shallow oriel window to 1st floor above, louvred narrow opening in gablehead; ground floor of flanking bay to right obscured by modern porch and main entrance to school, bipartite window flanked by 2 single windows to bay to left at ground floor; bipartite window with round-arched pediment breaking eaves to left and right of 1st floor, flanked by single windows to left and right; modern additions adjoining to right; 7-bay right return, irregular fenestration and openings, gabled bay to left with modern additions adjoining to form square-plan courtyard. 6-bay block, rear of 1913 wing adjoining main block, gabled bay to right, 2 modern windows to ground floor, 2 windows to 1st floor, louvred opening in gablehead, irregular fenestration to flanking bays to left; modern additions adjoining to right; modern corridor advanced to right incorporating pedimented doorway of 1757 former Aberdeen Grammar School, surmounted by birdcage bellcote with spherical finial (originally adjoining W of 3-bay block to N). Rectangular-plan gymnasium, 1926, adjoining modern additions to W, regular fenestration.

SW ELEVATION: predominantly obscured by modern additions; originally 5-bay, regular fenestration to ground floor, gableted windows with decorative finials breaking eaves to 1st floor.

Predominantly 8-pane timber sash and case windows. Grey slate roof with lead ridges. Coped granite ridge stacks. Cast-iron rainwater goods.

INTERIOR: little of original interior survives, largely remodelled after fire in 1986; original archway and plaster ceiling to former entrance, panelled timber cupboards to Head Teacher's office.

Statement of Interest

B-Group with Lord Byron Statue, Language Block, French School, Lodge, Gates, Gatepiers and Boundary Walls. According to Groome Aberdeen Grammar School, though not the building which exists today, can be traced back as far as 1262, when it attracted "advanced pupils from the best primary schools, and has a close connection..with the university." (Groome p 11). The previous school, which Lord Byron attended, was built in 1757, on Schoolhill near the entrance to Gordon's College (see separate listing). It was a single storey building of open courtyard design, with a pedimented doorway surmounted by a birdcage bellcote, which was originally incorporated as a single storey block adjoining the 1905 addition to the N, but has since been built into the exterior of a modern corridor to the NW of the present school (see above). In the 18th and first half of the 19th century the grammar school only taught Latin, Greek, Ancient History and Geography. If any of the 200 pupils wanted to study Mathematics or English they had to go to one of the neighbouring schools. Towards the middle of the 19th century it was decided that a larger school was required. There was a great deal of pressure to widen the subjects taught, and with only 4 classrooms and the same number of teachers, the search for a new site began. Eventually the Skene Street site was chosen and a competition held by the Town Council for the design. James Matthews prepared designs for the school in the Italianate, classical and baronial styles, the latter being chosen and built for a cost of ?16,605. Throughout the 20th century the school was extended, primarily by J A O Allen (1869-1955), and neighbouring buildings were taken on as classrooms, until 1986 when the school was severely damaged by a fire. Practically the entire interior was destroyed, and some of the exterior was badly damaged. Consequently the interior of the school was almost completely redesigned, the main alteration being the conversion of the main block to 4 floors rather than the 3 which had previously existed. The work was carried out by Robertson's of Elgin Ltd. Some of the exterior was rebuilt according to the original design.

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