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No 12 North Square, Footdee

A Category C Listed Building in Aberdeen, Aberdeen

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Latitude: 57.1439 / 57°8'38"N

Longitude: -2.0712 / 2°4'16"W

OS Eastings: 395787

OS Northings: 805893

OS Grid: NJ957058

Mapcode National: GBR SH8.KW

Mapcode Global: WH9QR.4PYR

Plus Code: 9C9V4WVH+HG

Entry Name: No 12 North Square, Footdee

Listing Name: Footdee, Nos 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14 and 15 North Square

Listing Date: 12 January 1967

Category: C

Source: Historic Scotland

Source ID: 399584

Historic Scotland Designation Reference: LB50939

Building Class: Cultural

Location: Aberdeen

County: Aberdeen

Town: Aberdeen

Electoral Ward: George St/Harbour

Traditional County: Aberdeenshire

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John Smith, 1808-9. Terraced row of eight low single-storey, 3-bay cottages sited next to sea wall. Coursed and snecked granite rubble. All with central doorway flanked by windows set close to eaves; granite dressings. Roof swept low to blank rear elevation.

Variety of timber window types, predominantly top-opening with some multi-pane glazing. Predominantly grey Scottish slates, gentle curve to seaward-facing pitch; non-traditional rooflights; variety of red brick and rubble ridge stacks, some rendered; wallhead stacks at gable ends (Nos 8 and 15); skews and skewputts; mostly clay cans throughout. Predominantly uPVC rainwater goods.

Statement of Interest

This uninterrupted run of single storey dwellings on the East side of North Square is the only entire range at Footdee to retain its original height and form. This is principally due to its proximity to the sea wall. The uniform, low-swept roof line and absence of openings to the rear of the cottages is of particular note, contributing significantly to the historical and architectural interest of the village as a whole. The wall height is reduced to around half the height of the front elevation, with the slate roof slightly splayed to help protect against extremes of weather. There is a narrow walkway and bulwark to the rear which was not in place until the early 20th century, which also adds to the interest.

Footdee is a particularly interesting example of a planned housing development purpose built to re-house Aberdeen's local fishing community. Laid out in 1809 by John Smith, then Superintendent Of The Town's Public Works, who went on to establish himself as one of Aberdeen's key architectural figures. Occupying an isolated spit of land to the SE of Aberdeen City centre, its regimented squares have been described as 'a cross between the neo-classical aspirations of Aberdeen and the close-knit fishing communities of the north-east'.

The two squares of Footdee originally contained 28 single-storey thatched houses although this increased when the later Middle Row (circa 1837) and Pilot's Square (circa 1855) were added. The 'gap sites' on each of the North and South squares were filled in the 1870's by William Smith, son of John. He also added additional storeys to the East and West sides of South Square creating a tenement feel. This was an attempt to ease crowding resulting from an influx of fishing families from other less prospering townships.

The Town Council decided to start selling the dwellings to occupiers in 1880, beginning a period of incremental development and reconstruction. Additional storeys and dormers were added piecemeal by the new owners as funds allowed and as their families grew in size. The result is one of individuality expressed within the constraints of a strictly formal plan and is a contributing factor to the special architectural and historical interest of Footdee as a whole.

Over time, 'tarry sheds' associated with each dwelling were built incrementally on adjacent land within the squares, the precedent for which dates back to the early 19th century. Originally constructed from drift wood and other found materials, the sheds have been built and rebuilt in a wholly idiosyncratic manner over the years in a variety of materials with rendered brick now predominating slightly (2006). Some timber built sheds remain however, mainly located to the North side of North Square.

Referred to locally and historically as 'Fittie', the exact derivation of the name is uncertain. The ruinous church of St Fittick is situated half a mile away to the S on the other side of the Dee. 'Footdee' is probably a more recent and literal Anglicisation, derived from its proximity to the mouth of the River Dee.

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