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Kirkton of Skene, Proctor's Orphanage Including Steading

A Category C Listed Building in Westhill and District, Aberdeenshire

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Latitude: 57.159 / 57°9'32"N

Longitude: -2.3178 / 2°19'3"W

OS Eastings: 380877

OS Northings: 807615

OS Grid: NJ808076

Mapcode National: GBR XC.MXP3

Mapcode Global: WH8PH.CBK5

Entry Name: Kirkton of Skene, Proctor's Orphanage Including Steading

Listing Date: 9 July 2008

Category: C

Source: Historic Scotland

Source ID: 399977

Historic Scotland Designation Reference: LB51131

Building Class: Cultural

Location: Skene

County: Aberdeenshire

Electoral Ward: Westhill and District

Parish: Skene

Traditional County: Aberdeenshire

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Jenkins and Marr, Aberdeen, dated 1891. Well detailed 2-storey, 3-bay, piend-roofed villa built as orphanage, and small single storey, L-plan gambrel-roofed steading, prominently sited on raised ground at head of long drive in fields to NE of benefactor's home (see Notes). Large pink granite blocks, rock-faced and roughly stugged, Aberdeen bond to sides and rear. Raised base course forming ground floor cill course and raised ashlar margins. Full-height, projecting, pink granite ashlar doorpiece incorporating moulded doorway below consoled and corniced rectangular panel inscribed 'Proctor's Orphan Training Home 1891' (boarded over, see Notes) giving way to corniced window with flanking scrollwork and ball-finialled scrolled pediment with datestone. Stepped roof with deeply overhanging eaves to piended dormerheads. All principal elevation and 1st floor windows bipartite. Pilastered timber mullions.

FURTHER DESCRIPTION: principal S elevation with centre doorpiece incorporating 6-panelled timber door, flanking timber pilasters and narrow lights below multi-pane fanlight and 1st floor window. Flanking bays each with corniced window at ground and 1st floor window breaking eaves into tall piended dormerhead, bay to right slightly lower and set back. Side elevations also stepped with piended dormerheads. Tall, shouldered, corniced and coped stack to each elevation.

Multi-pane glazing pattern over plate glass in timber sash and case windows. Ashlar stacks with cans; ashlar-coped skews. Deeply overhanging eaves with exposed rafters. Grey slates with small rooflights, terracotta ridge tiles and finials.

INTERIOR: some fine decorative detail retained including moulded plasterwork cornicing, vertically-panelled timber dadoes, architraved doors and windows, timber panelled shutters and cast iron radiators. Part-glazed screen door with flanking lights leads to stairhall with decorative plasterwork consoles, dog-leg staircase with decorative cast iron balusters and timber handrail, round-arched opening and margined top light. Principal ground floor room to SW retains timber fire surround with fluted pilasters and decorative frieze.

STEADING: compact, single storey, L-plan steading with long range running N-S and short arm at NW. Large granite blocks, coursed and snecked; openings all timber boarded or blocked (2008); slated gambrel roof with small rooflights, terracotta ridges and finials. Evidence of pig house with solid pen wall at SE corner.

Statement of Interest

Proctor's Orphanage is an unusual and interesting survival. Sited on the eastern edge of Kirkton of Skene it retains its original setting and form, and some high quality interior detail which belies its institutional background. Commissioned by James Proctor, the orphanage was purpose-built by Aberdeen-based architects George Gordon Jenkins and George Marr who became partners in 1878. The practice designed many fine buildings throughout Aberdeen City and Aberdeenshire, including Mannonfield Church in 1882, Aberdeen Public Baths and the Royal Bridge at Ballater in 1885, as well as farmhouses, schools and commercial commissions.

Proctor's Orphanage is unaltered externally, the wording for the inscribed panel above the front door, which was boarded over at the time of the site visit, is quoted in Jessie Kesson's book as something the children were never to forget. The compact steading range, providing shelter for animals, probably hens as well as a pig house, would have afforded a degree of independence and practical training for the children. The building could accommodate between 10 and 12 boys and girls who attended Skene school. Funded from a legacy of £4,500 left by James Proctor of nearby Kirkville, now known as Kirkton House (see separate listing), the orphanage was run by a house father and mother and was intended to provide the atmosphere of a family home. It was operated for some years by Aberdeenshire Council and the Aberlour Child Care Trust, and was closed in the mid 1990s.

A famous resident of the orphanage was the novelist and playwright Jessie Kesson. Born in the workhouse at Inverness in 1916 she lived happily in Elgin where "The lane was home and wonderful". After the death of her mother in 1924, Jessie was sent to Proctor's Orphanage, near Skene. Isobel Murray writes in her biography "Jessie's feelings about her time in the Orphanage varied enormously in the different telling" (Leopard Magazine).

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