History in Structure

Robert Gordon's College, North gates and boundary walls

A Category A Listed Building in Aberdeen, Aberdeen

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Latitude: 57.1497 / 57°8'58"N

Longitude: -2.103 / 2°6'10"W

OS Eastings: 393863

OS Northings: 806538

OS Grid: NJ938065

Mapcode National: GBR SBR.HG

Mapcode Global: WH9QQ.NKRB

Plus Code: 9C9V4VXW+VQ

Entry Name: Robert Gordon's College, North gates and boundary walls

Listing Name: Schoolhill, Robert Gordon's College Including North Gates and Boundary Walls

Listing Date: 1 June 1966

Category: A

Source: Historic Scotland

Source ID: 407569

Historic Scotland Designation Reference: LB20088

Building Class: Cultural

ID on this website: 200407569

Location: Aberdeen

County: Aberdeen

Town: Aberdeen

Electoral Ward: George St/Harbour

Traditional County: Aberdeenshire


William Adam, 1731-1732. Outstanding 3-storey and attic, 7-bay, symmetrical H-plan Classical hospital building set in extensive grounds with 1830-1832 alterations and additional wings by John Smith (see Notes). Grey granite ashlar with pale granite dressings and raised margins. Central 3 bays to S elevation with 2-leaf door and moulded architrave. Arched and corniced niche above with Statue of Robert Gordon. Blocking course with consoled and stepped central section. Flanked by advanced and pedimented outer bays. Tall central octagonal cupola at ridge with tapering, crocketed spire and weathervane. Semi-circular, crenellated porch to central rear elevation.

7-bay central block flanked by symmetrical, 2-storey L-plan colonnaded wings by John Smith forming courtyard. Triangular pediments to gable ends facing courtyard. S facing elevations of wings with full-height pilasters flanking central 2-bays.

Grey slate; broad, coped ashlar stacks to ridge and wallheads. Cast iron rainwater goods.

GATEPIERS AND BOUNDARY WALLS: 2-leaf gates to North boundary wall with large square-capped and ball-finialed gate-piers. Coped rubble boundary wall extant to section of N and W perimeter of grounds.

INTERIOR: Original symmetrical plan retained. Entrance hall with segmentally vaulted ceiling; Dog-leg stone stair with distinctive twin-arched ceiling mouldings to stair entrance at all floors. Fine panelled room on first floor surviving from William Adam's original 1742 interior design with ribbed plaster ceiling. Queen Anne furnishings.

Statement of Interest

Outstanding example of 18th Century Neo-Classicism by William Adam, the foremost Scottish Architect of his day and father to Robert and James, who both went on to have architectural careers of international significance. The finely balanced proportions of the principal elevation are particularly evident when viewed from its main vantage point at the 1885 B-listed arched gateway at Schoolhill.

Adam's original design (completed 1739) included high bell-shaped pediments to the advanced bays although these were replaced by John Smith as part of his extensive remodelling during the 1820s and 30s. During this period, several plans for enlarging the building were considered by the Hospital Governors including designs by Archibald Simpson, one of the two principal architects of Classical Aberdeen, and by William Burn and David Bryce, renowned exponents of the Scots Baronial style during the early 19th century. Burn drew up several ambitious schemes in the Tudor style, although these proved too expensive. His original plans are held at Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland. John Smith's plan comprising the L-plan colonnaded wings and triangular pediments was eventually commissioned and work completed in 1833.

The 'Auld Hoose', as it is often fondly referred to, occupies the Northerly end of the large Robert Gordon quadrangle. After its construction, the building remained an empty shell for many years with the interior remaining unfinished until 1742. In 1746 it was occupied by the Duke of Cumberland's troops who referred to it as 'Fort Cumberland'. From 1750, Robert Gordon's Hospital provided residential education for the sons and grandsons of Burgesses of Guild or Trades Burgesses of Aberdeen. In 1881, it became a day school known as Robert Gordon's College and within four years there were 1254 students and 37 teachers. In 1884 the whole educational work of the Aberdeen Mechanics' Institute was transferred to the college and included scientific, technical and commercial courses. The building has remained in comparable usage as an independent day and boarding school on the public-school model.

Originally laid out as grounds for the hospital, the quadrangle is now shared with the City Art Gallery and War Memorial (1885), the McRobert Hall and Technical College (1931) and most recently, the Blackfriars Building (1993) containing the school dining hall and linked to the West wing by a connecting bridge-corridor at first floor level. The statue of Robert Gordon (1734) is by John Cheere of London.

A janitor's lodge was built, around the time of John Smith's additions, at the front of the Hospital but was eventually removed block by block and rebuilt at the Schoolhill entrance to the St Nicholas Graveyard.

External Links

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