Peterhead, Aberdeenshire

In 1849, Peterhead Parochial Board purchased a site as 12 Ugie Street for use as parochial poorhouse or almshouse. The establishment was intended for the use of the "deserving" poor, primarily the elderly and others that were completely unable to support and look after themselves such as orphans. It was locally administered rather than operating as a statutory poorhouse under the central Board of Supervision.

Peterhead poorhouse site, 1869

In 1881, there were 30 inmates in residence, with a staff of three: the governor, the matron, and one domestic servant.

The original building was demolished in 1898 and a new one was built on the same site as shown on the 1901 map below.

Peterhead Parish Home site, 1901

A sketch of the proposed new building was published in 1897. It was two storeys high and an E-shaped layout with its frontage facing to the west.

Peterhead proposed Parish Home, 1897.
© Peter Higginbotham.

Credit for establishing the new Parish Home was claimed by William Murray, then Vice-Chairman of the Parish Council:

I first mooted, at a meeting of the Parish Council, my proposal to institute what I suggested might be named the Parish Home.... By the year 1900 a handsome granite building was erected, with the title PARISH HOME carved in large, raised, polished granite letters over the front entrance, and with a garden of an acre and a half walled in, which yields considerable profit, besides supplying the Home with all the vegetables required. Gardening and stick breaking provide light work for such of the male inmates as are able to do little.
   The ground on which the building was erected had been purchased by the Parochial Board more than fifty years before, and contained an old brick building, which the Board used as a parochial lodging-house. It was so defective, and had become so dilapidated, in spite of much outlay, from time to time, that, if the same site were utilised for the parish home, rebuilding was a necessity. In the circumstances Peterhead was perhaps more favourably situated than most places for the experiment.
   The new building, in addition to quarters for governor and matron, has accommodation for forty-two inmates, and the rooms are of various sizes, containing one, two, three and five beds respectively, besides dining-hall, dayrooms, bathrooms, storerooms, kitchen, laundry, and all modern requirements.
   The estimated cost of the building, exclusive of furnishing and unforeseen extras, was about £3,000 The statutory borrowing powers could not of course be applied, as it is not a poorhouse, but a bank loan was arranged locally, without other security than a minute of the Council authorising the loan and a bond over the subjects without pledging the rates, and without personal liability of the members. Such an arrangement might not have been possible had the scheme not had the hearty approval of the community and the unanimous support of the Council... The upkeep of the house and repayment of the loan are included in the annual assessment, as in the case of the old lodging that was replaced.
   Admission to reside in the home is controlled by the Parish Council, each case being specially considered and decided upon by the whole Council. Only decent, deserving poor, well known by the Council to be of that character are eligible for admission, worthless applicants for relief being sent as formerly to the district poorhouse at Maud. The first three of the rules and regulations for management will indicate the character of the institution:

   I. The Parish Home being intended exclusively for deserving poor, especially the aged, infirm, and friendless, those entrusted with the management are to keep in view that the institution is a home and not a poorhouse.
   "II. While obvious distinctions are to be avoided, the inmates shall be classified as far as possible in keeping with their character, disposition, habits, and previous circumstances.
   III. In addition to inmates maintained by the parish, helpless applicants who are not in poverty, but having no friends to look after them, are willing to assign their means to the Parish Council, to be expended in their maintenance, and destitute persons of good character whose friends agree to pay for them, may be admitted as boarders on terms to be arranged with the Parish Council.

   One feature in management may be considered worthy of imitation. From the first all the Protestant Ministers in town have cordially joined in conducting in rotation the Sunday afternoon services in the home, the turns being regulated by a printed calendar issued to them annually by the Council, and suspended one in each manse and one in each. vestry to ensure its being kept in mind. Each minister attends on his appointed dates, accompanied by an organist and a small choir, as well as by other friends from his congregation. All, the inmates who are able to leave their rooms assemble in the dining hall, and as the ministers and the other friends are engaged in a labour of love, the services are characterised by freshness and variety, and are very much enjoyed by the inmates. There are frequent indications that the community are justly proud of the institution."

Another visitor to the Home reported:

"This was the most delightful institution that I have seen. It was a. large, comfortable, pleasantly furnished 'private house,' with about thirty inmates. Some had their own bedrooms; others were in pairs; and others again in small dormitories. There were pleasant dining rooms and sitting rooms for common use. The one or two well-behaved defectives had separate rooms, under the immediate charge of salaried servants. All but these one or two defectives were either old men or old women, or prematurely infirm persons of good character, and they had full liberty to come and go as they chose. Some of them wore of quite superior position, and had handed over their little remnants of property — in one case an income of fifteen shillings a week — to the Parish Council in return for maintenance and care. The master and matron were able and kind. One old German woman, who was delighted to talk to me in her mother tongue, explained, to me that the matron was a real saint. A large vegetable garden was cultivated by the more able-bodied of the men. The net cost of maintenance to the Parish Council was reported to me as being only trifling — something like a shilling per head per week — but the accounts were complicated by the property handed over by the inmates, the value of the work done, and free gifts of fish, etc., from the benevolent."

According to William Murray, the average weekly cost per head in the Parish Home was £3s. 2½d., making it considerably less than the figure of 4s. 6d. for the Buchan Combination Poorhouse which the parish also made use of.

The establishment carried on as a Parish Home until it was renovated in 1954 and subsequently re-opened as the Peterhead Eventide Home for the Elderly, later also known as Craigewan. The building was demolished in 2008.

In 2008, Rhona Mitchell, along with students from the Mitchell School of Drama, and some input from playwrigh Charles Barront, created Lottie, a play based on the surviving records of the Peterhead poorhouse. The piece is being revived in 2018.



Note: many repositories impose a closure period of up to 100 years for records identifying individuals. Before travelling a long distance, always check that the records you want to consult will be available.

  • Aberdeen City Archives, Town House, Broad Street, Aberdeen AB10 1AQ, and Old Aberdeen House, Dunbar Street, Aberdeen AB24 3UJ. Extensive holdings include:
    PD2/PH/1Governor's JournalsDaily notes on matters such as repairs, meetings, goods, letters received, admissions, discharges, burials, concerts, invitations for inmates, visits, pig movements, payments and all general daily incidents.16Apr1889 - 3Mar1949
    PD2/PH/2Report and Visitors BooksVisitor and Report books, including a Medical Register in first volume.3May1861 - 22Nov1973
    PD2/PH/2/1Register of Inmates, Medical Register and Visitors Report Booka) Register of Inmates, 3May1861 - 5Jun1900, with admission date, name, designation (cook, spinster, imbecile), religion, parish chargeable, reason for removal (adopted, died) and date.
    - b) Medical Register, 5May1889 - 20Nov1900.
    - c) Visitors Reports. Usually weekly, remarking on 11 set questions, with additional remarks.
    3May1861 - 20Nov1900
    PD2/PH/2/2Report BookInitially, reports monthly, but in 1931 there are no reports and thereafter reports are variable. 14-Jun1900 - 22Nov1973
    PD2/PH/2/3Visitors' BooksEach page notes the date, name, address and designation of each visitor.19Apr1889 - 30Dec1919
    PD2/PH/3Admissions, Register of Inmates, Medical Registers and Certificates.Admissions Register (14May1875 - 11Dec1929), Register of Inmates (3May1861 - 25May1964), Medical Registers and Certificates (9Jun1900 - 13Mar1922).3May1861 - 25May1964
    PD2/PH/4Peterhead Home Committee, MinutesPeterhead Home Committee, Minutes.21Dec1931 - 13Dec1951
    PD2/PH/5Administration filesGeneral correspondance and miscellaneous papers.30Sep1946 - 5Mar1980
    PD2/PH/6InventoriesInventories of effects, stock and furnishings. 17Jan1888 - 18 Nov1931
    PD2/PH/7Orders and Tradesmen Account booksOrders and Tradesmen's payments and accounts. 6May1889 - Jan1955
    PD2/PH/8Provisions BooksDaily notes of number of inmates and amount of stock to hand.16Aug1908 - 15Sep1932
    PD2/PH/9Piggery Stock and Account BooksRecords of Stock Movement and Accounts.6Sep1930 - Jan1949
    PD2/PH/10Wood Account BooksWood Account Books1Dec1934 - 14Jun1955

[Top of Page] [Scottish Poorhouses] [Scottish Almshouses] [County Map] [Home Page]

* * * Amazon US For US readers Amazon US * * *

300x250 Free trial