Aberdeen Endowments Trust and Predecessor Charities

The Aberdeen Endowments Trust collection includes the records of the Trust and several predecessor charities: the Aberdeen Educational Trust, Aberdeen Female Orphan Asylum, the Boys' and Girls' Hospital, Dr. Brown's School, Chalmers' Girls School, Davidson's Endowment Fund, the Hospital for Orphans and Destitute Female Children, the McRa Trust, Shaw's Hospital, Ross's School and Thain's Charity School. There are also records from the following organisations associated with the Trust or its predecessors: the Poor's Hospital and Robert Gordon's College.

Details about the collection are included in our Online Catalogue, and some background information about the organisations and indexes for the records are provided below. Please note that although the majority of records are held at Old Aberdeen House, the records of the Boys' and Girls' Hospitals and the Poor's' Hospital are at the Town House.

Aberdeen Educational Trust and Aberdeen Endowments Trust

The Aberdeen Educational Trust was formed in 1889 under the terms of the Educational Endowments (Scotland) Act, 1882, in a scheme of administration of 1888. The scheme amalgamated the following older Aberdeen charities into the Educational Trust (see below).

The Educational Trust, formed to administer these charities, had the power to grant bursaries, provide free school books, conduct the Boy's and Girls' Hospital School (where 305 children were provided with three free meals on five days each week and the most needy of these were provided with clothes and boots or shoes) and conduct a Girls' Home and School of Domestic Economy at 352 King Street. The Trust was also to administer the endowments set out in Man's Mortification.

The Aberdeen Endowments Trust (AET) was formed by the 1909 Robert Gordon's Technical College and Aberdeen Endowments Trust Order Confirmation Act. This passed to the AET the functions and estates of its predecessor, the Aberdeen Educational Trust, as well as some of the properties and functions of Robert Gordon's College. The School of Domestic Economy was passed to Robert Gordon's Technical College.

Records for the Trusts comprise:

  • AET/1 Records of the Governance of the Trusts
  • AET/2 Records of the administration of the Trusts
  • AET/3 Financial records of the Trusts
  • AET/4 Records relating to the properties owned by the Trusts
  • AET/5 Records relating to the management of the Trusts' estates
  • AET/6 Records of the administration of the Trusts' foundations, bursaries and scholarships

As well as containing information about the beneficiaries of the Trust and its predecessor charities' work, the collection includes material about the tenants on the Trust's estates.

The funds for the Trust's work came in part from estates located in the north east of Scotland, and inherited from the predecessor charities or Robert Gordon's College or purchased by the Trust. The estates are: Barrack and Crichie; Dumbreck and Orchardtown; Elrick and Annochie; Haremoss; Muchalls; and Towie-Barclay.

Please note that material in the AET collection 50 years old or less require permission from the Trustees or the City Archivist before consultation, and other material is covered by the provisions of the Data Protection Act.

Predecessor charities

The Aberdeen Female Orphan Asylum was founded by Mary Elmslie (1780-1868) in 1839, for the benefit of girls between 4 and 8 years of age, whose married parents had lived in for at least three years in the parishes of St. Nicholas, Oldmachar, Nigg, or Banchory Devenick. The Asylum, in Albyn Place, took in around 50 girls at a time, who left at the age of 16.

In 1888 the Female Orphan Asylum was amalgamated into the Aberdeen Educational Trust, and was replaced with a Girls' Home and School of Domestic Economy in King Street, to teach 60 foundationers and maintain up to 30 girls. The Albyn Place building was sold to the Aberdeen School Board in 1891 and is now (in 2017) part of Harlaw Academy. The Girls' Home moved to Sunnybank House, Sunnybank Road in 1910. Ferryhill Lodge, 9 Polmuir Road, was purchased in late 1937, and the Girls' Home moved there on 24 May 1938. The Home closed in March 1956, due to dwindling numbers, and was sold In May 1956.

Most of the girls in the early 20th century went into service, either at home or abroad, sometimes with very good families (the Countess of Westmoreland took several). Later in the century, many went into nursing or shopwork.

Access to some of the items in this collection are restricted under the provisions of the Data Protection Act.

The Boys' Hospital evolved out of Aberdeen's Poor's Hospital, which had provided residential places for poor children since the 1740s. A separate Boys' Hospital was founded in 1818 in a building on the Gallowgate. In 1829 the Hospital moved to Upperkirkgate, and the Gallowgate buildings were utilised by the newly founded Girls' Hospital, which provided residential places for 20 girls who were children of the poor of the parish of St Nicholas, or orphans. An additional 20 places were added between 1830 and 1835. The girls were admitted between the ages of 6 and 9 and stayed at the hospital until they were 14. They were taught "reading, writing, arithmetic, church music, sewing, knitting, and house-work" plus religious instruction, and lived in the Hospital.

In 1852 an Act of Parliament allowed the management of the Boys' and Girls' Hospitals' funds to be merged. The Hospital took in 50 girls and 50 boys from St Nicholas parish, between the ages of 7 and 10 until they were 14. and provided an education consisting of reading, writing, arithmetic, grammar, geography, drawing and music. The Boys' and Girls' Hospital moved to premises in King Street in 1871.

Under the AET's scheme of administration, the Hospital closed in November 1889, and the building was repurposed as the Boys' and Girls' Hospital School, for foundationers of St Nicholas parish who had lost either or both parents or who could not be cared for at home during the day. Former residents of the Boys' and Girls' Hospital were to be provided with allowances for clothing and lodging or transferred to the Female Orphan Asylum.

An index to children named in the Boys' and Girls' Hospital minute books has been compiled and is available as a PDF here:


John Brown MD (c. 1775 - 1860), through a trust disposition dated 1847 and his will and testament, created an endowment for the "instruction of the Children of Indigent Persons residing in the vicinity of Skene Square". This endowment was used to set up Dr John Brown's School on Skene Square, which opened on the 2nd December 1861.

The school was transferred to the Aberdeen School Board in November 1878 and renamed Dr John Brown's Public School, eventually becoming Skene Square School: there is a separate collection of records pre- and post the School Board's takeover of the school in the series ED/GR6S/A65. The Trust's funds were thereafter used to pay the fees for the children of indigent persons living around Skene Square and attending the school.

The sum of £4000 was bequeathed by Misses Margaret and Janet Chalmers of Westfield, to build and endow a school for the elementary education of girls, in their wills and codicils of 1836, 1852 and 1859. The school was located on Upper Lead Side (now the corner of Esslemont Avenue and Whitehall Terrace). After being amalgamated into the AET, under the terms of the Trust's Scheme of Administration, the school was sold to the Aberdeen School Board within a year. The school was renamed Leadside School in 1890, and later became Westfield School, the records of which are in the series ED/AT5/25.

In 1803 John Davidson, goldsmith, mortified £1000 to provide schooling for the children of fishing families in Footdee, Aberdeen, after he was saved by two Footdee fisherman. The deed of mortification also stipulated that any surplus should be used to support the infant children or widows of Footdee white fishers or pilots.

In 1820 Davidson's trustees built a school in York Street, Footdee, which was sold to the Aberdeen School Board in 1879. The Board then built a new school on the site, named the Davidson Public School. The Trustees continued to send children to this school in line with the foundation deed.

In 1888 Davidson's Fund was amalgamated into the Aberdeen Educational Trust, which continued to operate two funds in line with the founder's wishes: Davidson's Free Scholars' Fund, for children over and under 10 years of seafaring persons residing in Footdee; and Davidson's Widows' Fund, for the widows of white fishers or pilots in Footdee who have perished at sea.

Also known as the Aberdeen Destitute Female Orphan Asylum, the Hospital was incorporated by Act of Parliament in 28th July 1849. It provided a home and an education for orphan girls from, or with parents or grandparents from, Aberdeen or Aberdeenshire. The girls were admitted between 7 and 10 and left between 14 and 16 years. There were 50 girls residing in the hospital in 1873, and they received training to prepare them for domestic service. The Hospital was located in Huntly Street in premises shared with the Blind Asylum. When the charity was amalgamated into the Aberdeen Educational Trust, the Hospital closed and its residents were transferred to Aberdeen Female Orphan Asylum in September 1889.

Alexander MacRa (? - 1780), an ironmonger in Bristol, mortified £20,000 Scots in 1763, to be held in a trust for a number of annuitants, and the remainder to be used to support and educate poor children with a preference for boys of the surname MacRa. The trust was overseen by eight trustees in official positions in Aberdeen.

Shaw's Fund was founded with a bequest from Alexander Shaw, a bookseller and natural history dealer, in 1807. This accumulated until the trustees were able to open a Hospital in the Gallowgate in 1839, housing and caring for, as per the terms of Shaw's will, ten deserted or destitute orphans, five boys and five girls.

The New Statistical Account states that the children were to be admitted between 2 and 4, and to take the name of either Shaw or Davidson. They were to be taught "English, and a little French, writing and arithmetic", and the girls learnt needlework. Boys were to remain at the Hospital until 12 then assisted with apprenticeship fees, or if they showed "superior genius is to be retained in the hospital till he is twenty-one years of age, to study the French language diligently, and to be permitted to learn any profession for which he may be fitted and most inclined." Girls stayed at the school until they were 13, then received £10 if they remained as a family's servant for 5 years.

The Hospital moved to Broadford Cottage in 1863, then to 'Rosebank House', 8 Rosemount Place, in 1882. In 1888 Shaw's Hospital was amalgamated into the Aberdeen Educational Trust, and the building sold to the Aberdeen School Board in 1890. The remaining residents were moved to the Hospital for Orphan and Destitute Female Children in Huntly Street.

For more information about Alexander Shaw see: https://www.nla.gov.au/blogs/behind-the-scenes/2015/06/09/mr-alexander-shaw-no-379-strand-londonRoss's School

James Thain (? - 1794), an Aberdeen merchant, mortified £400 in 1788 to pay for a teacher to instruct poor children in Aberdeen in reading, writing, arithmetic and book-keeping, as well as religion. Thain's trustees first met on the 26 May 1788, and appointed John Downie as the Thain's Charity School's first teacher. Regulations at the next meeting of the trustees on the 2nd June 1788 stipulated that scholars, recommended by trustees or by two other respectable people, would be admitted at quarterly meetings of the trustees. The school took in boys and girls.

Dyer's Hall near the Hardgate was initially leased as the site for the school, but a house in the Shiprow was purchased by the Trustees in 1803 (close to the location of the Aberdeen Maritime Museum). At a meeting on the 14 February 1877 the trustees that the charity would move to paying the school fees of children selected by the Trustees rather than providing schooling directly, so the school closed. The children at the school were transferred to other local schools (the majority to Commerce Street School), with the Trustees paying their fees.

Aberdeen's Poor's Hospital was first established by the city's Magistrates and Town Council on the 17th February 1739 "to propagate industry and virtue": at that stage it was known as the 'Infirmary and Workhouse'. The Hospital opened on the 31st October 1741, to (in the words of the Old Statistical Account) house idle and strolling vagrants; poor inhabitants with no way of earning their keep; the children of poor inhabitants and destitute orphans. Only those under 12 were supported, with older children expected to work and found apprenticeships and training. Payments were also made to out-pensioners remaining in the community, in addition to receiving inmates to the Hospital.

The Hospital was managed by the town's Magistrates and Council, and initially funded by mortifications and bequests, and the proceeds of selling textiles produced by the inmates. From 1768 the United Fund was established to fund poor relief in the City.

The Poor's Hospital was originally located behind the Tolbooth on the north side of the Castlegate (it appears in Alexander Milne's 1789 map of Aberdeen). This was sold around 1790 and a new property purchased in the Gallowgate. In 1818 a separate Boy's Hospital was established in the Gallowgate.

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