Brief History of the City

The chief commercial and fishing seaport of northern Scotland is the city of Aberdeen. It is the largest city in north-east Scotland, with a population of around 300,000.

Aberdeen is situated on the North Sea coast, between the River Don, to the north, and the River Dee, to the south. The mouths of the two rivers are about 2 miles apart. The Don is spanned by the 14th-century Brig o’ Balgownie, and the River Deeby the 16th-century Bridge of Dee at Garthdee.

Aberdeen is called the Granite, or Silver City because nearly all of its buildings are made of the pale granite that is quarried nearby. Most of the granite was extracted from Rubislaw Quarry, at Hill of Rubislaw, which is Europe’s largest man-made hole. The square, solid buildings that line Union Street, which recently celebrated its 200th birthday, date chiefly from the 19th century. Marischal College (m 385/40/Marischal College) on Broad Street perhaps the world’s largest granite building, was begun in 1844. It is topped with many spires and pinnacles.

To the north are the narrow, twisting streets of Old Aberdeen. Here many buildings date from the 16th century, and some are considerably older. For example, the plain stone Cathedral of St. Machar was begun in the 15th century. King’s College, founded in 1494, joined with Marischal College in 1860 to form the University of Aberdeen, which is over 500 years old itself.

Since the North Sea oil boom of the 1970s, Aberdeen has become the hub of the North Sea oil industry and a major supply centre for North Sea oil platforms. The business boom financed the construction of housing, offices, and schools. Revenues of the port of Aberdeen increased fifteen times in the boom years. Aberdeen’s main harbour has been continually improved, enlarged, and modernized. In addition to fishing, other industries include chemicals, fertilizers, papermaking, machinery manufacturing, shipbuilding, granite quarrying, and curing and canning of the plentiful fish catch.

The city’s oldest surviving charter dates from 1179. Royal charters of 1489 and 1498 created a free burgh with the church as its administrator. The present city was incorporated in 1891.