History, tourist information, and nearby accommodation
HERITAGE HIGHLIGHTS: Jacobite cells and mementos
The Tolbooth was begun in 1616 and completed in 1629, under the supervision of a master mason named Thomas Watson. Its most famous moment on the stage of history came in 1745 when the Duke of Cumberland put down a local Jacobite uprising and posted his men the Tolbooth steeple to watch for rebels. After Cumberland defeated Bonnie Prince Charlie at Culloden, over 50 Jacobite soldiers were brought to the Tolbooth to be questioned.
There are waxwork figures in several of the cells, and recordings of actors creating an atmospheric experience, recreating what it was like to be confined here. See Jacobite coins, broadsheet propaganda, a flintlock pistol, and even witness statements used in the trial of the Jacobites.
But even the Jacobite episode pales by comparison with the events of the mid-18th century when some of Aberdeen's leading merchants and magistrates co-ordinated a campaign to kidnap hundreds of local children. The children were kept in the Tolbooth, and other places nearby, before being transported to America and sold into indentured servitude.
Among the less salubrious articles on display is a 17th-century guillotine blade, and a scold's bridle used to silence a nagging wife. And if you have a queasy disposition don't even think of seeing the historical displays on torture in the medieval period.
Look for the small hole in the wall of the Gaoler's Room that looks out onto Union Street.
The Tolbooth served as a prison until the 19th century. When the new Townhouse was built for local government, the front of the Tolbooth was given a new facade in granite, so that its age is not immediately apparent from Castle Street. The rear of the building, however, shows its 17th-century origins, and the bristling battlements that give it a formidable air.
Perhaps it is the Jacobite link, but the Tolbooth has gained a reputation as one of the most notorious haunted buildings in Britain. It has been featured in several TV programmes, most notably a 2009 episode of 'Most Haunted', and has been the subject of several paranormal investigations.
Immediately outside the museum entrance is the shaft of Aberdeen's original 17th century Mercat Cross.
About Tolbooth Museum
Address: Town House, Castle Street, Aberdeen, Aberdeenshire, Scotland, AB10 1EL
Attraction Type: Museum
Website: Tolbooth Museum
OS: NJ943 062
Photo Credit: Bill Harrison, licensed for reuse under the Creative Commons Licence
We've 'tagged' this attraction information to help you find related historic attractions and learn more about major time periods mentioned.
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17th century (Time Period) -
NEARBY HISTORIC ATTRACTIONS
Heritage Rated from 1- 5 (low-exceptional) on historic interest
Aberdeen Maritime Museum - 0 miles (Museum)
Aberdeen Art Gallery - 0.3 miles (Museum)
Provost Skene's House - 0.5 miles (Museum)
Duthie Park and Winter Gardens - 1.1 miles (Garden)
King's College Chapel, Aberdeen - 1.2 miles (Historic Church)
Cruickshank Botanic Garden - 1.4 miles (Garden)
St Machar's Cathedral - 1.5 miles (Cathedral)
Rhynie Man - 1.9 miles (Prehistoric Site)
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