Provost Skene’s House nestles between the new buildings and giant plant pots of Aberdeen.
It’s been a long time since I’ve visited the 16th century townhouse. In fact, it’s been a very long time since I’ve been in the city centre. In recent years trips to Aberdeen have been illness or hospital related.
There have been a few changes.
The fountains in front of Marischal College are new:
My father worked in the building when I was a child, and there were regular family trips to the Anthropological Museum there. This was later called the Marischal Museum, and it’s no longer open to the public. You can, however, browse online exhibitions.
Provost Skene’s House
Dating from 1545, the house has been lived in by a variety of people over the centuries. Provost Skene owned it in the 17th century, and Hanoverian troops used it during the Jacobite rebellion of 1745. The Duke of Cumberland stayed there on his way to Culloden. It’s been a museum since 1953. See a more thorough history of the house here.
The museum used to be set up with rooms furnished in different eras: Edwardian bedrooms and Victorian sitting rooms, that sort of thing. It now houses an exhibition of noteworthy people from Aberdeen, and many of the displays are digitised. I rather miss the harpsichords and harps of the previous arrangement.
The Glass Floor
The glass floor in the cellar is still there, and I’m glad about that. The room was previously a coffee shop, and walking over the floor was a highlight for me as a child. I may not have been frightened when locked in a witch’s hoosie, but this floor scared me in an exhilarating sort of way.
I put the scary floor into the castle of my books. The quote below is from Fouetté, the third and final title of the forthcoming series, A Dancer’s Journey, and it describes how the glass used to look in Provost Skene’s House.
Eerie green light still shone up from below the glass, showcasing the museum pieces in the floor: barrels, bottles, various metal implements, a cauldron. The glass had been replaced, of course, and part of it given proper hinges, not like back then when…
I had to cut the quote short there, because: spoilers. The floor is no longer lit up.
The Painted Gallery
The highlight of the house for me now is the Painted Gallery. It has not changed, apart from the removal of the Mouseman benches.
Like the Wine Tower in Fraserburgh, this is a place that may have been used as a post-Reformation Catholic chapel.
The ceiling depicts the life of Christ. Below is the Entombment, with a kilted gentleman standing to the right.
Something else that has not changed is the smell of Provost Skene’s House. It’s quite strong and distinctive. I think it might be caused by the use of some sort of speciality wood preserver or furniture polish.
I walk across the flagstone floor of Provost Skene’s.
And then stroll between the old and the new.
I prefer the old.
The Angry Man
Let’s finish with an angry man. He was originally situated on the wall of a 19th century bakery in the city. It was shut down due to its close proximity to a sewer; the baker blamed his neighbours for the closure, and pointed his angry face at them. He now glares at everyone as they walk past Provost Skene’s House.
SISTERS AT THE EDGE OF THE WORLD
Set in 1st century Scotland, SISTERS AT THE EDGE OF THE WORLD includes the battle of Mons Graupius between the Romans and the Caledonian tribes. The book features a neurodivergent main character and some rather complicated romance…
“Ethereal and spellbinding…” Historical Novel Society
Read the article Roman Aberdeenshire features in author’s new book from Grampian Online.
See my About Page here
Go here to sign up for my occasional emails that always include some exclusive photos and news of my writing and life. If you would rather just hear about new books and offers, you can follow my Amazon author page.