Old Stonehaven

Country: Scotland

Region (County/State / Province): Aberdeenshire

Website: None specified

Contact: Joan McCausland

Photo Credit: None specified

Study Description 

The Old Town of Stonehaven (Stanehive locally) is situated on the north-east coast of Scotland in the parish of Dunnottar. From the early 1600s it was the county town of Kincardineshire.

About 1800, the Old Town became the home of my 3xgreat-grandfather Robert Lees, a fisherman. With his wife and six children he moved there from one of the small fishing villages further along the coast. In a diary, unconventional in its spelling and grammar, he described his personal experience of life in the Old Town. The original document survived but was in poor condition and incomplete in 1907 when a transcription was made and published in the Stonehaven Journal. It covers the years 1809 to 1831. While he recorded significant events in the lives of his acquaintances and even some local gossip many of his observations deal with seamen and ships at the harbour.

The engraving shows a view of Stonehaven from the south east in 1803. The Tolbooth on the pier was built in the early 1600s and over the years has served as a store, a prison and an administrative centre. The Town House with the clock tower is situated at the east end of the High Street. To the west can be seen the County Buildings dating from 1767 and the Mill of Stonehaven, an important meeting place for both business and social affairs. At the harbour there was a small fishing community and seamen were actively trading with both coastal and Baltic ports. Weavers’ cottages along the Links of Arduthie to the north are the most prominent features of the New Town of Stonehaven in the adjacent parish of Fetteresso where significant development began in the last half of the 18th century and rapidly progressed after 1800. The arches of a bridge built in 1781 to link the old and new towns can also be seen.

The purpose of the study is twofold: to learn more about the very different everyday life experiences of Robert’s new neighbours in the Old Town and to document the impact on the whole community of both local and national trends and events during the study period.

Sources include local government, court, census and church records, memorial inscriptions and old newspapers.


The time frame is roughly the years between the entries for Dunnottar Parish in the Old and New Statistical Accounts of Scotland, dated 1794 and 1845.


In 1811 the population of the Old Town was 974 and in the 1841 census 938.

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