The Granite Industry

To those unconnected with the Industry there are, broadly speaking, only 2 Distinct varieties of Granite, Grey & Red, but in reality, of each of these there is a multitude of Tints and sizes of Grain, according to the Quarry, or particular part of a Quarry, from which the Stone is obtained. The Greys vary from a deep Blue to a Silvery Tint, and the Reds from a rich Carmine to a Salmon Pink. Of the original formation of Granite the most generally accepted theory is that the Rock, with its constituents of Felspar, Quartz & Mica was heaved up through the Earth from a great depth, molten & impregnated with vapour, and the cooling process being slow gave time for its various parts to resolve themselves into the distinct Grains which make the Stone so beautiful. In Aberdeenshire the principal Grey Granite Quarries are Rubislaw, on the Outskirts of the City, and of which most of it is built; Kemnay, which furnishes excellent material for finely-dressed Work & Statuary; and DyceDancing CairnsPersley, all in the vicinity of the City. Of the familiar red variety the principal quarries are at Peterhead, while a darker shade comes from the Hill o’ Fare on Deeside, and Corrennie on Donside, the latter being a pretty shade of Pink when left Unpolished.

Utter Faith In the Blondin Transporter

The extensive Trade in Granite appears to have Originated with the Messrs Adam, Architects, of London, who, having entered into a Contract for Paving the Metropolis, in 1764, commenced some Quarries in the Rocks on the Sea-Coast, near the Lands of Nigg and brought the Stone, when prepared, to London; but, finding this mode of supply too expensive, they employed the Aberdeen Masons to furnish them with Stone, and, in a short time, a very extensive Trade was established, not only in Paving-stones but in large Blocks of Granite for Public Buildings & Works of great magnitude.  Many of the largest Blocks were sent to Sheerness in the Medway, for the Construction of the Docks at that place, and to London, for the erection of Bridges over the Thames, and the Foundation of the new Houses of Parliament.  The Granite, which is extremely hard, and of great beauty when Polished, has lately been brought into extensive use for Chimney-pieces, Vases, Pedestals & other Ornamental Works, by the application of machinery to the purpose of Polishing it, by which the expense is reduced to about 1/3rd of that by hand Labour. The quantity of Granite exported in 1844, exceeded 27,400-Tonnes.  The Quarries referred to were situated in Nigg & Cove (Blackhills), and came under the Jurisdiction of Aberdeen’s Master of Mortifications as Heritor of half of Nigg.  Aberdeen let the Land to John Adam by means of an Act of Council dated 27th March 1766, as well as a subsequent act of 1st July 1767.  These can be found in volume 63 of the City’s Council Registers. The original Tack of 1766 Granted him a 21-yr Lease of the Quarries lying to the South of the Town’s Quarries at Cove for an annual rent of £10.  The 1767 notation in the Council Register claims the Annual Rent stands at £5, as well as Granting him Quarrying rights to the Lands of Nigg & Cove as far as the Southernmost extent of the Barony for an additional £15.
Nigg Quarries
Quarrying here began in the mid 18thC. In March 1766 John Adam, an Architect from Edinburgh, presented a Petition to Aberdeen Burgh Council asking for permission to begin extracting Rocks from Quarries in the Bay of Nigg.  Adams proposed an initial Lease of 21-yrs with a 1-yr trial Period built in & reviewed every 3-yrs. The Council quickly agreed and Adams accepted.  Later on 22nd August 1766, the Agreement was extended to include all of the Land from the Bay of Nigg down to Cove.  Quarrying was extensive in the area through till the 19thC. For some time Stones extracted from Quarries in the Nigg area were used as Paving Stones in London
John Adam 
was one of the Adam Brothers responsible for the building of Dumfries House as well as the Adelphi Buildings in London.  The Firm was also a Contractor for Fort George in InvernessJohn Adam, though a competent Architect, worked primarily as the Firm’s Business Manager, overseeing Contracts, Legal Business, and money & resource building activities such as the Quarrying Business at Nigg.  The Lands of Nigg in question were mortified to Aberdeen by the influential Menzies Family of Pitfodels, who retained a say in the use of their Mortification.  David Menzies, as part-heritor, was able to relate a number of concerns to the Council & Magistrates over the use & abuse of the Lands under the Tenancy of Mr Adam.

Rubislaw Quarry showing Granite Blocks brought down by a recent Blast

Gabbros & Granites
Metamorphic changes are not the only evidence of the increased temperatures that affected the Dalradian rocks as the Iapetus Ocean was consumed. Large volumes of Magma (molten rock) were injected into the deformed and metamorphosed Dalradian Strata as the crustal plates collided. The Magma cooled & crystallised to form large bodies (plutons) of Igneous Rock; different types of Magma produced different types of Igneous Rock, such as Granite & Gabbro. The Granites are closely associated with the Dalradian Rocks which had experienced the highest temperature metamorphic changes. In such areas, some of the metamorphic rocks were heated to such a degree that they began to melt, producing Magma that coalesced into larger bodies and eventually cooled to form Granite.  Many examples of this transformation process can be seen in the Coastal outcrops South of Aberdeen at Cove. The Aberdeen Granite, famously Quarried at Rubislaw, is one of the best known of the Granite intrusions generated in this way.  The Quarry opened in 1741 and reached over 90M deep, and was oft described as the ‘deepest hole in Europe’.

In the British Isles, intrusions of Granite and related Igneous Rocks are present in a variety of localities and range widely in geological age & origin. Differences in mineral composition and conditions of emplacement mean that British Granites show a wide range of colours & textures.  Granite forms from the cooling of large Magma bodies at depth in the crust, the slow cooling allowing the growth of large & interlocking mineral crystals. Compositionally, Granites typically contain 55-75% Silica and are commonly pale coloured with medium to coarse-grained crystals discernible to the naked eye. The interlocking crystals provide cohesion which adds strength and makes them suitable for polishing without plucking of the grains. Finer grained Granites were typically used for structural purposes (e.g. foundations, walling, kerbstones, setts & paving), while coarser-grained & porphyritic (i.e. with large crystals usually of feldspar) varieties were valued for ornamental work. The predominance of Silica and other relatively stable minerals in Granite make it particularly strong & durable.

Aberdeen, 1885, U.K., Rubislaw Granite Quarries

Men of Granite – 1933  A video record of these great Granite Quarries in times past starting with an Aerial shot of the Quarry.  Quarrymen at work, Blasting, Machinery, Rockface, Splitting etc. “reaching the ground.” shows a man pressing the plunger on a Detonator, resulting in an Explosion and Avalanche of Granite Rocks. Shows Sett making, stone dressing & turning of Columns & Pedestals

Aberdeenshire Granite. The Aberdeen Granite Industry developed from the 18thC, with Stone 1st sent to London for paving in 1764 and the construction of Portsmouth Docks a few decades later. Through the 19thC, the Industry expanded and the area became a world-renowned producer of Granite.  The Industry was of huge importance to the local economy, and materials & skills were so plentiful that much of the City of Aberdeen was constructed from Granite.  A relatively sophisticated transportation system (Canal & Railways) allowed material from Quarries further Inland to be transported to the Coast, and the Stone was Exported in great quantities to the main urban centres.  There were many Granite Quarries in Aberdeenshire, producing Stone of varying colour & texture, and exploited for a wide variety of uses. A number of the major Quarries are described below.  

Stirling Hill Quarry, Peterhead, one of the most important Aberdeenshire Granites, was produced as 2 varieties, known as Red & Blue Peterhead, both exported throughout the UK & Abroad during the 19thC. The Red variety was better known and used for ornamental construction & Monumental work e.g. London, Cambridge (St John’s College Chapel Pillars) & Liverpool (St George’s Hall Pillars).  Blue Peterhead was used for decorative building & ornamental work, e.g. the Base of Fountains in Trafalgar Square and the Prince Albert Mausoleum.  Peterhead Granite is still Quarried at Stirling Hill & Longhaven Quarries, where it is mostly crushed for aggregate.

Stirling Hill Quarry at Peterhead with Armed Prison Guard

The 1st Quarry at Stirling Hill opened in 1815 and there have been 11 separate Quarries on the Hill since.  A deep water Harbour of Refuge was created by Building massive Breakwaters across Peterhead Bay began in 1884 to convert it into a Harbour that would be secure in all weathers.  The Stone from Stirling Hill was used to build a Prison to contain the Convicts of Scotland (many of them the most dangerous of Criminals) and to build a Barrier against the might of the North Sea. Convicts using hammers crushed Red Granite at the Quarry. This was mixed with Concrete and great Blocks were Cast in Workshops beside the Prison. Civilian workmen then completed the job. A Railway was built between the Admiralty Quarry at Stirling Hill & Peterhead Prison to transport Prison Labour & Granite.

Stirling Hill Railways & Prisoners Train – 5-Convict Wagons with Barred Windows & a Guards Van. Iron Side -tip Wagons in the Foreground

Guards watch as Prisoners from Peterhead Prison board the Train to take them back to the Prison after a day’s hard labour at the Stirling Hill Quarry in this image from around 1950Only a few feet of these harbour walls are visible at High Tide, but at the Harbour Mouth the Water is more than 10 fathoms deep (60-ft). The Breakwater Project was eventually completed in 1956.  It is thought the Red Peterhead Granite produced at the Quarry was included in the creation of the original Fountains of Trafalgar Square.  The Duke of Wellington Statue at Buckingham Palace also stands on a Pedestal of Peterhead Granite, thought to have been linked to Stirling Hill.

Stirling Hill Quarry at Peterhead with Armed Prison Guard ( I’ll be settin’ here for the rest of ma’ life – and all did was Shoot ma’ Wife!)

Those Harbour Works are the outcome of a Treasury Committee appointed in 1881 to consider the question of Employment of Convicts in the United Kingdom, when the Committee reported that the most likely Project for benefiting Shipping & Fishing Industries would be by Constructing a Harbour of Refuge at Peterhead. A sub-committee in 1884 having confirmed the above opinion, the Treasury decided to carry out the recommendation, the Admiralty undertaking the Supervision of the Works, Sir John Coode being Engineer-in-Chief in the 1st instance, succeeded in 1892 by Condo, Son & Matthews. A commencement was made in 1886 with both the Works & Prison, the latter being undertaken by the Prison Commissioners for Scotland, and accommodation for about 450 Convicts provided on a site adjoining the Work-yard. The money required was voted annually by Parliament, the Works being constructed under the powers of the Peterhead Harbour of Refuge Act, 1886. The formation of the Harbour of Refuge comprises the enclosing of Peterhead Bay by the construction of a Northern Breakwater 1,000-ft long, and a Southern Arm, 3,250-ft long, with an entrance 600-ft wide. At the root of the South Arm, inside the Breakwater, a small Boat Harbour has been constructed for the Accommodation of the Craft employed on the Work. The Bay enclosed is, in shape, roughly a Square, with the Landward Corners rounded, the Breakwaters stretching in a straight line from the Eastern end of the promontory on which stand the Town & Fishing Harbours of Peterhead, to the Northern Spur of Buchanness (the most Easterly Point in Scotland), the Water area being 343-acres at High Water Ordinary Spring Tides and 285-acres at Low Water Ordinary Spring Tides, the Depth at low water in the entrance being 60-ft. The rise of the Tide is 11-feet.

Artist James Giles; Stirling Hill Quarry, near Peterhead

Kemnay Quarry began Production in the mid-19thC producing Building Stone, Setts & Kerbs, with the best material reserved for Polished Monumental Work. It is a light grey muscovite-biotite Granite. Examples include the Queen Victoria Memorial in London, the Forth Railway Bridge and, more recently, as cladding for the new Scottish Parliament. 

Page from Mechanical Aberdeen – An Engineering View of Aberdeen’s Industries from 1888-1913

The interesting example on the Mechanics Association Page is of a French Monument to Charles Gamier, the Famous Architect of the Paris Opera House. The whole of the Granite Work of this Memorial was Executed in the Yard of Alexander Macdonald & Co Ltd, the Pioneers of Polished Aberdeen Granite.
Location – South Access Ramp for the Carriages to the Opera Garnier, Paris

Aberdeen Journal 1891
Aberdeen Man Killed in America – Alexander Thompson, Foreman for the Booth Brothers at their Millstone Quarry, United States, died, on 15th December of injuries resulting from his being thrown from his Carriage.  Mr Thompson was returning from his day’s work at Millstone to his home at Spithead and had reached the Bridge over the Railroad Track on the new road leading to Millstone when he saw a working Train to the Eastward of the Bridge. Fearing that his horse might be frightened should he be on the Bridge when the cars passed under, Mr Thompson waited for the Train to go by. After it had gone under the Bridge, in the direction of Niantic Mr Thompson drove on to the Bridge but the Train in the meanwhile had stopped and was backing down so that it came under the Bridge just as he drove on.  The horse became frightened and ran across the Bridge and down the decline to the Westward, and as the Carriage went round a curve Mr Thompson was thrown violently to the ground, breaking his back.  He was seen to fall, and assistance was soon at hand. The unfortunate man was taken into Mr McNaughton’s dwelling nearby, where he lingered until 9.30pm at which hour death came to his relief.  The Deceased was a Native of Aberdeen, 42 years of age, and came to Millstone 3 years ago from the Smith Granite Company’s Quarry, Westerly.  Since that time he has been Foreman at Booth Brothers’ Quarry. He was highly valued by his Employers and was held in great esteem by all his fellow-employees & his neighbours. He leaves a wife & 7 small children.
Booth Brothers’ Quarry.  Aberdeen in Scotland, was the birthplace of the Developers of the 2nd Largest American Quarry, this one located at 186 Great Neck Road. Booth Brothers had been founded by John Booth in 1870. Born in Scotland in 1839, Booth had come to New York City in 1870 and with his older brother William, established the Company. The 18-year-old William Booth began as a Stonecutter at Millstone in 1864. Brothers Francis & John followed, working at 1st in Westerly.  Four more came later.  Booth Brothers supplied the Granite & Built the 154-ft Saratoga Battlefield Monument in the 1880s. William entered into a Partnership with Palmer-his former Employer-in 1888 before buying him out.  When Gardiner refused to renew Booth’s Millstone Lease in 1890, “Kin” William moved to a 70-acre Great Nec site that he later purchased from the Dimmock Family in 1894. The eventually 729-ft long Quarry was a source of fine-grained monument-quality Stone in contrast to Millstones somewhat coarser building product.


The Dancing Cairns Quarry
 – This is a Derrick Crane, powered by steam. Derrick Cranes were designed to lift heavy loads. In this case, the Crane could lift 15-Tonnes.  These Cranes were designed to turn & lift. The Jib, which sticks out and carries the rope or chain with a hook, was raised or lowered like a Ships Derrick.  A real parallelogram of forces diagram.  Probably the Crane in the Dancing Cairns Quarries in Bucksburn.  Dancing Cairns Quarry Works were close to the Bucksburn Howe.  The Quarry had been working since the late 18thC when it was opened by Messrs Snell, Rennie & May.  Many Stones were hewn from this Quarry for Telford’s North Pier Extension.

Stones have their natural tendencies,
As well as mortal men;
And thus our Pier hastes to become
A Dancing Cairn again. – Sandy Bannerman

Above Bucksburn Village was the Dancing Cairns Granite Quarry. A 17-Ton Stone was taken from the Dancing Cairns Quarry for cutting & carving into a Statue of the 5th Duke of Gordon. It was over 200ft deep. As children we used to go and play in and around the Quarry, catching Tadpoles, Frogs, Newts & Sticklebacks. In 1940s decade 3 boys, one aged 15 and the other 2 aged 10 years, were killed in the Quarry; one man aged 64 died there and one aged 52 was presumed to have been drowned there.  A boy, aged 9, was seriously injured in the Quarry. With increased new housing in the area it has been filled in with City Refuse and on the Surface today is now a Golf Course, which overlooks Dyce Airport.

Our Pier can neither firmly stand,
Nor sober habits learn;
For why? the Stones that it compose,
Are all from Dancing Cairn.

Buildings in Aberdeen. Used in London for kerbs, paving, etc. Composed of quartz, orthoclase, oligoclase, & mica.

Quarry Lodge (Stocket Hill)
Nothing is visible of the Steading of this once remote Croft, which stood in an area now occupied by Modern Housing on the West side of Long Walk Road. As depicted on the 1st Edition of the OS 6-inch map (Aberdeenshire, 1869, sheet lxxv, the Steading comprised 3-Buildings. One was a Cottage and was accompanied by a very small building adjacent to its North-west Corner. An L-plan Range lay immediately to the North, with its open side facing South-east and a Horse-engine attached to the Northside of the North Wing. By the end of the 19thC, the Horse-engine had been removed, and Range had been extended by the addition of an East Wing to form a U-shaped arrangement with its open side facing South (1902, sheet lxxv.NW).

Sclattie Quarry, Bankfoot, Bucksburn
Click Image to Enlarge

Granite Worker, Robert Silver, dressing Granite Setts in his wooden Shelter (known as Skaithies) at Sclattie Quarry in the 1920s.
Sclattie Quarry, Bankfoot, Bucksburn  – Now an Industrial Estate – Sclattie appears from very early times to have been a place of note, and many references are to be found as to its Mansion House, which stood at what is now the back of the Quarry.  The House appears to have been ruinous about 1725, but as it was occupied as late as 1800, it must have been repaired.  Its last Proprietor was Dr Scroggie, who was Principal of King’s College for over 50yrs, and who lived to be nearly 90-yrs of age. Some traces of its Garden and a dressed Gate-post are all that remain of it.

Corrinnie Quarry
The Corrennie Quarry at Tillyfourie. Granite building blocks stacked ready for Transport. The Quarry is still in operation.  Corrennie  Quarry Granite from Tillyfouries is a medium-grained biotite Granite with a Salmon-red colour making it favoured for decorative use. Examples include the Glasgow City Chambers and the Tay Railway Bridge. The light grey speckled muscovite-biotite Granite from the Dancing Cairns Quarry has been used in Trafalgar Square, the Thames Embankment and part of London Bridge. Fine-grained dark greyish-blue biotite Granite from Dyce Quarry was favoured for the interior of London Banks and exported overseas to Australia (Bank of Australia, Melbourne). Both Kemnay & Corrennie quarries are still active, along with a number of other Granite Quarries in Aberdeenshire, but their Granites are mostly crushed for aggregate & roadstone, although dimension Stone can still be obtained.  This large, now disused Granite Quarry, which is situated at the foot of the South flank of Tillyfourie Hill. A single large Pit initially, but by then that Quarry had been abandoned in favour of new workings higher up on the South face of the Hill.

Corrennie Granite was used for the Base & Cornice of Pedestal of the Albert Memorial, ‘an exquisite variety of Granite from the Estate of Captain John Gordon of Cluny Castle.

Persley Quarry
The then Water-filled remains of a roughly circular Quarry, measuring about 25M in dia, are situated in sparse woodland on the Northside of the
River Don about 140M West of Lower Persley Steading near the Mugiemoss Paper Mills.  A low mound of Spoil was visible on the Southside of the Quarry, but to the East there was a larger Spoil-tip which has been Quarried into on its North-West & North-East flanks.

OS Map of Woodside 1867 LXXV.2 (Old Machar)


At the arrival of Tarmacadam to the main streets of Aberdeen circa 1955 the Granite Setts were lifted by the 1000 and stored for recycling on Waste ground & old Quarries around the Suburbs,  They were as new & unworn as when they were laid save for the shiny tops due to shod hooves, steel & rubber tyres that polished & shaped them over 200 years. Approximately 12″ x 9″ x 3″ wide and looked for all the world like a petrified pan loaf.

A short stone early Bronze Age Cist containing an imperfect adult male skeleton and an imperfect urn of red clay, an arrowhead & a flint knife. Found in Persley Quarry in 1868. Dated c.2,000 BC

Dyce Quarries – Tyrebagger
Granite is the only species of Stone found in considerable quantities through this Parish, of which, however, the rocks seem almost inexhaustible, extending over a greater proportion of the Hill of Tyrebagger.  John Gibb was born near Falkirk in 1776 and only moved to Aberdeen to take up the post of Engineer to Aberdeen Harbour in 1809. He acquired an interest in a Quarry at Tyrebagger in 1816.  Wrought for 7 years by Gibb from 1816-23 but he made little profit due to the cost of transportation to Aberdeen.

Sett Making
Image from the mid-1930s of a Sett Maker in front of his Skaithie in Persley Quarry. He was a ‘Cassie’ Maker hewing Stone Setts for the roads from Granite with just a Hammer & Chisel. The ‘lean-to’ or Skaithie in the rear of the image was the only shelter he had in all weathers.  Another important branch in which Granite is employed is the laying of roadways, tramways etc., with setts. It is important in more ways than one, if only from the fact that the “Causey-men,” or Sett Makers, were the highest-paid of Granite Workers. The fact is not due to any extraordinary skill or intelligence being necessary but is alone attributable to the advantages pertaining to a well-conducted Union.  This the men have long ago recognised, and today have a larger percentage of Workmen affiliated than any other Workers’ Union in the Country.  We can ascertain when Granite Setts were 1st used, is many years ago in the creation of Marischal Street.  Of late years an attempt has been made to introduce wood paving, and in many places, it has superseded Granite, but where a hard-wearing, non-slippery surface is required recourse has to be made to Granite, and in this respect, Granite excels all others. It is many years before Granite is worn smooth, which is accounted for by the fact that the concussion caused by the horses’ shoes, instead of acting as a Polisher, in reality, roughens the Stone. Should you take the trouble, when in a City whose Streets are paved with Granite, to examine a Sett after being struck by a horse-shoe you will see what is meant. Although the 1st outlay is more than Whinstone or some Wood Pavements, it is cheaper in the end, as the relative cost of Wood & Granite, with the expense of maintaining each for many decades years shows.  A Cassie is a small block or Sett of Granite.  They are used to pave roads and are also called Setts. The word Cassie comes from “Causeway” which means Roadway.  Cassies were made at Quarries in Aberdeen & Aberdeenshire.  Millions were produced by skilled Sett-makers. Many were sent to London. They sat in small huts called Skaithies. These huts could be lifted and turned to keep the Mason out of wind & rain.  There was a need for men who had the skill & patience to reduce huge blocks of Granite into manageable pieces by chipping it with a variety of hammers & chisels to produce the required shape & size. In this 1920s photograph, we see a Sett-maker at Persley Quarry on the Northside of the River Don in Aberdeen, at his wooden shelter or ‘Skaithie’. These shelters provided some sort of windbreak for these men who had to sit on blocks of Granite patiently working on the hard stone. Sett-makers made Cobblestones for Roads and Aberdeen Setts were used to pave Streets in London. On his left is a Shearleg structure that acted like a Jib Crane to lift the bigger Stones into position. Note the lack of protective safety equipment apart from some extra leather padding on his knee to prevent chafe wear on his dungarees.  Men were as tough as the material they worked with in those days.

Besides being used for Crib, Pavement & Causeway Stones & for House-Building, the Stones from Tyrebagger have been employed in raising the following Works: the Bell-rock Lighthouse; Sheerness Quay Wall; Deptford Quay-Wall; West India Docks; & Sheerness Docks. Stones from the same Quarry were formed into Pillars for the Groins of the London Custom House and were dressed for the long steps & coping of St Catherine’s Docks, and for the most prominent parts of the New Bridge of Don. They were likewise used in building the new London Bridge, and from the same place was that fine Block of Granite selected which encloses certain Urns & other Memorials of the present age, and forms the Foundation Stone of that magnificent structure. In these Quarries also a few Specimens of Dolomite have been found.

Cairngall Quarry – Cairngall, an Estate Mansion, and with extensive Granite Quarries, in Longside Parish, in the Eastern vicinity of Longside Village, and near the Peterhead Branch of the Formartine & Buchan Railway, 5-miles West of Peterhead. The Estate, so late as 1804, was little better than Waste Moorland; but, prior to 1841, was reclaimed & improved into a condition of high productiveness & order. Cairngall, Leased by Messrs Alexander Macdonald, Field, & Co, a good substantial Stone known as ‘Aberdeen’ Granite, is Quarried.  This is an extensive Quarry producing it is said the best Granite in Aberdeenshire.  It gives employment to nearly 100 Men and the Property of Mr Hutchison of Cairngall.  The Cairngall Quarries, in particular, produce a fine small grained Stone, admirably adapted for polishing & for ornamental work. In fact, for those purposes, no better material has as yet been found.  It was from Cairngall that the Sarcophagus for the remains of his late Royal Highness the Prince Consort was taken.


One of the most famous Monuments the huge double Cairngall Sarcophagus at the Royal Mausoleum at Frogmore, Windsor which contains both the remains of Queen Victoria & Prince Albert. The Block for the Sarcophagus is the largest Block of flawless wrought Granite in existence, and the 4th Block Quarried: the 1st 3 attempts ended in failure when flaws were discovered underneath the Stones after they had been detached. The block of Granite originally weighed 30-Tonnes.  Twelve Clydesdale horses were needed to pull it from the Quarry to the MacDonald Works in Constitution Street.  Manager Robert Fergusson stated that after the rough Granite was shaped, hollowed out & polished it gave a total weight of 9-Tonnes.  The lid alone weighs 5 Tonnes and the whole Sarcophagus rests on polished Granite Blocks.  The 4 massive bronze Angels attached to each corner were designed by Marochetti and cast by Barbeedienne in Paris.  Alexander MacDonald received Letters Patent as “Her Majesty’s Workers in Granite” in 1867 after completing the Sarcophagus.  When Victoria’s Coffin was to be placed therein it was discovered that Sarcophagus was 6 ins too shallow and temporary wood infill were painted to match.  Later matching Granite inserts were added to the raised Lid.

All over the Kingdom Monumental Work in Granite from this and the other Scottish Granite Quarries were met with.

The Quarries are situated in a Hill which rises about 60ft above the circumjacent ground; they are worked to some distance right into the Hill, and then worked downward, and they have furnished some of the largest & finest blocks for Public Works & Public Buildings in the Kingdom. They began to be worked, to any considerable extent, in 1808, when they were selected to furnish the blocks for the Foundations of the Bell Rock lighthouse; and they furnished the blocks for the Foundations of the then-new London Bridge, for the Pier-walls of the new Houses of Parliament, for the Pillars in Covent Garden Market, for the great polished monolithic Pillars of St George’s Hall in Liverpool, and for the Pedestals of several great Public Statues.

The Bell Rock Lighthouse is situated in the North Sea on a partially-submerged Reef some 11-miles (17.5-km) Southeast of Arbroath on the East Coast of Scotland. One of the Major Engineering feats of the early 19thC, it was Designed & Built by Robert Stevenson (1772-1850), with John Rennie (1761-1821) serving as Chief Engineer, and came into Service in 1811. The Lighthouse Tower was built from 4-Types of Stone; Granite from Cairngall Quarry near Peterhead was used for the Foundation, while the Skin of the Tower, which had to resist the brunt of the Sea, comprises Granite from Rubislaw Quarry with a core of Old Red Sandstone from Mylnefield Quarry, Kingoodie.  Finer Sandstone from Craigleith Quarry (Edinburgh) was used in finishing the Structure and Building the Parapet around the Light.

Balmedie Quarry
In 1919 a Granite Quarry was opened in Belhelvie, known as Balmedie Quarry, on a smallholding previously known as Park of Balmedie. Initially, Royalties were paid to Captain Lumsden of Balmedie House, but upon the Captain’s death in 1932 the Council purchased the Quarry and the Land it lay on.  In 1926 the 1st Stone Cottages were built along what became known as Council Terrace to house the Quarrymen and their Families, followed by Scott Terrace in 1930.  By this time the Quarry had become the dominant Employer in Belhelvie, which had been exclusively a Farming area before that.  Explosive charges were fired twice a day, at noon & in the evening.  Initially, the broken rock was transported to where it was needed, at which point it was further broken down manually.  Then the Quarry began to supply Crushing & Tarmacadaming Services. Indeed the Ellon Road, between the Bridge of Don & Menie, was one of the 1st to be treated with supplies from Balmedie Quarry.

Road Metalling with a Trojan Steam Roller

In 1936 the Provost Road, which goes past the derelict Victoria Hall, was the 1st to benefit from the new Tar Metal.  In addition to this commercial Sandpits were dug in the Parish in the 1930s to serve the need for cement. Twenty years later there were workings at Millden, Wester Hatton & Blackdog, producing an annual supply of 1000s of tons of Sand.

Birsemore – Aboyne – Grey & pink.  Very like Shap Granite in appearance.
Bodham – Peterhead – Grey – very large Stones; Prince Consort’s Memorial Fountain, Trafalgar Square
Cove – Kincardineshire Dark grey – Used chiefly for Kerbs & Sets.
Cairncry & Oldtown Quarries
Tyrebagger Quarries, Alexander Forbes & Co, Kinaldie, Aberdeenshire


The Aberdeen Granite Turning Company, was up near the Prison,  however in late 1960, early 70s period the Glasgow Shipbuilding firm of Alexander Stephens & Co of Linthouse were looking for further avenues of work to pursue, and they bought over the goodwill of an Aberdeen Granite Firm,  Was this the Firm mentioned?  At the time of the closure of Stephens, I was in the Linthouse Engine Works, by that time the plant had by and large all gone, but outside in another fair-sized building was Stephens Granite Turning Dept.  One of the Lathes was a J Abernethy.   The rest were somewhat beaten up large conventional geared head Engine Works Lathes, and the beds were in a poor and somewhat water-stained state  At that period, the Tools on the Toolposts could work, they by and large just looked like a portion of Boilerplate profiled to a circle, with the edge angled away.   Still lying about were various nice turned work-pieces, just left as the workers had lifted their jackets, and bid the concern a fond farewell, as they contemplated a dismal future!  It is equally of note that the original Stephens Shipbuilding Family were active in Aberdeen.  In Edinburgh also the craft of Granite Turning was carried out by some of the old Paper Machinery Builders, and also the firm of McLean & Gibson of Glenrothes may also still do this work, as they are still in the Paper Machinery Trade.  A local museum has an East Coast Stone Planing Machine lying in the Yard, It was constructed by The Anderson Grice Co of Carnoustie, Better known for very fine Steam & Electric Cranes, they were still building Steam Derricks till into the 1970s 

Aberdeen Monument for Bermuda – Messrs Simpson Brothers, Granite Merchants, Cotton Street, Aberdeen, have just completed a beautiful Monument to be erected at Bermuda “in Memory of the Non-commissioned Officers & Men of the 1st Battalion the Leicestershire Regiment who died of enteric fever (Typhoid) and from other causes while Stationed at Bermuda during the years 1888-90.”  The Monument, which is of Granite from the Dyce Quarries, stands 16ft high and has an imposing appearance. There are 3-Bases. The lowest, which is 4ft square, is of axed Granite, and the others are Polished.  Above these is the Pedestal with a handsomely-moulded cornice, and set off by a finely-polished Pillar at each of the 4-Corners. On the front Slab is the Inscription already quoted, and on the other sides are the names of the Soldiers including 1 Quartermaster, 3 Sergeants & 26 Privates. An octagonal Obelisk rests on the die.  It is surmounted by a carved Finial, and, like the other parts of the Monument, is Polished. The Stone is of particularly fine character, and it has been worked & finished in a manner which reflects the highest credit on the Firm. 

Aberdeen Grit Co, Iron Grit Works
The Works, situated in Ruthrieston Road, (from 608 Holburn Street to Broomhill Road) may be considered as an adjunct to the Granite Polishing Industry of Aberdeen, the material manufactured being used as an abradant for the Sawing & Polishing of Granite. Iron Grit was 1st manufactured in America about 1880 as a substitute for quartz sand (the material used up to that time for abrading Granite). In 1884 the new material was 1st introduced into this Country, and notwithstanding the price then charged (about £45 per Ton), its superiority over Sand (especially for Sawing) was so marked that it found a footing in Aberdeen, although the Sea-beach afforded an abundant & cheap source of supply of the older abradant. Experience has shown that variations in the temper & lasting qualities of the Grit existed and that some samples, although equal in cutting power to the best when used on soft Stones and the softer Granites, were, when used upon the hardest varieties of Granite, comparatively inefficient, the Aberdeen Iron Grit Co was formed in 1895 by some of the leading Granite processors in Aberdeen, with a view to the production of a Grit suitable for the manipulation of the very hard Granites they were interested in.  Since the formation of the Company, the import of Iron Grit from America (its birthplace) into Aberdeen entirely ceased, and large quantities are now exported to America, in spite of the heavy Tariff imposed by that Country upon the material.  Since the advent of Pneumatic Tools in the working of Granite, a Department for the making & repair of these was added to the Establishment; and, although the primary intention was the meeting of the Partners’ requirements, a considerable Business was developed in Outside & Export Work

Alexander Smith & Son, Stone Cutter, Gilcomston Park, Aberdeen