10.6 Craft and industry

The excavations at the Carmelite Friary site have provided insights into the industries and crafts which contributed to the construction and maintenance of this major religious complex. Although several sections of lead piping had been removed in antiquity, substantial portions remained, providing perhaps the only, and certainly the earliest surviving physical examples of the plumber's craft in Aberdeen, along with the much more delicate window cames from the same source. It is also clear that some aspects of that lead-work was done on site, using the small clay-lined pit that was excavated. Interestingly, however, the earliest name so far recovered from the records of Aberdeen of a plumber, that of Alan Fowler, comes from the very late date of 30 October 1436 (Moir 1890, 26). The next known plumber in Aberdeen was in 1507: when John Burneile was admitted as a burgess, he was described as an Englishman, and plumber to the King of England (Moir 1890, 43).

A number of small industrial ovens were also found, just possibly related to tile-making, while several masons' marks link us to the individuals behind some very high quality decorative stone work found at the site. Presumably much of the work was executed by local craftsmen, with Aberdeen being able to provide the majority of the necessary skills and expertise, including those of the wrights, who would have undertaken the initial timber constructions. Despite all of this building work, not only for the Carmelites but also for the other orders of friars in Aberdeen, we only know the name of one builder. This comes from later, in 1459, when John Cran was made a burgess, his composition (or payment) being the repairs he effected to the 'house' of the Friars Preachers (Moir 1890, 16).

Names may be lacking in many cases, but we do have archaeological evidence for the sources of materials used, such as the sandstone used for facing the buttress and openings of the church and the stone roof tiles which covered the church. Window glass was presumably another import, although it is interesting that the Franciscan Friar John Strang is listed as a glass worker in his obituary in 1517 (Bryce 1909a, 330).


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