2.7 Post-Reformation history of the site of the Carmelite friary, 1560-1590

The immediate post-Reformation history of the friary site has been well worked over. Spearman notes that immediately after the spoiling by the protestant mobs, and in response to that situation, the council of the Royal Burgh took the friary into their own possession. Certainly on 18 April 1561 the council ordered their treasurer to uptake all of the friars' dues and rents, which orders was not specified, although by implication it would be all of them (Stuart 1844, 331). In 1561 the lands of the Whitefriars, along with those of the Blackfriars and the Greyfriars were given, under licence, by Mary Queen of Scots, to Duncan Forbes of Monymusk (Figure 4). On 20 January Aberdeen Burgh Council ruled that all rents ferms etc from the friars' crofts and places were to be paid to Forbes. They noted that this referred to all the 'tennentis, possessouris, and occupearis…'. Many of these people would have been in place from before 1560, but no doubt there remained a lively trade in these lands, including now the places of the friaries themselves. Forbes, however, the entry goes onto reveal, was amenable to the council approaching Mary Queen of Scots to get permission to transfer titles of the crofts and places to the council for the general benefit of the burgh (Stuart 1844, 340-1).

However, interestingly, when the thirds of benefices were being assessed for distribution (one third to the crown, one to the old clergy and the last to the new reformed clergy) in 1561/2 the entry for the Trinitarians contains the line: 'Furth of the place of the Carmalet Freiris of Abirdene payis yeirlie 6s 8d.' (Kirk 1995, 418). This seems to suggest that the Trinitarians were in receipt of money coming from the Carmelite friary itself. Thus the friary site must have been producing money in some way: perhaps it had been rented out or perhaps part of the site was being farmed (possibly the part previously farmed by the Carmelites themselves). Moreover there is a second assessment for the Trinitarians in the Assumption…, this states: 'William Menzies for the quheitt Freiris place of Abirdene yearly 6s 8d…' (Kirk 1995, 420). It is interesting that a Menzies was associated with this. Given the role of Provost Thomas Menzies with the Carmelites and of Gilbert Menzies with the post-Reformation use of the Trinitarians' lands this perhaps is evidence that the Menzies family as a whole were deeply implicated in helping elements of the previous community of friars (and indeed of Catholics more generally) to continue to exist.

However, a general ordinance issued by the Privy Council on 15 February 1562 stipulated that, notwithstanding other gifts, the places of any friars (as yet un-demolished) should be transferred to the godly use and service of the appropriate town council (Burton 1877, 202). Forbes in late 1562 and early 1563 made an attempt to sell the lands of the White and Black (but not the Grey) friars to the burgh council. On 20 January 1563 the council resolved not to buy these lands (ACA, CR XXIV, 333). Perhaps, this resolution was made with the general ordinance of 15 February 1562 in mind. The crown, as Spearman has pointed out, generally attempted to ensure that the places of the various friars throughout Scotland 'continued to serve their local communities as hospitals and schools…' (Spearman 1989a, 55). Edinburgh provides a good example of this practice. In Edinburgh, the Greyfriars place reverted, by royal order, to being a burial ground, after 1562 (Marwick 1875, 147-8). The place of the Blackfriars in Edinburgh was also put to pious uses: in June 1563 it was ruled that a hospital was to be built there (Marwick 1875, 161). When this work began they found that the yard of the Blackfriars had been used to grow corn (Marwick 1875, 165). Later, on 29 January 1578 a high school was ordered to be built on the Edinburgh Blackfriars site (Marwick 1882, 63). When the building work started they found that the site was covered with middens (Marwick 1882, 63). Use as a midden heap seems to have been the fate of the Grey and Red friars' places in Aberdeen (Stuart 1848, 290).

The lands of the Whitefriars probably remained in the hands of Forbes of Monymusk until 1566. It is entirely unclear what happened to these lands during that period; it is of course possible that he leased them out. On 17 February 1566 Mary Queen of Scots transferred the lands from Forbes of Monymusk to Captain Hew Lauder under a nineteen-year tack. The tack specifically mentions that the grant includes 'the ground quhair the places [that is the actual friary sites of the Dominicans and Carmelites] stude…' along with any buildings thereon (Stones 1989, 33). The Burgh Council intervened here believing that the lands should be set to the common good of the town (UA MS M390/20/8, Anderson 1909, 100 and Stones 1989, 33).

The lands of the friars in the Green, and outside the burgh, passed through several more hands in the course of the sixteenth century. On 3 February 1568, the lands of the Carmelites and the Dominicans were granted in tack to David Mar, burgess of Aberdeen (Anderson 1909, 101 and Stones 1989, 33). On 13 July of that year, a letter was issued by the Regent (the Earl of Murray) on behalf of James VI charging the Provost and Baillies of Aberdeen to pay to Mar, who was factor and assignee to Lauder, the duties that used to be paid to the Black and Whitefriars (Anderson 1909, 101 and Stones 1989, 33). The meaning of this letter is not entirely clear: perhaps there had been some trouble in this transfer, or perhaps the burgh council felt that the money and lands were theirs.

On 23 October 1571 the lands were again transferred, this time by James VI to Captain Andrew Chisholme (Anderson 1909, 101 and Stones 1989, 33). In 1572 Chisholme died and the lands went to his daughter (Anderson 1909, 101 and Stones 1989, 33). Spearman notes that the lands were split: he argues that some of the lands went to Janet Chisholme's second husband, James Rattrie (8 October 1573), and the remaining lands went to Walter Ogilvie (9 April 1574), Janet's son by her first marriage (Anderson 1909, 102 and Stones 1989, 33). The lands of the Carmelites seem to have become consolidated into one package in the next decade. On 16 December 1581 James VI granted all the possessions of the Black and the White friars to Mr William Leslie, brother to John Leslie of Balquhan; this was done by means of a charter (Anderson 1909, 105). On 31 July 1583 a tack was granted to William Leslie of the Black and White friars' lands for five years, at a cost of £19 (Anderson 1909, 105). On 26 October 1583 all of the possessions of both the Black and White friars were transferred, by charter from James VI to the Burgh Council 'for the support of a Hospital and other pious uses' (Anderson 1909, 105 and Stuart 1848, 71-80). Various sasines followed on this, and on 22 May 1584 there was an Act of Parliament that ratified to the hospital of Aberdeen the King's grants of the friars' lands. However, what hospital the Burgh Council had in mind is not entirely clear (Anderson 1909, 106). By this point, it is clear that there were tenants on the Whitefriars' lands. On 26 May 1584 the Provost and Baillies of Aberdeen obtained a Decree from the Lords of Council against the tenants on the Black and White friars' lands (Anderson 1909, 105 and ACA Charters A2 32). Perhaps this decree had been obtained in order to remove the tenants to prepare the way for the intended hospital.

The lands of the Whitefriars had become somewhat controversial by this time, not least in the manner mentioned above. On 10 September 1585 the magistrates of Aberdeen granted William Menzies, elder, burgess of Aberdeen, a charter conferring to him the place of the Carmelites (Anderson 1909, 106). Three months later there was an Act of Parliament issued which revoked the grant to the Burgh Council and 'of new' granted the friars' lands to William Leslie (Anderson 1909, 107). Presumably Leslie had been unhappy at losing the friars' lands and this was the result of action he had taken as a consequence. The Burgh Council lodged a protest against this decision with Parliament (Anderson 1909, 108). Despite this protest the revocation of the grant to the Burgh Council seemed to hold sway. Thus, on 14 March 1586 a charter was issued by James VI again confirming the revocation and confirming the grant to Leslie (Anderson 1909, 108).


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