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The Tolbooth, Aberdeen facts for kids

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The Tolbooth
Aberdeen Tolbooth.jpg
Location Aberdeen City
Type Prison Museum
The Tolbooth Museum, Aberdeen
The front of the Tolbooth Museum, Aberdeen

The Tolbooth in Aberdeen, Scotland is a 17th-century former jail which is now operated as a museum. The Aberdeen City Council took over the former jail and opened it to the public in 1995.

The museum contains exhibits of prison cells and various police and law and order related items.


Considered one of the oldest buildings in Aberdeen, the tolbooth was built between 1616 and 1629 and is attached to Aberdeen Sheriff Court on the city centre's Union Street. In the mid 1500s, Aberdeen first built the Guillotine for the criminals. This maiden of the blade of Aberdeen is on display at the museum today for the public to view.

Around the year 1630, Marion Hardie, from Elgin, became a prisoner at Tolbooth for practicing Witchcraft. This was where she killed. In 1686, the Market Cross was built in front of the Tolbooth. It was later restored in 1821 and then moved to its present site in 1827. In 1703, witchcraft was no longer a criminal act, but for many of the 45 women and 2 men accused of it in the area, it was too late.

In 1715, the locals announced their support of James Francis Edward Stuart as the true King of the Scotland throne as opposed to the Protestant George I. This was part of the Jacobite uprising that were happening all throughout Scotland at the time. In April of 1746, the Jacobite uprising was defeated. It housed over 96 Jacobite prisoners after the Battle of Culloden. Confirmed and suspected Jacobites were taken to Tolbooth prison where they awaited trial.

1700s mid - Aberdeen Merchants and Magistrates kept many Local Children in the Tolbooth and other buildings around the city before transporting them to America to work, basically as slaves. These were supposed to have been street children with nobody looking after them, although some were said to have been snatched when out playing.

Today, the prison is open to visitor who want to learn about its history. There is a cell known as the Jacobite cell where visitors can experience an interactive model of Willie Baird, a real prisoner from 1746, sits next to his Jacobite compatriots James Innes and Alexander Annand and tells visitors his sorry tale, whilst the prisoners await trial and sentencing. The building is claimed to be one of the most haunted buildings in Aberdeen and has been subject to many investigations by paranormal investigation teams East Scotland Paranormal and James Warrender's: The Ghost Network. The most notable investigation was in April 2009 when the Livingtv series Most Haunted visited the building. The episode aired in December 2009.

In 2016, the museum celebrated its 400th anniversary. Visitors can take a Ghost Hunt tour of the building.

The Museum

The old prison's 17th and 18th century cells hold the original barred windows and doors that were used during the time period. There is a steep spiral staircase with the rope handles within the old building. In the prison, the maiden of the blade is on display. The old prison also tells the story of the escape of Alexander Keith along with the stories of some of the Jacobite prisoners.

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