Listed Building

The only legal part of the listing is the address/name of site. Addresses and building names may have changed since the date of listing – see ‘About Listed Buildings’ below for more information.


Status: Designated


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Date Added
Local Authority
Planning Authority
NJ 94240 6535
394240, 806535


Archibald Simpson 1837-44; Robert Mathieson 1873; W W Robertson 1888-9; Alexander Marshall Mackenzie 1893-1906 (see Notes). Large and impressive predominantly Tudor-Gothic granite collegiate complex based around central quadrangle and courtyard. Dominated by Mackenzie's 80 metre Mitchell Tower and outstanding multi-pinnacled and crocketed façade in the perpendicular Neo-Gothic style. Earlier Simpson building: Rubislaw granite, later work: Kemnay granite.

BROAD STREET ELEVATION: 1905, 3-storey basement and attic with central 8-bay section treated uniformly; bays divided by buttresses with crocketed spires and finials; tripartite leaded windows with stone mullions and sidelights to principal floors; bipartite wallhead gablets to attic with pierced stonework. Advanced entrance bay to left with engaged corner towers; wide, shallow-pointed arch with painted shields above; arcaded pend with ribbed vaulting leads to courtyard. Mackenzie's 1903 Greyfriars Church (see separate listing) at far right with tower and spire detail continuing in the Neo-Gothic style.

QUADRANGLE: Simpson's restrained 1837 Tudor-Gothic U-plan building: 2-storey with base course, cill course, hoodmoulds and simple blocking course; principal entrance with double-leaf timber door at Mitchell Tower to NE elevation flanked by 3-bay arcades to ground; 9-bay wings return, terminating with engaged octagonal ogee-capped towers. Later infill by Mackenzie completes quadrangle; cill courses, hoodmoulds, blocking course and window treatment reflecting Simpson's earlier work. Exit bay with triangular attic pediment flanked by engaged 4-stage ogee roofed towers; 3-bay to left and right of towers with large shallow-pointed arch windows to ground floor. Predominantly bipartite windows with decorative tracery set in square-headed openings to upper levels throughout.

MITCHELL TOWER: 1895 addition; tripartite, canted windows at 1st and 2nd floor with parapet above; clock face to quadrangle elevation only; large, mullioned and traceried tripartite openings to all four sides; ribbed clasping pinnacles and crocketed central spire.

MITCHELL HALL: abutts rear of quadrangle at right angles; 3-storey with main hall at upper level; dominated by tall, narrow gable to NE elevation with clasping pinnacled towers; tripartite canted bay rising to second floor with castelated parapet. Large round arched window above with intricate tracery. 5-bays to returning SE and NW elevations with perpendicular buttresses flanking openings. Pitched roof with flanking towers.

INTERIOR: U-plan Simpson building: entrance hall with bifurcated stone stair and pointed arch arcading and decorative Gothic timber handrail; fine fan-vaulted plaster ceiling with quatrefoil pattern; pair of halls flank central landing to NW and SE; both with corbelled Tudor arched ceiling with decorative Gothic timber ribs; timber gallery at NW hall. Remaining interior predominantly plain treatment with some parquet flooring and timber dado panelling and timber doors.

Mitchell Hall: main hall divided into two distinctive sections separated by a tall, narrow pointed arch. Larger section with Gothic timber panelling to dado and parquet floor. Smaller ante-room dominated by large stained glass tracery window (details). Pointed arch dividing 'nave' from 'chancel'.

Statement of Special Interest

Marischal College is Aberdeen's largest granite building and one of its most defining landmarks. At 400 ft long with an average height of 80 ft, its scale, quality of design and the distinguished work of the principal architects mark it out as a building of considerable importance and the culmination of 200 years of experience working with granite. Within the national context, the building can be seen as a direct expression of ideas of aggrandisement, municipal granduer and the confidence of an expanding Scotland. The skyscraper-perpendicular Gothic style, also used to great effect at Edinburgh's Scott Monument, encapsulates both the religious idealism and the civic confidence of late 19th century Scotland.

Archibald Simpson's replacement 2-storey Tudor style U-plan quadrangle in white Rubislaw granite was completed in 1844. Robert Mathieson undertook some additions and alterations to the basic design in 1873, while the SE wing of the quadrangle was doubled in width by WW Robertson in 1889. Simpson's central tower, originally three storeys high, was extended with MacKenzie's Mitchell Tower. During the same period (1893-7), Mackenzie added the large Mitchell Hall to the rear of the quadrangle, extended the NW wing, added the North East corner tower and rebuilt Greyfriars Church. At the beginning of the next century, a final scheme by Mackenzie dispensed with the earlier Broad Street elevation and replaced it with his masterful Neo-Gothic curtain wall and integrated tower extension to Greyfriars Church. Mackenzie took full advantage of newly developed machine technologies of the time, allowing the granite to be cut in ways that were previously impossible.

The college was originally founded in 1593 by George Keith, Earl Marischal as a protestant alternative to King's College, founded in 1494. By 1837, all earlier buildings on the site had been removed due to their deteriating condition.

Robert Reid's 1834 plan for the college survives, apparently based on a more strictly classical design by Simpson of 1825, which is now lost. The plans for Simpson's extant 1836 design are held at Aberdeen University's King's College Library. Mathieson, Robertson and Mackenzie plans are currently held at Marischal College.

Part of A Group with Greyfriars John Knox Church



Chapman and Riley, 'The City and Royal Burgh of Aberdeen - Survey and Plan 1949' p149; W. Douglas Simpson, Country Life - Aug. 19th 1965; G M Fraser, Archibald Simpson and his Times (1975) p16; National Statistical Account. v.12 p104 and 1163 ff; W A Brogden - Aberdeen, An Illustrated Architectural Guide (1986) p29; W Hamish Fraser and C H Lee (Ed) Aberdeen 1800-2000 A New History, (2000) p9, 11, 491.

About Listed Buildings

Listing is the way that a building or structure of special architectural or historic interest is recognised by law through the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) (Scotland) Act 1997.

We list buildings of special architectural or historic interest using the criteria published in the Historic Environment Scotland Policy Statement.

The information in the listed building record gives an indication of the special architectural or historic interest of the listed building(s). It is not a definitive historical account or a complete description of the building(s). The format of the listed building record has changed over time. Earlier records may be brief and some information will not have been recorded.

The only legal part of the listing is the address/name of site. Addresses and building names may have changed since the date of listing and if a number or name is missing from a listing address it may still be listed. Listing covers both the exterior and the interior and any object or structure fixed to the building. Listing can also cover structures not physically attached but which are part of the curtilage of the building, such as boundary walls, gates, gatepiers, ancillary buildings etc. The planning authority is responsible for advising on what is covered by the listing including the curtilage of a listed building. Since 1 October 2015 we have been able to exclude items from a listing. If part of a building is not listed, it will say that it is excluded in the statutory address and in the statement of special interest in the listed building record. The statement will use the word 'excluding' and quote the relevant section of the Historic Environment Scotland Act 2014. Some earlier listed building records may use the word 'excluding', but if the Act is not quoted, the record has not been revised to reflect current legislation.

If you want to alter, extend or demolish a listed building you need to contact your planning authority to see if you need listed building consent. The planning authority advises on the need for listed building consent and they also decide what a listing covers. The planning authority is the main point of contact for all applications for listed building consent.

Find out more about listing and our other designations at You can contact us on 0131 668 8716 or at


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Printed: 22/04/2019 01:48