Late 16th century, N wing added 17th century, restored 1963. 2-storey, L-plan, crowstepped tolbooth. Local sandstone and conglomerate rubble; some polished ashlar dressings; chamfered openings. Vertical-boarding to doors and reveals.
S (PRINCIPAL) ELEVATION: door in bay to left of centre at ground, and 2-leaf door to later broad opening at right; 1st floor with wide loading door (now glazed with modern iron balustrade) to right of centre, 3 blocked slits and 2 windows to left; further window to outer right.
W ELEVATION: 3-bay elevation incorporating gabled bay to right with forestair rising from outer right leading to recessed door at 1st floor centre and window to right. Later broad opening with 2-leaf door to centre at ground and further pedestrian door immediately to left, 2 windows at 1st floor flanking dominant wallhead stack.
E ELEVATION: gabled elevation with curved wall (see below) abutting at left angle, window to left at 1st floor and small blind opening to right, further window in gablehead.
N (REAR) ELEVATION: asymmetrically-fenestrated elevation with advanced crowstepped gable at outer right.
Predominantly 12-pane glazing pattern in replacement timber sash and case windows. Graded grey slates. Small rooflight to rear. Coped ashlar wallhead and gablehead stacks; ashlar-coped crowsteps with beak skewputts.
BOUNDARY WALLS AND GATES: flat-coped, coursed rubble, semicircular-plan wall forming courtyard at E, with 2-leaf iron grid-pattern vehicular gate set in wall.
INTERIOR: largely altered but ground floor of N wing retains rubble and flagstone floors. Curved recess to W of S wing (probably housed free-standing stove).
Statement of Special Interest
The Old Tolbooth is the oldest surviving building in Stonehaven. It was probably built as a store in the late sixteenth century by George Keith, 5th Earl Marischal (founder of Marischal College in Aberdeen), during the construction of nearby Dunnottar Castle, and whose arms are said to have appeared on a skewputt at the west gable. After Stonehaven became the county town in 1600, the building was used as tolbooth, courthouse and prison. The courthouse was situated on the first floor, with the ground floor as prison and the enclosed area forming an exercise yard. After 1767, when new County Buildings were opened in Dunnottar Avenue, it was also used to store grain, coal and lime. One of the most famous episodes of the building's history was the imprisonment of the three Episcopal clergymen of Stonehaven, Muchalls and Drumlithie during the winter of 1748-9, for refusing to pray for George II, and for conducting services for congregations of upwards of five people. During their imprisonment the clergymen conducted secret baptisms (through a barred window) of children brought to the tolbooth hidden in fishing creels. The image was popularised by the Victorian painter George Washington Brownlow, and is further illustrated in a stained glass window at the category 'A' listed St James James the Great Episcopal Church in Arbuthnott Street. Two wall-mounted metal plaques to the outer left of the principal elevation commemorate the erection, history and restoration of the building. The Old Tolbooth is now (2005) used as a museum and restaurant.