Five hundred years before our Garthdee Church of Scotland building was developed a Garthdee chapel was built right beside the Bridge of Dee. It was open for weary travellers to devote some time either at the beginning or end of a long journey. The Bridge of Dee was one of the main entrances to Aberdeen from the south.
Did you know that the word Garth is an old Norse word meaning cloister? This Cloister is used to describe a four-walled rectangle surrounding a place of prayer. So Garthdee may have got its name from this chapel built next to the river Dee.
The Garthdee Chapel Chaplain
Sir William Ray is the only known chaplain to be based there. We only know about him through a written inventory he produced of the Chapel content in 1530. It must have been sparsely furnished as only the following goods were listed.
- a silver chalice;
- an image in “silver” of Our Lady;
- 3 napkins;
- an alter towel and
- the key of the Offerings box.
It is believed that the inventory was taken at the time because of a legal battle was starting over the existence of the chapel. On 27th February 1530, Gordon of Abergeldie petitioned the town council. Gordon thought that the chapel was an obstacle to his fishing rights. He was asking for a passage to be built between the bridge and the chapel. Doing that meant he and his crew would be able to more easily get to the river.
The town council was the owner and manager of the Garthdee Chapel but having failed to get their approval he had his men remove one buttress of the bridge to create a passage. Aberdeen Town Council was not happy about that. Consequently, they started legal action against him in Edinburgh. You can read more about Garthdee Bridge of Dee and the chapel here.
Our Lady of Aberdeen Statue in Garthdee Chapel.
The silver image of the Our Lady mentioned above is believed to be the statue of Our Lady of Aberdeen. That statue is now in the Church of Notre Dame de Finistere in Brussels. You can read more about the history of that statute and how it was smuggled out of Scotland here.
It is likely that the chapel was demolished at the time of the reformation. Its exact location is unknown. However, it is likely to have been situated behind where Garthdee branch of Boots the Chemist is now built. Alternatively, it could be on the opposite side of the road close to the river. However, all trace of where exactly it was situated has since been lost. The bridge has been widened on two different occasions so all evidence may now be underneath the bridge foundations.
Regular services for our local community are held in our current church in Ramsay Gardens. This is a much larger building than the original bridge wayside chapel. Consequently, we can make room for you. Read more about what Garthdee Church of Scotland Aberdeen is doing.