Stonehaven Tolbooth Museum

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Visit by Chief Executive
23 July 2013

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Willie Munro, Cressida Coates (Chair of Tolbooth Association) and Colin Mackenzie at Tolbooth entrance

On Tuesday 23rd July Mr Colin Mackenzie, the Chief Executive of Aberdeenshire Council, undertook a tour of the Stonehaven area and had requested that the Tolbooth museum should be included in his itinerary. Cressida Coates, George Strang, Jim Bruce and Ian Balgowan (all Trustees of the Tolbooth Association) were delighted to welcome Messrs Mackenzie and Munro (Area Manager Kincardineshire and Mearns) and provided a conducted tour of the museum and its artefacts. Mr Mackenzie expressed the Council's appreciation of all the efforts being made by the volunteers to keep the museum open and turning it into a dynamic hub for both locals and visitors alike. The visit ended with a discussion over future developments and both sides gained a clearer understanding of what is achievable in the short and medium term.

Visit by Newtonhill School
19 June 2013

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Recently we were delighted to welcome primary 3 pupils from Newtonhill school to the Tolbooth museum. Their project this year is fishing and they came to view the fishing artefacts that we have on display and they were extremely fortunate that the guide for the visit was Ian Balgowan who is also a commercial fishermen with his own boat operating out of Gourdon. Not only was Ian able to explain in great detail the various fishing techniques practised by Scottish fishermen but he also provided an added bonus. Ian had been at sea the previous night and for the benefit of the pupils he bought ashore a selection of about 20 different species of fish. The pupils were fascinated at seeing so many fish at close quarters and the large variations in colour and shape between species.

It was certainly a visit with a difference and hopefully one that the pupils will remember for a long time. Thanks go to Ian and the other volunteers for giving their time.

The museum offers private viewings to groups, especially school children; please contact us through this web site for further details.



Far and Wide
22 May 2013

It seems that the fame of the Tolbooth Museum is spreading far and wide. We are used to extensive coverage in the local press but we have now reached the pages of the KLM flight magazine. Follow the link below to read the full story.


Strange Affairs
07 March 2013

In February a Dundee based company carried out paranormal investigations at the Tolbooth Museum. The museum was chosen chiefly for its historical connections with the darker side of Kincardineshire's past, especially for being the County jail during the 17th and 18th centuries. The report by the six investigators makes interesting reading and can be downloaded at the foot of this page but here are some of the highlights:

  • Contact was made with a man called Peter who was in ill health
  • Communication was also made with 'Jack' - a person in authority who probably walked with the aid of a stick
  • Evidence was obtained of previous oppression in the museum with one spirit suffering from broken finger nails and bleeding fingers (an attempt to escape ?). Further evidence of oppression was signified by the presence of the spirit of David (Cook ?) who had been chained to the wall
  • Many of the group felt physical discomfort during the evening; these included a drop in temperature, minor physical assaults and general feelings of dizziness and/or breathing problems
  • There were also sightings of children and headless chickens !

However, we are assured that the spirits are friendly and welcome visitors. Please come and see us - we have a wide range of artefacts reflecting Stonehaven's history and you never know - as a bonus you might make contact with a spirit !!

Download this file (Afterdark Report.pdf)Afterdark Report.pdf134 kB

Victorian Punishment
15 February 2013

In 1984 the prison cells at Stonehaven police station were refurbished and at least two punishment wheels, also called a Crank, were discovered. One was renovated by Raymond Penney at Mackie Academy and then returned to the police station where it has been stored in the boiler room for the last 25 years. However, this month Grampian Police kindly donated the wheel to the Tolbooth Museum.

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The image shows the Crank in situ at Stonehaven police station - it was attached to the wall and it was connected to a dial in the outside corridor. Prisoners were forced to turn the wheel a certain amount of times in order to receive food etc. The degree of difficulty in turning the wheel could be increased by adding coal dust and iron filings (a very dense mixture) to the drum. Life was certainly not easy in Victorian prisons !!

You are welcome to try your hand at the punishment wheel and reflect on the change in society's attitude to those that have the misfortune to go to jail.