Wednesday, 7 July 2010

Pitmuxton, you say?

Where's that?

Well, I live there. Between Mannofield and The Duthie Park. Some say indistinctly that this is 'the Broomhill area' (note: 'Broomhill area', rather than just plain 'Broomhill'). Some say 'Holburn'. I've heard 'South Ashley', I've even heard folk try to assert that they live in Ferryhill (though this was probably about property boosterism) and the council wants us to say 'Ruthrieston'. No-one's ever heard of Pitmuxton, it seems. Why not?

It's a good question, and one which goes to the very heart of Aberdeen and the character of the city and its people. Be it Royalists vs. Covenanters or Jacobites vs. Hannovarians or Pasteurella pestis vs. the human immune system - accident, stupidity, betrayal and fear have many times put Aberdeen on the losing side. Or, venality and vainglory have thrown away our honour for us and put us on the morally questionable side.

Too often, stuff has 'happened' to Aberdeen, and for shame we hide the memory of it away from ourselves. For centuries, sometimes. For instance, Aberdeen now shows no official commemoration of the blood-curdlingly shocking atrocities we were subjected to during the Civil War, because of a stupid accident and misunderstanding at Justice Mills. Is this revisionism intentional? Or merely ignorant? See here. More on this later.

Much the same is true of the 'forgotten' Lands of Pitmuxton. The devastating effect that one resident of Pitmuxton had on Aberdeen cannot be overstated. It has been the intention of the city and its burghers to erase the name and lands of Pitmuxton from history ever since.

Tucked away in a corner of 'Ruthrieston' Outdoor Centre we find this stone and commemorative plaque.

The plaque reads:

On this site stood Pitmuckston House, Demolished in 1908.

In 1309 Pitmuckston was granted by Robert the Bruce to Hugo of Aberdeen, carrying with it the Royal Office of Mayor of Fee, Collector of the Kings Revenues.
This plaque commemorates the site of Pitmuxton House. The lands of Pitmuxton were granted by Robert the Bruce to Hugo of Aberdeen in 1309: with this grant Hugo became H. M. Collector of Taxes, or Mair of Fee. The lands passed eventually to a branch of the Skene family. It was during their residence that the house was probably erected. The house and lands passed to the Allan family after 1770. It may have been during their ownership that the name of the area was changed from Pitmuxton to Pitstruan. The house was demolished in 1908.

James Gordon's map of 1661 shows "Pitimukstoun" as a fairly extensive settlement and estate with its own mill (oooh, prosperity) straddling a burn (probably the Geldie) in an area between 'Ruddristoun' and 'Ferrihill', which it dwarfs.

Yet, by 1828, John Wood's map shows no sign of the lands of Pitmuxton.

Keith & Gibb in 1862 show Pitmuxton House, with no reference to any estate, and with other, new names, such as 'South Mile End' and 'Outseats' in the very area which was once the centre of the Pitmuxton settlement. The estates of Broomhill House, Newlands, Ashley and the growing settlement of Ruthriston all nibble away towards the garden walls.

So what happened?

In 1647, a visitation of the plague killed up to 2000 people in Aberdeen; that's fully one quarter of the population at the time! Ulp. Rightly or wrongly, a resident of Pitmuxton was fingered as the 'Typhoid Mary'. The process of back-turning began.
In 1668, the Skene family of Ruthrieston acquired the lands of Pitmuxton and this process gathered pace.

In 1770, George Allan bought the house and the tree-lined drive was renamed Allan Street. The Allan family changed the name of the house to 'Pitstruan' (meaning 'place of the stream').

In 1908 the house burned down. It was not re-built. Municipal bowling greens and tennis courts today occupy the gardens. And the erasure of Pitmuxton is complete.

How can we hope to face the future and its difficult challenges and transitions, when we willfully hide the past from ourselves? When we are in denial, when we do not allow ourselves histo-psychogeographical closure?

Too many times in the past, our town has been put to the torch and its people put in the grave. Sometimes the bloody-minded intransigence of the burghers has been to blame, other times betrayal, contagion, greed, misunderstanding or cruel accident has set in train a catastrophic chain of events which led to disaster.

Today, while we don't face the sword or the torch, we do face bankruptcy and blight. We should face the future with our eyes open, ready to learn from the mistakes which we are bound to make.

That's what this blog's for.

So yes, I live in Pitmuxton.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Finally! I have found an answer to the question where do I live?. I have been living in Allan St for six years. And so far i do know that this is no Holburn nor Ferrihill. It is not Mannofield nor Ruthieston. Thanks! I LIVE IN PITMUXTON!