|Administrative History||Bishop Gavin Dunbar's Hospital was founded in 1531 by a charter of King James V incorporating a charter of Gavin Dunbar, bishop of Aberdeen, in which Dunbar sets out in detail the proposed arrangements for the hospital and mortifies the sum of £100 Scots annually for its funding. |
According to Dunbar's charter, the hospital was to provide a residence for twelve poor men "selected from the tenants and inhabitants of our lands in the bishopric of Aberdeen, if they can be found within it ; but if not, they shall be selected from those who have spent their lives, and lived out their time, in the work of constructing the church, our palace, the manses of the canons, and the bridge of Dee, all lately built by us. Failing these, the selection shall be made from other wretched men, not for entreaty or reward, but only by the impulse of charity, who by misfortune, or any other mishap, have fallen into such a state of poverty and want that they have no means of living of their own [...]". The charter also describes in detail the building to be provided for their accommodation, which included individual private rooms to which only the bedesmen were to hold the keys and an oratory where they were obliged to pray for the King, the bishop, and the souls of the dead.
The hospital building was located next to St Machar's cathedral, in what is now Seaton Park. Its management was entrusted to a director or conservator, originally the chaplain of the chapels in the south aisle of the cathedral. Following the Reformation, the director or master was presented by the bishop, deans and chapter, but when presbyterianism was in the ascendency this right was claimed by the kirk session and the presentation was made by the first minister of the parish of Old Machar and the Principal of King's College, an arrangement which was made permanent after the Revolution.
By the mid eighteenth century the original hospital building was ruinous, and in 1786 it was transferred to James Forbes of Seaton in exchange for the property in Don Street, Old Aberdeen, afterwards known as the bedehouse. At some period before 1800 the bedesmen were no longer required to live in the hospital, and the bedehouse and other properties owned by the hospital managers were rented out to other tenants. These properties were sold to the City of Aberdeen in the early 1960s, but payments to bedesmen continued into the latter part of the 20th century.
For more information see:
Munro, Alexander Macdonald: Records of Old Aberdeen. Aberdeen: New Spalding Club, 1899-1909, particularly vol. II pages 276 - 29 (L Aa34 H5 Mun )
Bain, Richard W.K.: Bishop Gavin Dunbar's Hospital: memorandum dealing with the history and records from the foundation of the benefaction and list of title deeds and other writs relating thereto. Aberdeen 1931 (fp Lambda Abd Dun).
McAleese, Ray: Bishop Gavin Dunbar. Aberdeen: Friends of St Machar' Cathedral Occasional Paper, Second Series No.7, 2013
|Custodial History||The records were originally held by the Conservators or Masters of the Hospital. In the mid 19th century they were in the possession of Dr George Grub (1812 - 1892, ecclesiastical historian and Professor of Law at the University of Aberdeen), who produced an inventory of them in 1864. In the late 19th and early 20th century they were held by Messrs Youngson and Bain, advocates in Aberdeen, and thereafter by Peterkins Solicitors Aberdeen. Various inventories of the papers have been created: by Dr George Grubb, Thomas Youngson, senior partner in the firm of Youngson and Bain and Richard Bain, senior partner, clerk and factor to the Trust.|
|Description||Foundation charters, title deeds, minutes, accounts etc. of the institution founded in 1531 by Bishop Gavin Dunbar and known variously as the Hospital of the Blessed Virgin Mary at the cathedral church of Aberdeen, the Hospital of Old Aberdeen, the Bedehouse, and Bishop Dunbar’s Hospital. |
Original charter of confirmation by King James V incorporating the foundation charter of Bishop Gavin Dunbar and associated writs of the Hospital's foundation in 1531, together with writs of various mortifications made to the Hospital by Bishop Gavin Dunbar and others in the 16th to 18th centuries.
Minutes, papers, and correspondence related to the management of the Hospital, 19th - 20th centuries.
Records of properties and property rights in Old Aberdeen and elsewhere given to or purchased by the Hospital, 16th - 20th centuries.
Papers in legal proceedings conducted by the Hospital managers in pursuit of payments or other dues to the Hospital, 16th - 20th centuries.
Accounts of expenditure on Hospital properties, income from tenants, and other payments, 16th - 20th centuries, including correspondence with tenants and lists of payments to bedesmen 19th - 20th centuries.