Out with the old…

Written by Gairland


164 High Street, Elgin




We were delighted to link up with Elgin Museum earlier this year, just as volunteers were busy preparing for re-opening to the general public after all the disruptions of the pandemic and lockdown. It’s great to see this treasure trove of exhibits open its doors once again and welcome us into a fascinating world of history, going back hundreds, even thousands of years! In the coming months, we hope to give you a small insight into some of the material we have found thanks to our friends at the Museum …





Out with the old …


By the early 19th Century, Elgin experienced a new energy with the steady growth of industries across the region. Many medieval buildings in the centre of the town were razed to the ground in preference for grand stone houses and public buildings, as wealthy landowners and merchants chose to spend longer periods of time in the town. Elgin was becoming prosperous and by 1882, it had a main Post Office, several insurance companies, hotels, a newspaper and all the major banks – including a branch of the Inverness based Caledonian Bank. It stood on the former site of Newmills House, afterwards called Elchies House, which has been reported as being one of the best specimens of townhouse with ‘piazzas’ in Elgin. These 17th Century arcaded frontages allowed people to take shelter while walking along the High Street … or more likely they were avoiding the enormous piles of horse dung lying on the street! This attractive style was a direct influence of architecture seen in The Netherlands.

In the day, this fine townhouse was home to Provosts of Elgin and it even served as a Boarding School before it was bought over by the Caledonian Banking Company in 1845. Established in 1838, the Caledonian enjoyed considerable growth, establishing branches across the entire north of Scotland, serving customers consisting mainly of farmers, Highland gentry, fishermen, whisky distillers and grain factors. Elgin was by then beginning to reinvent itself in neo-classic style. The medieval layout of the town began to change as residential streets were built to the north and south of the High Street. Elchies House was razed to the ground and replaced with a grand building of polished freestone from Newton Quarry near Elgin. The bank thrived into the early 20th Century but finally merged with the Bank of Scotland in 1907.

You can still see the basis of this European architectural style at the east end of the High Street today. Next time you’re walking along the High Street, why not look around you and see how many of these attractive 17th century arcaded frontages are still evident today! Thanks to the Museum for letting us delve into their archives and share this with you. https://www.elginmuseum.org.uk









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