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Treasure 31: Hay's Isometrical View of Aberdeen 1850
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Treasure 31: Hay's Isometrical View of Aberdeen 1850

Historic Photographs
David Oswald
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Treasure 31: Hay's Isometrical View of Aberdeen 1850
Historic Photographs
Treasure 31: Hay's Isometrical View of Aberdeen 1850
In September 1850 an advert appeared in the local papers of Aberdeen for "Hays' Isometrical View of Aberdeen, giving a Distinct and Correct View of the Whole City and Environs". We hold copy of the plan from 1850 in our Local Studies collection.

The plan was available to purchase for 3s. 6d. and measured 34 inches by 19 inches. Carvers and gilders, J. & J. Hays, had premises at 2 Market Street where they also sold prints and optical instruments. At the bottom left of the image we see the words George Wilson, Delt. (abbreviation of delineator, i.e. the artist). George Wilson was to find fame a few years later as George Washington Wilson when he became one of Scotland's premier photographers.

George Washington Wilson

George Washington Wilson was born in 1823 at Waulkmill of Carnousie in Banffshire and left school at 12 years of age to be an apprentice carpenter. He practised his artistic skills by drawing portraits of friends and neighbours and, after training at art schools in Edinburgh and London, he returned to Aberdeen to become an art teacher and portrait painter.

By the late 1840's Wilson was attracted by the work of Fox Talbot in the new art of photography and after initial experiments with a homemade camera, he advertised a business offering photographic portraits before eventually expanding into landscape photography.

A Bird's Eye View of History

Wilson created this panoramic view of the city by making numerous sketches from the roofs of high buildings and then merging them into one comprehensive drawing. We are looking north across the city from the harbour with Union Street running horizontally across the centre and Old Aberdeen in the far distance. We can see how small the city actually was at this time - open fields are visible just to the north of the west end of Union Street.

A key to the most prominent buildings was provided and it is interesting to see which buildings have survived until today, often with additions, and which had yet to be built. Robert Gordon's Hospital (now College), Marischal College, and various churches including the Triple Kirks and St Nicholas East and West are all still standing but the West Prison, Castlehill Barracks and the Poorhouse have been demolished.

Bird's Eye View 1889

In December 1889, the Aberdeen Free Press offered its readers an updated version of the Bird's Eye View as a supplement to their newspaper. Numerous changes to the landscape of the city had taken place since Wilson's view.
Aberdeen Local Studies
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