Acc NoAcc 77
TitleRecords of Aberdeen Harbour Commissioners, later Aberdeen Harbour Board
DescriptionAHB/1 Aberdeen Harbour Board: Administrative
AHB/2 Aberdeen Harbour Board: Financial
AHB/3 Aberdeen Harbour Board: Operational
AHB/4 Aberdeen Harbour Board: Legal
AHB/5 Aberdeen Harbour Board: Property
AHB/6 Aberdeen Harbour Board: Torry Farm arbitration deed boxes
AHB/7 Aberdeen Harbour Board: Staff
AHB/8 Aberdeen Harbour Board: Marketing
AHB/9 Aberdeen Harbour Board: Block Plans

AHB/11 Aberdeen Harbour Board: Photographs
AHB/12 Aberdeen Harbour Board: Printed Books
AHB/13 Aberdeen Harbour Board: Papers relating to the Docks and Harbour Authorities' Association

Most of the records included in the collection date from the early 19th century through to the setting up of the Harbour Board in 1960. Later records have been retained by the Board. Materials relating to the Harbour prior to 1800 is included in the main City collection.
Related MaterialReflecting the close connections between the harbour and the Town Council, their are also records for the Commissioners in the main Aberdeen City collections:
CA/14/1 - Aberdeen City: Harbour Commissioners Minute Books (first series), 1810-1884.
CA/14/2 - Aberdeen City: Harbour Commissioners Minute Books (second series), 1884-1959.
CA/14/3 - Aberdeen City: Harbour Trustees Minute Books, 1802-1828.
CA/14/4 - Aberdeen City: Harbour Commissioners Incoming Letter Books, 1844-1935.
CA/14/5 - Aberdeen City: Harbour Commissioners Outgoing Letter Book, 1841–1935.

The Shore Works Accounts will also hold material relating to the Harbour:
CA/6/4 Aberdeen City; Shore Works Accounts, 1596-1810.

7000 additional glass plate negatives owned by the Harbour Board were transferred to the University of Aberdeen Special Collections Centre in 1999 (reference MS 3595) and can be searched and viewed on their website:
Also at the University, the Davidson and Garden Archive (MS 2769) contains records of the Harbour Commission for the period 1843 - 1889, and records of the Town Council and Harbour Committee for the period c.1820 - 1840s.
CreatorAberdeen Harbour Commission (1810-1960)
Aberdeen Harbour Board (1960-2022)
Extent80 linear metres
16 archive boxes, 689 volumes, 642 files, 88 bundles, 18 pamphlets, 264 documents, 2 maps, 2499 sets of plans, c. 1730 glass plates and lantern slides, 4581 photographs, 13 photo albums, 2 lithographs
​Open or Restricted AccessOpen
Access ConditionsOpen for consultation at Old Aberdeen House, open Mon-Wed 9:30-12:30 and 13:30-16:30. It is advisable to make an appointment.
Administrative HistoryAberdeen harbour's history can be traced back to a charter granted by King David I in 1136. James VI granted a further charter to the City in 1596, which allowed the Burgh to raise a levy on all ships and their cargoes at the harbour.

The harbour was controlled by the Council and its Magistrates until reform under the 1829 Aberdeen Harbour Act, which expanded the membership of the Harbour Trustees to include five Burgesses of Guild and one member of Incorporated Trades. The Harbour was then overseen by a Committee made up of nine councillors and six outside members, to ensure representation of Harbour users.

The 1843 Aberdeen Harbour Act vested the property of the harbour in a new Commission consisting of magistrates, councillors, nine Burgess of Guild and three members of Incorporated Trades.

The Aberdeen Harbour Act of 1868 modified the constitution of the Commission: 12 elected Commissioners were introduced, who acted with the Lord Provost, 6 Baillies, the Dean of Guild and 11 Councillors.
A Port Emergency Committee was set up 1936 and operated throughout the Second World War.

In 1960 the Aberdeen Harbour Confirmation Act modernised the constitution, replacing the Commission with a smaller Board: the Board was made up of two members of the Chamber of Commerce, two from the Scottish Trade Union Congress, four from Aberdeen Corporation and seven elected by Harbour users, burgesses and Incorporated Trades. In 2022 the Harbour was renamed the Port of Aberdeen to encompass the new south harbour.

In the early 1800s the harbour was an important shipbuilding centre with seven shipyards; they specialised in steam trawlers and fishing liners. As well as shipbuilding, one of the most important trades in the harbour was salmon and this is reflected in the records. In 1871 the harbour commissioners purchased salmon fishing rights from organisations such as Raik and Stell which allowed them to develop a profitable business. The harbour was an important centre for fishing vessels.

During the First World War imports and exports fell dramatically due to frequent U-boat attacks and it took until 1936 to return to normal operations. Unfortunately, they were again halted by the start of the Second World War. As with many other ports in the UK, Aberdeen was a major target and 49 bombs were recording hitting the area during the period. This sustained level of disruption effected the Harbour operations and required major infrastructure works. The post-war period saw the redevelopment of the harbour for the growing North Sea oil and gas industry.

Harbour Engineering
In the 1770s and 1780s John Smeaton was consulted as an engineer on the harbour and was responsible for the construction of the first section of the North Pier. In the 1800s the notable engineer Thomas Telford was consulted on improvements at the Harbour, proposing an extension to the North Pier and the construction of a South Breakwater, graving (dry) docks and wet docks. Some of this work was facilitated by the 1810 Harbour Act.
In the 19th century works were undertaken to widen and deepen the harbour, with additional quays, locks and cargo sheds. Perhaps the most significant undertaking was the diversion of the River Dee to the south. In 1851 a main line rail terminus was established adjacent to the harbour. A Fish Market on Albert Quay opened in 1889. In the 20th century quays and sheds were widened and rebuilt, and powerful new cranes installed.

Harbour Engineers:
John Gibb
William Dyce Cay
William Smith
Robert Gordon Nicol
James Petrie
Related RecordCA/14


Add to My Items

    Major Collections

    Browse some of our major collections