Powis Gates

Powis Gates, Old Aberdeen
©2022 Gazetteer for Scotland

Powis Gates, Old Aberdeen

An unusual set of immense gate piers located on the west side of College Bounds in Old Aberdeen, the Powis Gates once served as the grand entrance to Powis House. Comprising cylindrical towers inspired by Turkish-style minarets, complete with parapets, this romantic folly was designed in 1833-34 by Alexander Fraser for Hugh Fraser Leslie of Powis. The piers are topped by conical slate caps crowned with golden orbs and crescent finials.

The construction of these ostentatious gates was contemporaneous with the Slavery Abolition Act (1833) that outlawed slavery in the British Colonies. There seems little doubt that they were built by a family enriched through compensation received in return for the freedom of slaves on their Jamaican plantations.

However, debate surrounds some on the imagery on the towers. Some suggest that a shield carries a representation of black slaves. However an alternative explanation is that these are figures are exotic heads taken from a family coat-of-arms.

Now lying within the University of Aberdeen King's College campus, the university was responsible for an award-winning restoration carried out in 2007.

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