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New book reveals modern Scotland's first new town was in Fraserburgh

28 February 2011

Historic Fraserburgh: Archaeology and Development is the latest book to be published in the Scottish Burgh Surveys. The series is funded by Historic Scotland and published jointly with the Council for British Archaeology.  It aims to identify the archaeological potential of Scotland’s historic towns and to map the character of the town.  

Alex Salmond, First Minister said: “Fraserburgh – the Broch as we call it - has received only a little archaeological investigation but has rich potential.  This book will help to inform the future management of its historic environment and to assess the implications for development.

“Fraserburgh has played a key role in Scotland’s maritime heritage and today is one of Europe’s largest shellfish ports. It was a big player In the days of coastal shipping, and rivalled Peterhead as a herring port.  It has a fascinating history and I am pleased that its archaeological potential will be identified for future generations.”

Historic Fraserburgh reveals the origins of the historic Fraser’s ‘Broch’, the earliest of Scotland’s ‘new’ towns, which dates back to the late sixteenth century.  It was founded in 1546 as a burgh of barony by the Frasers of Philorth and became a hub in the North Sea maritime trading network.

Dr Paula Martin, International Journal of Nautical Archaeology, added: 'None of us had any idea how interesting Fraserburgh was before we started our research. We hope this book helps others to appreciate this historic burgh, and helps to promote the protection and sympathetic development of the town centre.”

Professor Richard Oram of Stirling University, lead author of the book said: “The most unexpected thing to discover at Fraserburgh was the remarkable survival of the street-plan of the late 16th-century town.  Although there are other new foundations of this period in Scotland, Fraserburgh was the only one that grew and prospered, so we see an opportunistic commercial success story.  While the buildings have almost all been replaced, it is still relatively easy to get a clear sense of what the Frasers founded.

“Perhaps the most neglected part of the story is the aftermath of the 1745 and the long military garrisoning of the burgh, coupled with identification of the possible remains of parts of the garrison-post complex.  Most studies of the Jacobite rebellions concentrate on the Highland dimension and neglect the North East and its role as a centre of Episcopalianism and Jacobite sympathy.  The evidence from Fraserburgh shows just how savage the repression of Jacobitism in the region was and the impact which the Government’s punitive policies had on the whole community.  It’s part of the untold story of later 18th-century Scotland.”

Prof Charles McKean, University of Dundee, commented: “Now is the time to give the Broch its self confidence back, so that people are proud of it and visitors want to visit  - and when they do, there is something for them to enjoy.”

Peter Argyle, Chairman of Aberdeenshire Council's Infrastructure Services Committee said:  "This new book, which the council was pleased to support, is a welcome in-depth survey showing the development of one of Aberdeenshire's significant towns over the years.

“It contains some very useful information, illustrated in a helpful coloured map, and will be of interest to many people, from planners to developers as well as the general public."

The book examines Fraserburgh’s  historic development from the late medieval period to its heyday as a major herring port.  Its main economic activity was fishing, like many other settlements on the north-east coast, and the harbour is evidence of the attention paid over the centuries to building and improving port facilities.  From the Fraserburgh Heritage Centre to the conservation area in the fishertown of Broadsea, to the Museum of Scottish Lighthouses in Kinnaird Head, people in the town are increasingly drawing on their heritage as a leading light by which to move forward.

Notes for editors

  • Historic Scotland is an executive agency of the Scottish Government charged with safeguarding the nation’s historic environment. The agency is fully accountable to Scottish Ministers and through them to the Scottish Parliament.

ISBN: 978-1-902771-79-3
The book is available from  1 March 2011, Price £9.50 GBP

CBA books are distributed by Central Books Ltd, 99 Wallis Road, London, E9 5LN
Email: Tel: 0845 458 9910 / Fax: 0845 458 9912

Publisher: Council for British Archaeology, St Mary’s House, 66 Bootham, York, YO30 7BZ , tel: 01904 671417

Visit   for further CBA publications.

For further information

Jennifer Johnston-Watt
Communications and Media Officer
Communications and Media
0131 668 8070 or 07827 956 866