In 1815, the princely sum of £15,000 could have bought you an estate that included a village, a small harbour, many acres of land, a mill, mill-lands, fields of corn, and access to a fine deep peat moss. Portlethen Village and its surrounding lands were for sale!
Previously the owner, Sir William Johnston, had attempted to lease the lands under the banner “Seaport and Harbour, and Fishtown of Portlethen, with right of White Fishings in the sea adjacent, and Lands in the County of Kincardine, to be let, for such number of years as can be agreed on”.
There were no takers for this lease and later there was no interest from any buyers when the lands were subsequently advertised for sale with a “proven value of L 18,367 6s and 5d.” As a result the price was further reduced to a sum of £16,500 and when that didn’t attract any attention there was a further reduction to £15,000.
From this it can be seen that Sir William, who had became landowner of Portlethen in 1803, had became quite desperate to offload these lands, along with three further lots which he owned within, or around, the city of Aberdeen. Unfortunately only one of these lots managed to be sold and by 1815 the “Lands of Portlethen” were still up for sale at the bargain price of £15,000, and ultimately went to public auction (roup). It was shortly after this time that the Gammell family acquired the estate of Portlethen.
So what would you have received for your money in 1815? I have copies of the advertisements which were used in an attempt to lease and sell the land, and additionally there is a “Queries and Answers” document that makes very interesting reading.
These documents are self explanatory and very detailed in relating exactly what you are going to get for your money. However it’s also interesting to see that Estate Agents were alive and kicking 200 years ago when you read the “schedule” and see how they emphasise particular selling points within the “property”, some of which I’ve listed below.
Did you know that the local Peat Moss was supposed to contain a rich vein of coal? Apparently, an Engineer made this finding in the 1780’s but was “hushed up” and made to make a false report by Coal Trade leaders from the north of England who were worried about competition. The advertisement and Question/Answer document lead us to believe that the presence of coal within the Moss is almost a certainty and anyone willing to speculate is going to be “quid’s in”.
The harbour is advertised as one of the safest on this coast, good for loading and unloading vessels, and to exact tolls and duties. We are also led to believe that for a relatively small cost, further harbour improvements would likely result in Portlethen becoming one of “the first Fishing Towns on the Scottish Coast”. Have a look at Portlethen shore today – can you see the potential of the shore being one of the finest harbours in North East Scotland? Were the advertisers using artistic license or was there, in fact, a chance that this haven could have became one of the best harbours on our coast?
There are references to Thomas Telford’s plans and recommendations for a road and new development of a pier at Portlethen harbour (see separate section - Thomas Telford and Portlethen!), although the landowner had not acted on Telford’s Report, recommendation or quote which was already five years old by the time of this advertisement.
The advertisement hints at a second potential harbour at a “commodious haven” southward of the original fishtown with room for new housing and potentially another money spinner with all the additional boats that would be visiting the area. I’m scratching my head over that one – the bays and creeks south of Portlethen shore are some of the rockiest and shallowest in the immediate area. I wonder if that may have been an advertising error and they were thinking of Muckle Shore, which is approximately a quarter of a mile NORTHWARD of Portlethen Village?
Fish, fish and more fish! There is an abundance of fish in the area – cod, haddock, ling, halibut, turbot, skate, lobster and crab. It was noted that there wasn’t much herring in the area but potentially large quantities of herring may be available to those with the “right fishing gear”. I can’t argue too much against using fish in the advertisements as a selling point because it would have been around this time that the white fishing industry would have been at its peak, however maybe the advertisers were over egging the cake a little bit by claiming that there were huge numbers of every fish imaginable.
Have a look at the advertisements and the information attached and make up your own minds – Portlethen Village and all its associated bits and pieces for £15,000. Deal or No Deal?