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Look back at Aberdeen’s historic Mitchell’s Hospital as Chanonry landmark hits the market

Sellers say the Old Aberdeen building is a "fantastic development opportunity".

Mitchell Hospital on The Chanonry needs extensive repairs.
Mitchell Hospital on The Chanonry needs extensive repairs. Image: Darrell Benns/DC Thomson

Aberdeen’s abandoned Mitchell’s Hospital has gone on the market for the first time in its 220-year history.

The picturesque building on The Chanonry was built in 1801 as a refuge for widows or the unwed daughters of local worthies.

And now the slice of “old world charm” could be yours to own – but an estimated repairs bill could well dwarf the £200,000 asking price…

The picturesque building in Old Aberdeen. Image: Mitchell’s Hospital Action Group

What is the history of Mitchell’s Hospital?

Philanthropist David Mitchell funded it to provide “lodging, maintenance and clothing for aged widows and maiden daughters of decayed gentlemen”.

This meant that, for decades, it was home solely to the loved ones of merchants or trades burgesses of Old Aberdeen.

Mitchell’s Hospital on the historic Chanonry. Image: Darrell Benns/DC Thomson

Mitchell, who was born in the scenic area, graduated from Marischal College and made the generous pledge 40 years later while living in Essex.

He left £5,5oo to trustees including the principal of Aberdeen University’s Kings College, the institute’s sub-principal, professor of divinity and Provost of Aberdeen.

This notice in the Press and Journal in 1865 specified that any widow looking to live in the complex needed to be older than 50. Image: British Newspaper Archive

So it wasn’t a hospital?

Despite the name, it was actually an almshouse.

These institutions, usually religious in nature, are for poor, elderly or otherwise disadvantaged individuals.

When opened, it was home to 10 widows (referred to as “aged relicks” at the time) and unmarried daughters of deceased burgesses.

They all dressed in deep blue and, curiously, there were very specific conditions to be eligible to live there.

The sundial and bellcote seen here in this image from 1946 remain part of the building. Image: Aberdeen Journals

One stated a “preference” for residents with the surname Mitchell.

They lived in separate dorms, with a shared kitchen and refectory.

Over the following century, it became known as one of Aberdeen’s “most notable charitable institutions”.

In the 1960s, it was converted into separate flats for older women.

A 1965 opening ceremony to mark the conversion of Mitchell Hospital in Aberdeen into nine modern self-contained flatlets for elderly women from the area. Image: Aberdeen Journals
This advert from 1975 sought applicants of “good moral character”. Image: British Newspaper Archive

‘God has a purpose for it’

It was latterly under the custody of St Machar’s Cathedral, Aberdeen City Council and Aberdeen University.

But the A-listed building has been falling into disrepair for some time, with the Mitchell’s Hospital Trust unable to pay for upgrades estimated to be in the region of £500,000.

Its final resident, Iona Matheson-Ross, described it as a “sacred space”.

Historic features at the building today. Image: Darrell Benns/DC Thomson

In a TV interview in 2016, she expressed hope that it could continue to serve a community purpose.

She said: “I’ve stayed on living here in the hopes it will be saved.

“I firmly believe God has a purpose for the building and it should continue into the 21st century.”

What has happened to Mitchell’s Hospital now?

A spokesperson for the trust explained how the historic group had been wound up to enable the sale of the Aberdeen cottages.

They said: “Financial difficulty facing Mitchell’s Hospital Trust forced the charity to seek approval from the Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator (OSCR) for changes to its structure, allowing for the sale of the building to go ahead and for the trust to be wound up.”

Would you like to live on The Chanonry? Image: Ben Hendry/DC Thomson

The statement continued: “Over several years the trustees made exhaustive efforts to preserve its ownership however the ongoing cost of repair meant that the charity accumulated a substantial and unsustainable deficit, leaving the sale of the building – which is in need of complete refurbishment – as the only available option.

“Any free proceeds released from the sale will be transferred to and applied by another charity with similar purposes.”

The historic home comes with a lot of garden space. Image: Darrell Benns/DC Thomson

What would you like to see happen to Mitchell’s Hospital? Let us know in our comments section below

How can you buy Mitchell’s Hospital in Old Aberdeen?

ASPC now has it listed for sale for £200,000.

The listing does state that the building “requires a comprehensive refurbishment to bring into a useable condition”.

However, it’s hailed as a “fantastic development opportunity providing the necessary permissions are sought”.

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What next for mothballed Crombie Johnston student halls at Aberdeen University?