An Aberdeen hotelier has vowed not to demolish a wall with ties to the city’s medieval past.
Around 130 people have objected to demolition plans for the preserved wall around 62 and 64 Shiprow, previously approved by the council.
Its future became subject of frenzied online protest as the Aberdeen Douglas Hotel sought permission for its latest venture – the trendy, Covid-friendly, Ivy Lodge outdoor bar.
Hotel boss Mary Martin, who bore the brunt of the “whipped up” outrage, has now said they have “no intention” of knocking down the unique granite frontage.
A report compiled in 2010 noted the survival of fragments of a former tenement between 60 and 62 Shiprow, viewed to be of “cultural significance” as it likely incorporated Middle Ages architecture within it.
Consultants AOC Archaeology told the local authority there was a “high probability that significant medieval archaeological remains may be buried beneath” the street, due to its proximity to the Aberdeen settlement and its harbour.
Mostly used as a nightclub and warehouse, a single-storey 1960s building behind it has been demolished to make way for the ‘Instagrammable’ new beer garden.
Change of heart: historic Shiprow wall to play part in new beer garden
Hotel director Mary Martin said: “What we have done is bring the part of the area back into use.
“It’s a very attractive wall, well-loved, and by making some adjustments we have been able to retain it and make it safe.
“That part of Shiprow was very derelict and I think the Ivy Lodge has brought back a lot of life and made it a lovely, buzzy place to be now.
“Initially we had looked at taking down the wall and had permission for that but having looked again, we have seen how it enhances the bar area.
“It provides shelter and a bit of uniqueness for the area.”
While promises have been made to retain the southern facing wall with its attractive gateway, partial demolition of the eastern wall – between the beer garden and the maritime museum – had to be knocked down.
“We did remove a bit of a wall but it was structurally unsound and condemned – but that’s the section everyone is taking about,” Ms Martin added.
“There was a tree growing out of it and engineers said it was compromised it.
“To be honest, it was not a cost we wanted and we had no intention of touching it, but there was a crack.”
Vegetation growth was noted by heritage chiefs during an inspection, as the site was added to Historic Environment Scotland’s Buildings At Risk Register in 2019.
A prolonged future for the medieval wall and doorway will be welcomed by the dozens who objected officially – though some warned any demolition might disturb the historic foundations.
Fervent opposition to Shiprow demolition from all walks of life
Objectors ranged from residents from Aberdeen and further afield with a passion for the city’s heritage, to fellow members of the licensed trade, and the north-east branch of the Architectural Heritage Society of Scotland.
Councillor Sandra Macdonald also took the unusual step of publicly voicing her opposition to the loss of the medieval wall.
She said: “I understand the need for the Douglas Hotel to expand, and that’s great.
“But we need to be sensitive to our past and Aberdeen grew out of medieval history.
“We have lost a lot of that over the years and this is something that has drawn more than 100 objections.
“I have had representations and feel quite strongly about it personally, to be honest.
“I think it is worth trying to hold on to it; as small as it might be it is part of our history worth retaining.
The Aberdeen Labour councillor, who has led on the local authority’s temporary physical distancing roadworks, added: “The flexibility offered in planning for licensing during the pandemic should not mean we have to take a short-term view.
“And I think the need to keep the wall overrides expediency for getting trading going.”