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Library which hosts ancient texts at rear of court house is ‘hidden gem’ of Aberdeen

Maria Robertson. Picture by Chris Sumner
Maria Robertson. Picture by Chris Sumner

It is the “hidden gem” in Aberdeen which has proved a vital resource to the city’s legal profession for generations.

But few residents will have even heard of the Society of Advocates library, on Concert Court, never mind stepped foot inside.

It was specially built at the rear of Aberdeen Sheriff Court in 1870, and has been home to the society for almost 150 years.

With hundreds of books, stunning ceilings and stained glass windows, it only opens to the public on occasional open days or through special request.

The oldest text is a 1596 book, written entirely in Latin, on the Bishops and Kings of England.

Its title runs into dozens of words.

Picture by Chris Sumner

However, with the advent of the internet, many solicitors can now access most of their resources online.

And the society has responded by finding diverse uses for the historic spot – and has begun renting out the facilities for the likes of weddings and business dinners.

It has also hosted film crews who used the ornate surroundings as a set.

A first incarnation of the hall was built at the corner of Union Street and Back Wynd in 1837, a spot now used by the Espionage nightclub, before it was decided to base it at the court.

Maria Robertson, executive secretary and librarian for the Society of Advocates, gave the Press and Journal an exclusive tour.

She said: “Back when the library opened in the 1700s it was something of an old boy’s club so the solicitors of the time would keep books of general interest too.

“Our two oldest and most valuable books are on the Ottoman Empire and the bishops of England in 1596, so they weren’t even on law.

“When the library was moved here from what is now Espionage nightclub, it was a big task.

“They had to take the fireplace and the stained glass windows and everything.

“Then there was another development in the 1980s when parts of the ground floor were rented to the court service, so what was our dining room is now jury court six.

Picture by Chris Sumner
Picture by Chris Sumner

“A lot of work is now done on the desktop so it isn’t as busy as it once was, but people still come in to get the odd textbook or to find a quiet space to work and get away from the noise of the office.

“Seven years ago we started hiring out the venue and it has just expanded since then.

“We have had all sorts, from weddings and Christenings to even holding a Harry Potter themed tea party.

“I have been here 13 years in February, I love working in this unique building. It really is a hidden gem of Aberdeen.”


The Society of Advocates in Aberdeen was formed some 450 years ago as a professional body for the city’s solicitors.

The exact date of foundation is unknown as the original documents were lost in a fire at the records office on Castle Street in 1721.

However it is assumed to be prior to 1570 as reference is made to the society in a 1588 document signed by King James VI.

Membership of the society was for many years required in order to be permitted to practise before the courts of Aberdeen.

But this requirement was removed by the Law Agents (Scotland) Act 1873.

Since then the society has been a voluntary body representing about a third of the city’s solicitors providing library and research facilities at their base on Concert Court.

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