An institution beloved by generations of students in Aberdeen, The Bobbin pub is celebrating its 50th anniversary this week.
As a student at the University of Aberdeen, a night out at The Bobbin is practically a rite of passage.
The Bobbin’s proximity to the campus has made it an ideal haunt for scholars over the years.
You can finish a lecture at King’s College and have a pint in your hand five minutes later.
Bobbin began life as Victorian meal mill
Its very existence as a pub today is thanks to the vision of brothers Kenneth and James Booth.
The pair were third-generation workers at the bobbin mill when it closed in the ’70s.
Originally a steam-driven meal mill, the building at 500 King Street dates back to the 1840s when it was known as Lady Mill.
It later became a bobbin-manufacturing mill exporting to India, and contributing to the industrial landscape of Aberdeen.
But the bobbin trade wound down in Britain by the 1970s when India started manufacturing its own.
The forward-thinking Booth family saw an opportunity in the decline.
The family’s history with the mill was almost as long as the mill’s history with Aberdeen itself.
James Booth Senior was manager in the late 1880s, and his son Lewis went on to work there in 1920 before retiring from the bobbin trade in 1966.
His sons Kenneth and James then worked there, and not wanting to cut the family’s ties with the mill, they saw potential after its closure.
Booth brothers’ vision saw mill turned into pub
In 1971, the men applied for planning permission to turn the family mill into a pub.
It was a proposition met with resistance from Aberdeen’s licensing board and the kirk session at a neighbouring church, who launched a petition against the plans.
But councillors voted four votes to two in favour of the plans to turn the old bobbin mill into a pub.
The applicants said The Bobbin Mill would be a “civilised” bar and not another spit and sawdust pub in Aberdeen.
And speaking in 1972, Lewis Booth said: “Our intention is to preserve the character of the building, which is more than 100 years old.”
It was a promise they kept. The Bobbin’s industrial heritage not only lives on in its name, but in its interior.
The driving shaft, pulleys and its working past were proudly at the heart of the pub after it was repurposed.
From mill to music venue
When it opened in October 1973, the mill had been transformed into a comfortable pub and lounge.
In the ‘pulley lounge’, joists had been removed to expose the drying loft, creating an open space for performing and socialising.
Even the carpet reflected the mill’s past. The shades of green reflected the timber used in bobbin production, while the pattern was made to look like circular bobbins and cutting teeth.
Coloured glass was used in windows to create the effect of “sunshine all year round” – a welcome addition on a grey winter’s day in Aberdeen.
The pub’s foyer was the mill’s original saw shop which lead to the former bobbin workshop.
The Booth family felt it was important to honour the mill’s heritage with memories and hints of the bobbin trade here and there.
But they also wanted it to be contemporary enough to attract a good crowd.
A well-known entertainer in Aberdeen himself, Kenneth Booth ensured there was plenty of space for gigs.
The Bobbin in the 2000s
If the photos from the 1970s don’t jog your memory, perhaps you’ll see a few familiar faces from our gallery of party pictures from 2005 and 2007 instead…
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